The Malta Football Association and the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding thanks to which the government will be investing €6 million over eight years to replace the surface of the artificial turf pitches. The agreement was signed on Friday by MFA General Secretary Dr Angelo Chetcuti and Permanent Secretary Matthew Vella in the presence of Minister for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing Julia Farrugia Portelli and Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport & Voluntary Organisations Dr Clifton Grima and MFA President Bjorn Vassallo.
Thanks to this agreement, fifty five artificial turf pitches will be replaced in Malta and another thirteen in Gozo.
The MFA President said that just like home brings the family together, in sport, facilities bring together athletes, administrators, officials and community meet to practice the sport and socialise. Sports help children grow in a healthy environment where they could develop from both the physical and social aspect. In football, 15,000 members keep alive this activity which is at the heart of community in the fifty three clubs in Malta and fourteen in Gozo.
He said that when in 2007, the Malta Football Association started assisting member clubs in developing the pitches, few would have thought that fourteen years later, almost all clubs now have a piece of land with a legal title over it. This process had started in 1996 thanks to Fr Hilary on behalf of the Kunsill Malti ghall-iSport, now Sport Malta, and Notary Joe Cilia on behalf of the government. This ongoing process has become even more important now that clubs can commercialise their facilities in order to obtain financial sustainability. Vassallo added that the scenario changed completely throughout the years and praised the vision of the government of the day which the present government continued to work on.
The MFA President said that there are actually more football pitches than local councils on the island. The association invested €22 million of its funds over fourteen years. Thanks to this agreement, covering more than 250,000 square metres of artificial turf which are being replaced, the government will ensure that football clubs and their players will continue to benefit from this investment for the years to come. Apart from training, these pitches host competitive matches, including those of some of the national teams, amounting to around 3,000 matches every year. Vassallo added that while this agreement was crucial to keep pitches up to the required standards, the MFA could focus on whatever is necessary to develop better players so that clubs and the national teams could achieve results.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Inclusion and Quality of Life Matthew Vella said that this investment was an investment in a healthy society. Holistic education was of utmost importance and sport was one of the strongest principles for a better quality of life. He said that while negotiating this agreement, the two parties were aiming for the common good of children and athletes. Sports was being put on a truly professional level with clear strategies and clear objectives. Vella added that the public service was always ready to join forces with associations or organisations and NGOs and work hand in hand with them as dialogue and collaboration were necessary to achieve common goals. He concluded by saying that sport can help youngsters and adults in moments of difficulties as sport could be a tool to achieve a better quality of life.
Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport & Voluntary Organisations Dr Clifton Grima said that the government’s vision was to work hand in hand with sports associations as long as they come forward with clear proposals, tangible and costed. The government would be their partner in order to make the difference in people’s lives.
Dr Grima said this agreement lays solid foundations for the association to be able to plan long-term. Players will have pitches which are up-to-standard on which they would be able to train and at the same time, this investment would be making a change in the heart of the community, now that there is a pitch in every town.
Minister for Inclusion and Quality of Life Julia Farrugia Portelli said that this investment is the strongest certificate that the government really believes in youth and sports and how education in its widest sense should be given top priority. Maintenance will start immediately on a number of pitches and eventually, all these pitches will be replaced within the coming years.
She said that thanks to this agreement, the Malta Football Association will be able to focus on the strategy and how the local youngsters could continue to improve their skills.
Farrugia Portelli praised the association for investing heavily in inclusion with regards to participation of women in football. She added that sport played an important role in the quality of life saying that by participating in sport, one would be investing in the mental health and well-being.