By Stelios Orphanides
The Cypriot taxpayer will foot the bill for the construction of a new stadium in Limassol that will host games of the three local clubs, AEL, Apollon and Aris, which have left the building permit bill unsettled, a government spokesman said.
“There are true reasons why the government must finance such a project,” including tackling football hooliganism, deputy government spokesman Victor Papadopoulos told reporters on Monday after a meeting at the Presidential Palace between representatives of the three clubs and President Nicos Anastasiades.
Papadopoulos, who served as vice chairman of Aris, said that the building permit was issued in September but the clubs have not received it yet because they have not paid €1.2m in fees.
In a telephone interview, Papadopoulos said that the cost of the new Limassol stadium is estimated at €28m. The government already leased the land to the three clubs which will take a loan from a bank and the government will repay.
The head of the finance ministry’s budget directorate informed the participants in Monday’s meeting that “the solution was found for the bank to finance the project,” he added.
The government has to provide the European Commission’s competition authority answers to justify this subsidy, he said adding that all other football clubs got a new stadium financed by the government before Cyprus became a EU member in 2004 and thus restricted by EU state-aid regulations.
“The new policy applied by the EU and the (European Commission’s) Competition Commission is related to financing stadiums by the state, which is very strict in recent years and they have fined very large clubs like Barcelona, Real (Mardid) and others for such matters,” Papadopoulos said. “Today’s meeting looked also into this matter; we have to be a bit fast, a bit more effective with respect to the response we must give to the competition committee”.
After Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides visited Brussels in December, the EU Commission “appeared ready to assist provided the case is well documented,” the spokesman said.
“This is a project benefiting the public that will help Limassol a lot also in tackling hooliganism, in sport” and with respect to other social activities, he added. “There are therefore good reasons why the state has to finance this effort”.
Cypriot governments have a long tradition of financing football clubs and turning a blind eye when football clubs fail to comply with their obligations. In June 2007, the Cypriot government agreed to give €6.8m clubs to them help pay €14m in outstanding income tax, value-added tax and social insurance contributions. The money, half of which was immediately released via the Cyprus Football Association, was given on the condition that the body’s 56 members would start to pay their post-2007 tax obligations on a regular basis.
“The government appeals to clubs to be more committed because lack of commitment in meeting their obligations and the lack of coordination (of their actions) have caused a delay which is unjustified,” Papadopoulos said.
The three Limassol football clubs currently use Tsirion Stadium which was erected in the mid-1970s.