The Ministry of Culture has decided that the €1.5 million granted by the state for the construction of a series of football halls, will continue to be available to local authorities for longer than previously promised. The decision means, that cities and municipalities which have struggled to complete construction works on the halls due to rising construction costs, will not miss out on the funds.
With the construction of state-subsidized football halls having stalled in several municipalities, including Kuressaare, Rakvere and Viimsi, Minister of Culture Piret Hartman met with Aivar Pohlak, head of the Estonian Football Association (EJL) on Monday to discuss the best way forward.
"We shared information and aligned our objectives," said Hartman. "The decision we took, was to continue working towards two goals. First, we will do everything possible to ensure that those halls, which are already in the works, are definitely completed. The second aim is to bring on board those counties that have not yet got a football hall and for which no decisions have yet been taken," Hartman added.
One of the ways the ministry is helping municipalities is by extending the time period within which they are able to use state subsidies to complete the football halls. Initially, funds were to be used by municipalities within a two year period, with Hartman now saying, that that time limit no longer applies.
"We have made every effort, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, to ensure that the municipalities will be able to use the money next year and the year after, so that they do not lose the resources they already have," Hartman said.
Rising construction costs have caused delays in the building of several football halls throughout Estonia. While under the original plan, the state was to provide €1.5 million in funding to support the project, with local governments matching that sum, both are now having to spend more to cover the price of completing the halls.
However, the municipalities in which the football halls are being built, will not receive any additional funds from the Ministry of Culture, at least not during the current financial year. "During the state budget discussions, no decision to support the construction of the football halls, which has become more expensive, was made. However, the problem here is clear and understandable. We understand the concerns and will continue to work to reach a political agreement," Hartman said.
Hartman added, that during the state budget negotiations, no decision had been reached on the football halls, as the Ministry of Culture had had to prioritize other issues. "All the decisions related to salaries (for those in the cultural sphere – ed.) and people, as well as keeping our (cultural) institutions open," Hartman said.
Head of the Estonian Football Association (EJL) Aivar Pohlak said, that during the meeting with the culture minister, plans had been set out plans about how to move forward with the football halls project. "The Football Association and I didn't go to the meeting with the minister with any kind of agenda," Pohlak said. "The football halls project has been a state initiative from the very beginning, because they can see that the number of people involved in football is so large. We discussed the situation to understand where we are at the moment, and what we need going forward," he said.
According to Pohlak, despite rising construction costs, the plan to build football halls in the counties is still very much on the table. "There are some local authorities, which are finding it difficult to implement the project under current conditions, but I don't know of any that would actually say they don't need the project," Pohlak said.
The national program to support the construction of football halls in Estonian counties began in 2020. Halls have already been completed in Rapla, Haapsalu, Tartu and Viljandi, all of which received state funding during the first round of the project.
Editor: Michael Cole