President Joseph Portelli said that he is ready to do everything he can to ensure the Ħamrun Spartans squad is competitive enough to successfully defend the league title won last season despite the financial loss resulting from the club’s exclusion from this season’s Champions League.
The Spartans were crowned as Malta champions on Thursday in a presentation ceremony at the Tedesco Stadium, just one day after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected their appeal against their exclusion from UEFA club competitions.
“Our initial plan was to win the league title within three season and the fact that we managed to win it in our first year is a remarkable achievement,” Portelli told the Times of Malta.
“Nobody can say that we didn’t try to win the league title and we are glad to be here to celebrate this feat. Yesterday we received the bad news that the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that we can’t compete in Europe. The decision is very upsetting for me as I was keen as president to lead the team in European football.
“We paid for a mistake the club committed seven-and-a-half years ago. However, the league title is at our club and nobody can take it for us and this year we will do everything in our power to successfully defend the title.”
Missing out on European football inevitably brings with it a huge financial loss for the club, with Portelli saying that the club has missed out on a pot of between 800,000 and €1 euros. But despite this setback he promised that he will do everything in his power to keep the team as competitive as possible.
“Competing in Europe brings to the club a huge financial gain,” Portelli said.
“Our estimate is that we lost between €800,000 and €1 million so it’s inevitable that it will effect our transfer strategy. However, my promise is that as president of Ħamrun Spartans I will do everything in my power to keep the team as competitive as possible for the new season.”
Asked on his future plans, Portelli said that the stadium project was crucial for the club’s sustainability in the future.
“The ground project is very important so that the club will not remain dependant on a person like myself,” Portelli said.
“I am determined that I will have the strength to make it happen and hopefully in the coming weeks I will be in a good position to reveal more on the plans of this project.”
On his part, Marcel Bonnici, the Spartans CEO, said that nobody from the new administration thought that they could win the title on their first year.
“Nobody thought that we could win the league title on our first year at the club,” Bonnici said.
“However, to be competitive in all we do is in our DNA. The success was achieved – not only on the pitch but also in the organisation set-up of the club.
“I still believe that there is more to come from an organisational aspect as we can still reach a higher standard.
“Maltese football has a lot of potential and I firmly believe that if we capitalise on it, particularly through the media industry, the Beautiful Game here can continue to grow.”