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Island Games clash with football needs

Victoria Stadium home of Gibraltar football

A decision by the Gibraltar Football Association to resurface the Victoria Stadium main pitch in order to have it fit to play on for the Champions League and Europa League first round of matches starting in June has placed them in direct conflict with other sporting plans towards this summer’s Island Games.
The resurfacing programme is expected to start immediately after the Rock Cup final and should take up to three weeks to complete.
The resurfacing plans are expected to affect directly plans by the Gibraltar Amateur Athletics Association and the Gibraltar 2019 NatWest International Island Games committee in the lead up to the Island Games. The impact of the decision will also mean that no other events will be taking place during the resurfacing programme. With the main pitch also expected to be unavailable for use for any other purpose other than football related activities until after the European matches have been
completed and the qualifier matches finished.
This has already raised concerns over its impact on other sports including the training programme for athletes in the lead up to the Island Games, as well as plans to host the Island Games opening ceremony at the Victoria Stadium.
Gibraltar Amateur Athletics Association President Frank Carreras explained that the association “was notified of the GFA’s intention only Thursday. This will have serious repercussions in the team build-up for the games. Our athletes will not be able to train in the Victoria Stadium after the 27th May and this will certainly hamper their efforts of peaking in time for the games. In other words this will affect our chances of reaching finals and winning medals.”
“Equally serious is the fact that we will have to cancel time trials and training sessions for our officials. Without properly trained officials it will be very difficult to run a successful athletics programme.”
“We were promised by the GFA that we would have access to the running track right up to the start of the Island Games. It appears that this is no longer the case and I ask the GFA to reconsider their position.”
Neither the Gibraltar Football Association or the Gibraltar Island Games Association have been willing to comment officially over the proposed plans to host the opening ceremony at the Victoria Stadium.
Island Games officials have merely maintained that “there are no present changes to their plans,” indicating that as announced the Victoria Stadium is still the allocated venue for the Island Games opening ceremony officially.
It is, however, understood that discussions as to the use of the Victoria Stadium are at a sensitive juncture with officials, including the Minister for Sport, GFA and Island Games currently in discussions to decide on how to proceed. A meeting with Minister Steven Linares is expected to take place this week where discussions over the use of the Victoria Stadium will be the main focal point.
A Government spokesman declined to be drawn on any detail but told the Chronicle: “Planning for the Island Games continues apace but we may have to make further changes to the original plans.”
Sources close to the organisation of the Island Games have indicated that initial plans are understood to have been tabled including the use of the track for the opening ceremony with no main stage as originally proposed to be placed on the main pitch. Other plans include the use of Europa Point Sports Complex as the main venue for the Opening ceremony.
The decision by the GFA is understood to have been taken place following the problems faced by the GFA in hosting the first of the group qualifier matches against the Republic of Ireland. As previously reported at the time a failed pitch inspection meant that UEFA only approved the match being played after behind the scenes negotiations involving FIFA and Republic of Ireland officials.
UEFA’s decision has since rolled on to other matches which has seen matches such as the Under 21’s home game in June being relocated in venue to Belarus after it had been originally moved to Faro.
Only the intervention of the GFA now swapping the match to an away match in order to be able to play the home match on home soil at a later date now ensuring that Gibraltar does not play its home matches away from home.
Similarly, officials have indicated that the present state of the pitch is expected to hamper the prospect of European club matches being played in Gibraltar this summer, along with Septembers international national team matches. With the cost of resurfacing the pitch considered far lower than that of relocating matches to Faro, the GFA is understood to have put in place a resurfacing programme which would safeguard Gibraltar football’s international commitments. It has nonetheless come into direct conflict with other sports who currently continue using the stadium whilst both Lathbury Sports Complex and Europa Point Sports Complex continue under construction.
Initial plans to relocate these sports to the new facilities have been delayed with the initial proposed plans to relocate this month hampered by delays.
The latest news comes at the same time as local sports associations were informed this past week that delays in the completion of facilities would impact Gibraltar athlete’s home advantage in the lead up to the games.
In comments made on GBC’s Sports Locker Matt Reoch explained that some sports could have “one month or even maybe a week” in which to prepare for the games at their allocated facilities. Mr Reoch, along with Island Games Operation Director Kim Chang also highlighting that they continued confident in the assurances being made by experts that the facilities would be completed in time for the games.

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