Hungary will pay EUR 5.9 million (USD 6.96 million) to renovate the stadium of Slovakian second league football team KFC Komárno, reports print daily Magyar Nemzet.
KFC Komárno – founded in 1900 as Komáromi Labdarúgó Társaság (Komárom Football Society) – achieved a remarkable deed in the club’s history by winning this year’s third league championship, thereby qualifying for the Slovak second league. The club’s home ground is in dire need of renovations but the club lacks the funds.
According to a July 25 Hungarian government decree, the government will provide EUR 5.9 million to KFC Komárno for stadium reconstruction with the mediation of the Hungarian Football Federation. For those familiar with the government’s tendency of building first-class football stadiums with thousands of seats in rural Hungarian villages with only a few hundred inhabitants, this amount is not remarkable. However, in Slovakia, it is. According to Slovakian Hungarian-language daily Új Szó, the Slovak Football Association (SFZ) launched a 10-year stadium renovation program in 2013 during which time SFZ will provide a total of just EUR 750,000 (USD 884,300) for second and third league teams for stadium renovation.
“We have not contacted a single politician from Hungary,” KFC Komárno press officer Imre Tarcsi told Magyar Nemzet. “We contacted renowned professionals in Hungary, who forwarded our request to the Hungarian government.” According to Tarcsi the idea of requesting financial assistance from Hungary surfaced in February this year. “We knew that they [the Hungarian government] undertake the support of Hungarians beyond the border on the field of sports as well, especially the support of football. We could qualify for aid because the town is mostly inhabited by Hungarians [according to the 2011 census 54 percent of Komárno’s inhabitants were of Hungarian ethnicity], many of whom go to work, shop and holiday in Hungary, thus increasing the Hungarian tax revenue,” Tarcsi said in trying to provide a justification for spending Hungarian taxpayers’ money on a Slovakian football team’s stadium. A source of Tarcsi’s earlier noted that qualifying for the second league would vastly increase the chances of receiving financial support from Hungary. Allegedly, the fact that Komárno might have a good chance of qualifying for the Slovak second league even caught the attention of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán when he watched a match of another Slovakian-Hungarian club in November last year.
Although according to KFC Komárno’s own account the team’s matches draw the attention of only 400-600 spectators on average (Új Szó estimated 233 spectators on average based on the club’s reports), the club’s volunteer managers hope the fact that the team has been promoted to the second league will boost spectators. Evidently, the club’s Hungarian patrons are expecting a 15- to 20-fold increase in spectators as the new stadium would seat 3,950 people. The management also wants to lay a pitch heated by nearby thermal streams, plus an artificial grass training pitch and professional lighting.
However, the club could hardly realize its ambitious plans without the Hungarian government’s help, since it has been struggling financially for a while. According to the club, their last year budget was a mere EUR 126,000 (USD 148,560). The club would have gone bankrupt if it had not decided to compete in the second league, since failure to compete would have resulted in a EUR 50,000 (USD 58,900) fine. Although the Slovak Football Association had previously promised to provide KFC Komárno EUR 100,000 of operational aid to cover the team’s costs in competing in the second league championship, the aid has yet to materialize. The Komárno council that has been covering half of the club’s costs so far allegedly promised to increase the financing of the team once they start to compete in the second league, however it is questionable whether the team will be able to cover the operational costs of the new stadium in the long run.