Football stadiums, a new political weapon in the electoral campaign

No candidate in Valencia escapes the question of how he will force Peter Lim to finish the new Mestalla, nor in Zaragoza can they hide their opinion on the remodeling of La Romareda. In fact, from Zaragoza the candidate for mayor of the Popular Party, Natalia Chueca, believes that “the stadium can represent 40% of the vote on 28-M”. Two checks on the electoral board of large cities where the polls predict adjusted results.

In Valenciathe urban operation of the new Mestalla He has been in the political arena for two years and is seen by the fans as the best pressure tool to force Peter Lim to sell the club. Thousands of voters in a city whose mayoralty was decided in 2019 by 255 votes.

In 2005, former mayor Rita Barberá signed an agreement with the Valencia for which I would leave mestalla, whose expansion had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court, to move to a new and modern stadium on Avenida de las Cortes. The council reclassified and sold a sports ground and, to finance the operation, converted the ground of the centenary Mestalla into residential and tertiary. Thus, the club could pay for the new house with its sale and even clean up its accounts. At the time of the brick boom, that was branded by the PSOE, then in opposition, as a “hit”. But the house of cards collapsed in 2009 when work stopped. From then until the summer of 2022, the club was unable to find financing and the urban planning tool that the PP designed for it in its majority years, the Strategic Territorial Action (ATE), was extinguished by the Government of Ximo Puig, denounced in court by Lim. No political formation raised its voice and only Compromís asked that, in order not to harm the club, new agreements be negotiated with the same urban benefits.

However, the PSOE, with the deputy mayor and councilor for Town Planning, sandra gomezto the head, has pressed to lime conditioning the sale of the land to the commitment of the city’s obligations. The mayor did not join that starting position Joan Ribo, which came to announce the date of resumption of works. A decision caused by the desire to see the stadium and Valencia as the venue for the possible 2030 World Cup. If the PSOE has been very clear in its position of not negotiating with Lim, the regional and local candidates of PP, Cs, Vox and Podemos They have not expressed a clear position. The two parties that could govern on May 29, PP and Vox, have maintained neutrality and accused Gómez of “groping” Valencia for electoral purposes.

Interior of the latest project of the New Mestalla
Interior of the latest project of the New Mestalla

Also in Saragossa the Popular Party is at war with the PSOE for the Romareda. The renovation project, the fifth in 20 years, presented on May 12, has a cost of more than 140 million euros and will be financed, in principle, by the club’s property. This initiative has the support of the PP, which governs the city, but the PSOE, who does it in the Community of Aragon, does not share his enthusiasm. “Politics and soccer do not mix well, and even less so in elections. The projects are unanimously better,” he told ELMUNDO, Lola RaneraSocialist candidate for mayor.

The pitch of the Romareda it overflows the city limits. Don’t forget that Saragossa, with its almost 670,000 inhabitants, represents half of the population of Aragon (1.3 million). “The Nueva Romareda will be the benchmark stadium for all of Aragon,” he explained to this newspaper, Natalia Chuecapopular candidate for mayor of Zaragoza.

The presentation of the renovation project coincided with the beginning of the electoral campaign and the end of the period to present the candidacies for the 2030 World Cup, something that the PSOE has not liked.

Latest project of the New Romareda.
Latest project of the New Romareda.

The Socialists have presented three requirements to the project. However, it is more worrying, as its partners in the Government have announced, including Podemos and the Aragonese Chunta, if they will appeal it judicially. Although the PSOE candidate for mayor denies it.

other battles

The problem in Spain is that most of the fields of the First Division teams, 12 out of 20, are public. So, any intervention requires an agreement between the property and, generally, the City Council. Political forces usually agree to provide the necessary elements (low royalties or transfer of public land, among others) for the local club to prosper. But, as in Valencia and Zaragoza, it doesn’t always happen.

Moreover, sometimes conflicting interests raise issues to justice. Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna They were acquitted for “alleged irregular public aid” in various actions concerning the stadiums. Although, the normal thing is that everything remains in a dialectical war with more partisan interests than anything else.

In Vigo, the Celtic and Abel Caballero They are in a fight over the slow renovation of the stadium, which is the responsibility of the City Council. A necessary reform so that it can choose to host the 2030 World Cup, a great objective of the majority of Spanish clubs and cities, due to the return that this would imply to the city. A fight, by the way, that has also been brought to the electoral arena and that is evidenced in the words of the BNG in which it describes it, due to the delays and improvisations, as a “bad copy of the Sacred Family” instead of “Guggenheim football” as promised Gentleman.

Recreation of the New Romareda
Recreation of the New Romareda

However, there are more cases of institutional support than partisan war around the local team. The most paradigmatic case is how the Huelva City Council, with the support of all political forces, saved the recreational rescuing it from an owner who had abandoned the club. He contributed 25 million from public coffers, of which he will only be able to recover 12, if they manage to privatize it again. In this campaign, the Popular Party of the town figures in two councilors the influence of the Recre issue at the polls. “Combining your political brand with another that arouses passions is pure gold,” analyzes Toni Aira, professor of Political Communication at the Pompeu Fabra University-Barcelona School of Management.

“Football is the most important of the least important things,” he often says Jorge Valdano. In these elections, it has gained much more relevance in many places because it is not just about budgets and needs, it is also about emotions, which is what moves the most in this political period. “Politics for years has been more about creating moods than opinion,” concludes the professor of Political Communication.

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