Appeals to authorities to help clubs who are ready to embark on ambitious projects
Joseph Portelli has reiterated his determination to turn the fortunes of sleeping giants Ħamrun Spartans as the Premier League club presented their team for the new season during a news conference on Friday.
Portelli, the Gozitan entrepreneur, has joined the Spartans this summer as their main sponsor and had immediately made it clear that he wanted to put the club on a solid foundation and implement a professional set up that would see the club not only become financially sustainable but also to finally challenge for the main domestic honours.
So far, Portelli has kept his word with a big-spending transfer market campaign which saw the Reds sign two exciting Malta internationals in Joseph Mbong and Juan Corbalan as well as a new set of overseas players as he looked to close the gap on the big guns of Maltese football.
“I am grateful to the committee of Ħamrun Spartans for believing in my project and helping me to put the club on much stronger foundations,” Portelli said.
“Our aim is to try and be as competitive as possible. We have a new team and therefore it will require some time to gel together given that due to COVID-19, we had a number of friendlies that were called off.
“We have said from the start that is a three-year plan towards challenging for the league title so we need to take it one step at a time. Our aim was to make this team competitive so that one day, we can finally give our fans a major honour which has been missing from our club for so many years.”
With the Spartans, Portelli is planning an ambitious project at the Tedesco Stadium, which in his words, will guarantee a serene future to the club, but appealed to the authorities that they needed to give a helping hand to football clubs who are keen to embark on such projects.
“When you go for a project like ours, the clubs must go into a significant amount of debt with banks or other institutions to get the financial assistance needed to complete these projects,” he said.
“In the last few weeks, I met with the Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Clifton Grima and told him that unless the government is ready to helps ambitious clubs by subsidizing the interest rates they incur when taking loans, these projects will become unfeasible.
“The only way for Maltese football to blossom is for clubs to take on such projects, but they need assistance as they cannot do it alone.”
Marcel Bonnici, Portelli’s right-hand man in the Spartans project, said that the club is being run on a three-way strategy.
In the short term, the new administration paid all the debts and insolvencies the club was plagued with in the last few years both with players and members of technical staff as well as private creditors and government entities.
“In the medium term, discussions will start on the stadium project with a view of submitting our application,” Bonnici said.
“Added to that we are trying to attract investors to work with us on our project. We are also planning to revamp our club’s Academy in consultation with head coach Stefan Sultana.”
In the long term, Bonnici said that the club will hope to have the planning permit so the stadium project will get underway which will include a club museum and its own clubhouse.
“Our long-term goal is to put the club in a position to challenge for the honours year in year out.”
On his part, Mark Buttigieg, the club’s head coach, said that he was pleased with the squad he had at his disposal.
“I think we have a very competitive team,” Buttigieg said.
“At a club like Ħamrun, where the fans are very demanding, the pressure will always be there but I’m sure that the players will use this in a positive way to further raise our level.”
As reported by the Times of Malta, Ħamrun Spartans will add another two signings in the coming days after they reach an agreement to sign Lugano forward Franklin Sasere and Italo-Argentine attacking midfielder Blas Cittadini.