GSD’s stadium plan was ‘worst possible bargain’ for Gib, Picardo says
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has said the GSD’s approach of putting tax payer’s money into the Victoria Stadium would have been the “worst possible bargain” for the people of Gibraltar.
This comes after the GSD accused the Government of performing a “monumental u-turn” in respect of the decision to locate the national football stadium at the site of the Victoria Stadium.
In an interview with GBC Mr Picardo underscored that the government was not pursuing the GSD’s plans for the stadium.
“The GSD plan was only to develop the Victoria Stadium for football and at taxpayers’ expense, in other words giving the richest sport in Gibraltar and in the world the benefit of a taxpayer investment in the Victoria Stadium,” Mr Picardo said.
“What we are doing is accepting that UEFA and FIFA have changed their minds about where the location of the stadium should be and agreeing as we have previously to their request therefore now to transfer Victoria Stadium to them and making an investment in respect of all other sports in Gibraltar.”
He added: “So our scheme covers all sports where the GSD scheme covered only the footballing aspects and would in any event not have been possible until Winston Churchill Avenue is closed by the operation of the new tunnel which is still two years away.”
Mr Picardo further explained that the government has always backed the Gibraltar Football Association when it has requested certain sites.
“When they requested Europa we said ‘yes’ to that because UEFA said no to Victoria,” he said.
“When they requested Lathbury we said ‘yes’ to that because UEFA said no to Victoria and when UEFA and FIFA said ‘yes’ to Victoria we said ‘yes’ to Victoria too and coupled that with our concern for all sports.”
“It would have been the worst possible bargain for the people of Gibraltar to have pursued the GSD’s approach of putting taxpayer’s money into Victoria against the wishes of UEFA at the time.”
In a subsequent statement the government heralded the development as the “biggest ever investment in Gibraltar's sporting facilities”, adding that “it isn't costing the tax-payer a penny”.
The government said local sportsmen and women had expressed “unrestrained enthusiasm” over the new plans for Gibraltar’s sports facilities describing the GSD’s criticisms as “just one little dissenting voice” who “want to claim all the credit for once having suggested that Victoria Stadium should have been expanded”.
“They accuse the Government of a ‘U-turn’ when, in fact, it is UEFA which has finally agreed that Victoria Stadium could be improved to Category 4 status, having originally told the GFA that the restrictions of site would make such improvements impossible,” a government statement read.
“Mr Feetham suggests that the last four years have been wasted because the new expanded stadium has not been built.”
“Perhaps he can explain how the stadium could possibly have been built whist Winston Churchill Avenue is still in use?” the government said adding that the GSD’s plans depended on the closure of that road and of the Cepsa petrol station.
“And, of course, the GSD grudgingly admit that their new stadium would have been funded by the tax-payer rather than by UEFA/FIFA.”
“They also fail to point out that their plan would have benefited only football, unlike the Government's plans which provide extra facilities for just about every sport played in Gibraltar and which is inclusive of Special Athletes.”
“There was no mention of Special Athletes in any GSD plans,” the Government said.
“So, instead of rejoicing along with everyone else in Gibraltar, Mr Feetham is now sulking in the corner.”
“Rather than welcome this magnificent initiative, he tries to score a couple of political points. It’s the small-minded approach we have come to expect from the Opposition.”