Big projects in the pipe-line for the Malta Football Association

In the concluding speech of the MFA Annual General Meeting, MFA President Norman Darmanin outlined the challenges for the future and revealed the major projects which the association will undertake. He also spoke about the MFA’s relationship with UEFA and FIFA.

Darmanin Demajo said that this season will be remembered for Player Status reform which was approved in May. He said that many thought it would be “a mission impossible” but he said the Council members and delegates showed maturity and courage to vote in favour.

The MFA President stressed that the association should now focus on important challenges it is facing. He said the first challenge was the governance of the association and argued that there is an urgent need for the statute to be revised.

Another challenge was the re-organisation of amateur football. He said that one needed to focus on league and non-league football. While acknowledging the contribution given by these member associations, Darmanin Demajo said it was of utmost importance to organise them better in order to give a better contribution to the game.

Finding a sustainable business model for the Premier League was another major challenge. He said clubs were investing heavily but he feels that the focus is too much on winning rather than development. Discussions with the Premier League Standing Committee on this aspect are due to start shortly.

Darmanin Demajo once again urged clubs not to try spending more than they can afford and reminded them that after the association had invested heavily in their facilities, “there would be no second helping” and it is up to the clubs themselves to find the funds to do the necessary maintenance and eventually replace the pitch.

The MFA President said the association now had to start to think about strengthening its financial platform. He revealed that the MFA was selected by UEFA as one of five associations for pilot projects related to good governance. The association’s streams of income were identified and a report will be presented by UEFA in September. Darmanin Demajo said the association cannot continue to depend on just the income by UEFA and FIFA. The UEFA officials who visited the association over the past week gave their suggestions on how the MFA could double its income streams within five years.

Darmanin Demajo said this would be the association’s main challenge for the next five years. With this in mind, the association moved the clinic to the Millennium Stand, added MRI scanning facilities and re-organised the operations of the swimming pool. This has already helped generate more income.

The MFA President revealed that there are two important projects which the association could not postpone. The first is the MFA Training Grounds floodlights which need to be replaced after over thirty years. The second is the turf of the National Stadium who according to a turf expert from UEFA needed “a major surgery”. He said the way forward is to invest in a hybrid blend of natural and artificial turf which has already been installed in stadiums like Wembley Stadium, the Emirates Stadium and the FA’s St. George’s Park. Work will start immediately after the end of the season.

Other projects in the pipeline is the imminent issue of a call for tenders for the installation of PV panels to create a solar farm in the West Stand Parking Area, the reservoir and part of the MFA Training Grounds. Other upgrading works will be carried out at the Centenary Stadium and Hibernians Stadium.

As regards the relationship with UEFA, Darmanin Demajo said the MFA will continue to build on the respect and trust it had gained over the past years. The association has been entrusted with the hosting of the UEFA Top Executive Programme – where most of UEFA’s important decisions are taken – followed by the UEFA Executive Committee meeting. These will be held in mid-September.

With regards to FIFA, the MFA President said he had nothing against President Sepp Blatter but felt that he should step away from the role. Darmanin Demajo said the MFA was the first to back another candidate. Speaking of Prince Ali, he described him as a soft-spoken and courageous person. He revealed that they are still in touch and invited him to visit Malta. On the other hand, Prince Ali invited the MFA to send the national team to play a friendly match in Jordan in November. The issue will be discussed with national coach Pietro Ghedin and a decision will be taken whether to accept the invite or not.

Norman Darmanin Demajo concluded his speech by saying that this was the last year of his second term and that an election was due next year. He said that elections usually bring division between officials and staff and also between those involved in the game. He stressed that he did not want to create uncertainty although whether to stand for re-election was always a conflict between mind and heart.

Darmanin Demajo said that the first to know would be the same Council members and delegates who voted him in five years ago and confirmed him two years ago. He admitted he had not decided yet and said that he was elected to serve but needed to know whether he had the same level of commitment and motivation to lead the association for another three years.

The MFA President concluded by saying that a decision would be taken after summer, stating that the decision should not only be his but what was good for the game.