Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo’s ministry denied the existence of a list of people receiving free tickets to watch Manchester United play at Old Trafford despite previously acknowledging it in parliament.
During a parliamentary speech in 2022, Bartolo announced that his ministry and the Malta Tourism Authority would be distributing free tickets to a match.
These tickets were intended for guests, including tour operators, British radio stations, influencers, and journalists. He had said that the distribution was part of a promotional campaign aimed at boosting Malta’s tourism industry.
In a Freedom of Information request, The Shift asked the ministry to provide a list of these guests, but it was refused. Following a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner Ian Deguara, the ministry argued that “the requested list does not exist”.
While Deguara noted that the two answers appeared contradictory, he ultimately accepted the denial.
“During the course of the investigation, the MTA submitted that it does not hold a record of the names and surnames of those persons given complimentary Man United football tickets as a result of the agreements with Man United, and thus, the list requested by The Shift does not exist and there is no information which could meet the terms of the request,” the commissioner concluded.
However, he noted that during an earlier reply to his request on the same list, the MTA cited data protection as a reason for its refusal, different from the reason forwarded later to the same commissioner.
“The Commissioner is disappointed to note that the MTA only came up with the actual circumstances related to The Shift’s request for information, on the strength of which the decision should have been taken during the course of his investigation,” the decision states.
MTA sources told The Shift that a list “does exist,” and it includes many of the minister’s acquaintances who are regularly given ‘free’ tickets to watch football games at Old Trafford.
“This is the main reason Bartolo does not want to show this list,” the sources said.
But this is not the first time Bartolo’s ministry has claimed it does not keep official records of how free tickets are distributed.
Recently, a request for the list of those getting free concert tickets sponsored by the MTA was turned down for the same reason that records are not kept.
Man United sponsorship deal to remain under wrap
The sponsorship deal with Man United was first struck by disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi. At the time, the government refused to publish the deal despite reports that some €20 million were paid for the three-year contract.
In September 2022, Clayton Bartolo travelled to Manchester to sign the contract’s renewal with a government delegation of some 11 people, also attending the season-opening match at Old Trafford.
The minister’s girlfriend was also part of the delegation, but Bartolo insisted that she paid for her trip.
Meanwhile, a request by The Shift for a copy of the multi-million-euro sponsorship deal between the government and the MTA was only partially upheld, with the commissioner deciding that all financial implications should be redacted.
Again, rebuking the MTA on how it dealt with The Shift’s request, breaching all rules related to transparency and accountability, the commissioner accepted that the unveiling of certain “commercially sensitive” information, particularly on how much taxpayers are forking out for this sponsorship, should remain hidden.
He ordered the MTA to provide The Shift “with an electronic copy of the ‘Global Sponsorship Agreement’ and the ‘Variation Agreement in respect to the Global Sponsorship Agreement’ after redacting the clauses concerning sponsorship rights granted, the terms on which they have been granted, and the financial terms of the agreements.”