The Philippines just lost the right to host this year’s edition of the group stage of the Suzuki Cup because of inadequacy of the facilities of the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium (RMFS) according to a statement released by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) signed by its general secretary, lawyer Edwin Gastanes on Wednesday.
“After inspection by its rights holder Lagardere Sports (formerly World Sports Group), the Asean Football Federation has disapproved the 15-thousand seat Rizal Memorial Football Stadium as primary venue of the Group Stage matches to be hosted by the Philippines,” the PFF said in the statement.
The RMFS, which first opened in 1934, serves as the home field of the national football team Philippine Azkals and has hosted the semifinals of the AFF biennial championship twice since 2012.
The hosting rights for the 2016 Asian Football Federation (AFF) Championship was first awarded to the Philippine and Myanmar in 2013 following the 11th AFF Council meeting in Naypyidaw.
It is an AFF requirement that the primary venue should have a seating capacity of at least 30,000.
The PFF explained that it also nominated the newly built, 20-thousand seat Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan as one of the venues but the federation is yet to receive a signed contract from the management of the Iglesia ni Cristo-owned facility.
“While the 20-thousand seat privately-owned Philippine Sports Stadium has also been nominated, AFF however requires submission of a written stadium hire contract.”
“Without the contract, the PFF had no option but to withdraw as hosts. The contract between the host Football Association and the stadium is one of the main criteria that is stipulated in the Hosting Obligations,” AFF said in a statement.
However, Gastanes reiterated that the Philippines did not withdraw as one of the hosts of the group stage of the 2016 Suzuki Cup.
“PFF did not withdraw from hosting [the Suzuki Cup]. AFF disapproved our nominated venue,” he said in an interview with The Manila Times.
Meanwhile, the PFF general secretary declared that they would be bringing their case to AFF Council in their next meeting on March 12 in Da Nang, Vietnam.
“Appeal is an inaccurate term. We are a member of the AFF Council so we take it up for discussion among peers and try to get exemption from the prescribed stadia requirements,” said Gastanes.
Jaelle Nevin Reyes