Three-billion-crown national football stadium to be built at Letna

Letna stadium, photo: Hospodarske noviny, 18.5.06

The bulldozers could be moving in to Prague's Letna in the near future, after plans were unveiled on Wednesday to build a national football stadium on the site of the current Toyota Arena - home to the first division club Sparta. The stadium, which could be ready by 2010, would also host other sporting events apart from football. Rob Cameron has this report.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek - a football fan and also a man who needs to win an election in two weeks - announced after meeting the deputy head of the Czech Football Association Vlastimil Kostal on Wednesday that if the Social Democrats return to power the new government will dig deep into its pockets to support the project:

"If I remain prime minister after the elections I will ask the government to release approximately one billion crowns to build the necessary infrastructure for the national football stadium."

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
The idea of building a national stadium is not new, and has both public and political support. At present most international games are played at Sparta's ground at Letna, but the stadium has a limited capacity of 22,000 seats. In the past there have been proposals to build a new 50,000-seater national stadium on various sites on the outskirts of Prague. But they have now been abandoned for a more modest plan - tearing down the Toyota Arena and constructing a 35,000-seater, purpose-build national stadium in its place. Sparta Prague - which owns the land - would continue to play there.

With so much talk of the parlous state of the game - allegations of corruption are rife - some have asked whether Czech football really deserves a new stadium. Czech football journalist Petr Nosalek says it doesn't:

Vlastimil Kostal, photo: CTK
"You can't escape the question - shouldn't the current bosses of Czech football have different priorities? As you may know, we had once again a shameful end to the league season, with surprising results in the last round, with people chanting 'money, money, money' at the referee during the match of the new champions Slovan Liberec. So league football here is in a mess morally. I think that to solve this problem should be the real priority of Czech football. I believe that with yesterday's announcement, the bosses only tried to disguise the fact that they don't and can't have a recipe to cure Czech football of a very serious disease - called corruption."

There's scant evidence calls like that are being heard at the Czech FA however, who seem keen to push ahead with the project as quickly as possible. Czech football may be going through one of the most shameful episodes in its history, but there seems little doubt the new three-billion-crown stadium will rise on Letna Plain.

Petr Nosalek's World Cup website can be found here: www.laola.cz

Czech Football Association: www.fotbal.cz/e/index.asp