Six years after plans to allow sports associations to turn their public facilities into commercial entities were announced, the process is still at square one and not a single permit has yet been issued.
Further complicating matters, the latest government-appointed Sports Commercialisation Board chairman resigned less than a year into the post and the little progress that had been registered has now been derailed.
The Shift is informed that criminology professor Saviour Formosa resigned his chairmanship last March, after having been appointed to the post the previous July by Education and Sports Minister Clifton Grima.
No public announcement had been made about his departure and no reason has been given.
Grima has now replaced Formosa with WasteServ CEO Richard Bilocca.
The ministry declined a Freedom of Information request for a list of applications the board has received from sports associations looking to commercialise their public facilities and the number of projects it has approved, saying they “do not exist.”
The same goes for answers to a number of parliamentary questions tabled by Opposition MP Darren Carabott, where Grima has also declined to reply about any projects the board is currently considering.
A government official familiar with the process described the progress over the last six years as “zero”, explaining that the board has not yet managed to fully process and green-light a single application.
The minister also took the occasion of Formosa’s resignation to expand the board from seven to 11 members. It now includes Foundation for Tomorrow Schools CEO Neville Young and a Jonathan Scerri, who is not the former Enemalta chairman as reported earlier.
In the meantime, despite the government’s lack of progress, which has been further complicated by individual promises ministers have given clubs in their electoral districts, some football clubs are bypassing the government and are trying to move on with their plans unilaterally.
One example is the Hamrun Spartans Football Club, led by Gozitan construction magnate Joseph Portelli, who has already publicly stated his intentions to turn the Victor Tedesco stadium into a fully-fledged commercial hub including bars, restaurants and retail units.
Portelli has said that while his construction company will be responsible for the project, he will not seek to profit from the project and that all proceeds will go to the football club.
The same steps were taken by the Marsaxlokk Football Club, which has applied for a development permit to convert facilities into a large commercial complex that will controversially include a home for the elderly.
Minister Grima, however, has warned both clubs that they are jumping the gun and reminded them that their projects have not been approved by the Sports Commercialisation Board.