Malta does not have enough football pitches to be able to entertain all requests from clubs and national teams willing to carry out training camps in the country according to MFA Sports Plus chairman Jason Micallef who was speaking during a press conference at the Civil Service Sports Club in Valletta, adding that investment in this sector is necessary as training camps bring sports tourism from which Malta, in general, will benefit.
MFA SportsPlus Ltd operates in the field of football and other sports, offering state-of-the-art accommodation, training facilities, transportation and logistics, flights/charter flights, organisation of training camps and friendly matches, stadium management, management of marketing and media rights, among other services.
Chairman Jason Micallef explained that the MFA administration, led by Bjorn Vassallo, wanted to strengthen certain structures within the association which deal with the commercial aspect through subsidiary companies. MFA SportsPlus was one of these companies.
The company has a 50%-50% shareholding between the MFA and one of the leading companies in this sector – SLFC of Austria.
Micallef said that the company needs to have a strong structure to be able to adapt to the needs of the national teams, the requirements of the association and also, be able to increase its business in order to be able to increase the revenue for the association.
The MFA SportsPlus chairman went on to speak about the company’s work over the past year. He said that apart from training camps – the sector for which the company is better known, as from this season, MFA SportsPlus has been providing assistance to clubs participating in European competitions by taking care of accommodation, flights and logistics for Hibernians, Sirens and Floriana.
MFA SportsPlus organised several training camps for national teams and clubs from several countries although other had to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Micallef revealed that in September, thanks to MFA SportsPlus, Malta was due to host Manchester United for a one-week training camp but this had to be cancelled due to restrictions from the UK government which stopped clubs from travelling abroad for training camps. This would have been a huge opportunity for sports tourism, visibility for the country and the service top level clubs could be offered. It also shows that the company is on the right track.
Jason Micallef went on to thank the Malta Tourism Authority and Malta MedAir who are among the main partners of MFA SportsPlus.
He said that although Malta, as a country, had several advantages over other destinations, with regards to connections, short distances, etc., Malta still lacks facilities, especially football pitches and that when compared to other countries like Portugal and Turkey, we are not competitive in this aspect.
Micallef went on to stress that sports tourism and the country in general would benefit if there are more pitches available in the country. For this reason, we are not making the most out of the advantage with have with regards to the climate and the short distances.
He said discussions with the government on this issue are ongoing but stressed that this does not mean that the MFA will not invest in new facilities in the coming weeks and months.
With regards to TV rights and live streaming, MFA SportsPlus has been managing them on behalf of clubs. This included UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches, friendly matches between local clubs and friendly matches between local and foreign clubs and also the Under-21 and women’s national teams.
Helmut Amhof thanked all partners of MFA SportsPlus and in particular, the MTA, Malta MedAir and the hotels who offer their services for their co-operation. He said the past months were not easy due to the changing conditions but still, the fact that company tried to be as flexible as possible and the references MFA SportsPlus is getting shows that the company was doing a good job.
Amhof said the company had already received several requests for winter training camps and they are now trying to select carefully the teams, depending on the availabilities.
He added that said that since August 2019, MFA SportsPlus worked with 45 teams – senior, Under-21, youth and women’s national teams, foreign and local clubs – with services which included transport, accommodation, flights. This produced around fifteen thousand bed nights and most of these were in the low season.
Meanwhile Jason Micallef revealed that the company will hold discussions with SportMalta with regards the possibility of working together in view of the Games of the Small States of Europe which will be held in Malta in 2023. He said that the experience gained so far with regards to football could be shared with other sports.