The government has made it crystal clear that construction magnate Joseph Portelli will have to wait and follow the rules before realising his project to turn parts of Hamrun’s Victor Tedesco stadium into a commercial centre.
Parliament unanimously agreed earlier this week that the stadium, which has been occupied by the Hamrun Spartans for years, is to be given to the club through a 45-year emphyteutic title.
But the National Audit Office Accounts Committee has clarified this does not mean that Portelli has permission to kick off his latest, much-hyped, commercial project at the stadium.
Referring to a report by The Shift, Opposition MPs Darren Carabott and Rebekah Borg asked the government whether the transfer of title also meant that Hamrun Spartans could begin converting parts of the stadium into a full-blown commercial project.
Quelling the Hamrun Spartans’ and its president Joseph Portelli’s enthusiasm for the project, Education and Sports Minister Clifton Grima assured the opposition benches that this was not the case, and that Portelli, like everyone else, will have to wait and follow the rules.
“Let me make it clear. No matter what is being said, this is not a permit for commercialisation. This resolution is just giving Hamrun, like other clubs, more certainty on their title with regards to the premises,” Minister Grima stressed.
“The commercialisation project is an entirely different process and Hamrun will have to follow the already clear rules leading to that process,” Grima warned.
While the PN MPs expressed their favour of commercialising areas of various sports facilities so they could generate income to be used exclusively for sporting operations, they said the resolution as tabled by the government, does not allow for such commercial use.
The Minister clarified that, if Hamrun is allowed to commercialise its premises in the future, a new resolution would have to be first discussed and approved by Parliament.
The Shift is informed that there is so far no such resolution since the process started by Hamrun and other clubs to commercialise parts of their facilities is still at its inception.
Despite the impression being given by Portelli and Hamrun Spartans that the commercialisation of the stadium is just around the corner, this is not the case and the club has not yet even submitted a development application to the Planning Authority.
In 2021, just after becoming Hamrun Spartans president, the construction magnate, known for turning village cores all over Malta and Gozo into large blocks of flats, had given the government an ultimatum vis-à-vis his plans for Hamrun.
Criticising the implementation of a new law allowing for the commercialisation of sports facilities, Portelli told The Times of Malta that if by the end of the year (2021) he was not allowed to start his project, he would turn his back on it.
“After all, this project is not in my personal interest but in the interest of the football movement in Malta and to help the Hamrun Spartans become a self-sustainable club,” Portelli had said.
One of Portelli’s first decisions at the club was to instal his Mercury Towers project CEO, Gozitan Marcel Bonnici, as Hamrun Spartans’ CEO.
In a reaction to The Shift’s story last month, Bonnici issued a hurried statement assuring supporters that Portelli would not be making any profit from the commercialisation of the Victor Tedesco ground.
“Once the project’s initial costs are recovered, all profits from the complex will be used to employ people and run the premises and be reinvested in the club, in talent and sporting activities,” a spokesman for the club said.
It is not known what commercial aspects are to be included in Portelli’s plans for the stadium area, or whether these could also include residential flats.
Neither it is known yet whether Portelli’s own building company will be responsible for the project’s construction work or how the contractor will be selected.