Confusion reigns over scheme to commercialise sports facilities

Confusion is currently reigning in the management of sports facilities, particularly among football clubs, which are filing Planning Authority applications to turn their grounds into fully-fledged commercial enterprises.

But they are doing so without the required authorisation to do so from both the government and Parliament.

The Shift recently reported how Education Minister Clifton Grima warned Hamrun Spartans’ on-and-off president, and erstwhile construction magnate, Joseph Portelli about plans he had already announced to turn the Spartans’ ground into a commercial centre including shops and a supermarket.

Addressing a recent parliamentary committee, Grima made it clear that any such plans would have to be approved first by the Commercialisation of Sports Facilities Committee that he established, and, after that, by Parliament.  Grima insisted that none of this has happened yet and that Portelli would have to put the brakes on his plans and wait in the queue.

The Shift is informed that another case, which is at an even more advanced stage than Portelli’s Hamrun project, is evolving in Marsaxlokk.

Although a permit has not yet been issued by the ministry’s commercialisation committee, and Parliament has not been informed of any plans, the locality’s football club has filed a development application to turn its ground – as well as an adjacent public car park and garden – into a massive area for commercial activity.

According to the plans filed with the PA, the ground will be engulfed by an old people’s home, a hostel and a childcare centre, among others.

Asked recently in Parliament by Opposition MP Darren Carabott to state whether the Marsaxlokk plans are covered by any sort of permit from the government, Minister Grima confirmed that they are not.

“Marsaxlokk applied in 2021 for the commercialisation of their facilities and at the moment a process of analyses and valuation is taking place,” Grima told Carabott.

Still, the PA is about to approve the Marsaxlokk project, which is being opposed by hundreds of residents because of its expected negative impact on the surrounding area.

Even the Malta Developers Association had opposed the plans as some of its members who have old people’s homes and other businesses in the area have complained of unfair competition.

What is happening in Marsaxlokk, however, appears to merely be the tip of the iceberg. The Shift is informed that many clubs have already entered into agreements with supermarket chains, hoteliers and developers to build commercial facilities without even having a title on the public land.

An artistic impression of how Marsaxlokk wants to commercialise its ground and nearby open spaces.

They have done so because ministers have promised clubs that they will be allowed to commercialise their facilities but the clubs are now finding they will have to wait a long time for the plans to come to fruition, if at all.

Asked to say how many applications are currently being considered by the Commercialisation of Sports Facilities Committee, headed by criminologist and university lecturer Saviour Formosa, Minister Clifton Grima did not reply.

Parliament is in the meantime expected to approve more clubs being given title over their facilities in the near future, with the next in line being the Xewkija and Gudja football clubs and the Otters Waterpolo club in Marsalforn.


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1 month ago

So the village sports associations have sold their votes for promise of wealth by the Labour Politicians . Truly Gahan pulling the door of their self respect of its hinges .
The Labour Party screwed them , well and proper. Now tell those youngsters who play in these sports grounds , that they will play in the streets , because their playground will become a Super Market.

Wiston Smith
Wiston Smith
1 month ago

This is outright thievery of public property. It is outrageous that for the enjoyment of few unscrupulous capitalists they are exploiting and denying the public enjoyment of property that is effectively ours. Not so long ago everyone had unfettered access to the majority of our country’s football grounds, now most of them are under lock and key. For many, football grounds are one of few existing open spaces in their community. While our government claims that he is combatting obesity he gifts the public spaces where sports could be freely practiced.

1 month ago

What I am missing in the whole article is one name of one person in one function he has been appointed to on 30th June 2022. This is because it would add up to explain what might go on behind the scenes or closed doors and is so fitting with what that person was always ‘good at’.

Joseph Muscat, former PM and since last year, chairman of the Malta Professional Football Clubs Association. I can’t think of all what is reported in this article without his name and capacity in all this coming to mind. Why else would, like all of a sudden, go football clubs to file applications for the commercialisation of the promises they have in order to follow the planning example of the ‘Big Developer’ Mr Portelli, who was recently whining about his lost dream of being a professional player in a football club.

Surely, those peole involved in all this know how to pull the strings and like in other matters, the network is all the same and works for all the people who use it. Never mind Parliament and rather seek and find ways to circumvent it, because it might stop the planning.

I don’t think that people who live in old people’s homes like to have to bear the noise emanating from a big stadium and all the noise that goes with the commercial area the aim at. The whole description of the project sounds too much of Joseph Muscat to me. Well, never mind the protest and the objections from the local residents. There is no election this year after all that would make the PL to think again.

That’s what the PL really is, progress by profits at the expense of the ordinary people and if they complain too much, just give them a voucher.

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