Culture Minister: No further state funds available for football halls

Indoor football hall in Viljandi
Indoor football hall in Viljandi Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Estonian Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) has announced, that she does not see any possibility to support the construction of indoor football halls in Viimsi and Jõhvi using additional funds from the state budget.

In a letter to both Viimsi Mayor Illar Lemetti and Jõhvi Mayor Maris Toomel, Hartman said, that due to the current economic climate, it would not be possible to provide additional state funding for the completion of the two football halls, beyond the amount already allocated.

"Unfortunately, given the current state budget constraints and the discussions that took place during budget negotiations, it will not  be possible to allocate additional funds from the 2023 budget, to support the construction of football halls in addition to the €1.5 million already allocated in 2022," Hartman wrote.

"We understand that, due to rising construction prices, the football hall project has been delayed and that this puts your municipalities in a difficult situation. However, we hope that you will be able to find a solution in order to build the football halls, as they will, undoubtedly, have an impact on a large number of young players," Hartman added.

Hartman asked the mayors to inform her by October 31, of whether the municipalities plan still to proceed with their respective football hall projects using only the funds already allocated by the state.

Estonian Football association: football halls are essential

Eva Nõmme, head of public relations at the Estonian Football Association (EJL), told ERR, that the lack of suitable indoor facilities to play football throughout the winter would have a negative impact on the next generation of Estonian footballers.

"Football is the most popular sport in Estonia, but it currently lacks training facilities that can be used year-round," said Nõmme, highlighting the importance of financial support from the state and local authorities to remedy the problem.

"Much like other sports federations, we do not have the financial capacity to invest on such a large scale. It is therefore usually the case, that sports facilities are built by local authorities and the state," Nõmme said.

"This means, figuratively speaking, that a young footballer in Estonia who trains for ten years, will only have actually had the equivalent of about seven and a half years of football skill development. The rest of the time, the pitches are unplayable in our climate, because they are covered with snow and ice. However, in competing countries, it is possible to train all year round, so players' development there is much faster," said Nõmme.

Nõmme points out, that another important reason to construct indoor football halls is to help foster better habits when it comes to doing regular physical activity.

"As football is the most popular sport (in Estonia), building suitable halls, is one of the prerequisites for encouraging young people to develop the habit of doing regular physical exercise. If there is a break from playing football during the winter months, this will have a negative impact on the building of these habits," she said, adding that encouraging people to do more physical exercise is also an important task both for local authorities and the state.

Nõmme believes, that due to the lack of facilities, which can be used during the winter months, football is at an unfair disadvantage in Estonia, in comparison to other sports, for which the state and local authorities have already created conditions enabling year-round practice to take place. "Creating these conditions for football is essential too," Nõmme said.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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