Valencia owners clash with regional leader over half-built stadium

·2 min read

(Reuters) - Valencia's Singaporean ownership has clashed with regional politicians over the club's unfinished stadium, deepening the rift between the Spanish side and the local community.

The latest spat began when regional leader Ximo Puig said on Monday that Meriton Capital, the group led by billionaire Peter Lim that owns the club, had made no progress with finishing the half-built Nou Mestalla stadium.

"Meriton has no credit left with Valencia society," Puig told reporters after meeting with club President Anil Murthy about the stadium.

Murthy responded on Tuesday, criticising Puig in a statement on the club's official website for "making irresponsible attacks" on the ownership group while saying the group remains committed to finding a solution to the stadium.

He said the ownership group had not committed new resources to the new stadium as it did not wish to pile more debt on the club, which has been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and has had to delay payments to players.

The dispute between Murthy and Puig comes a week after vice-mayor Sandra Gomez said the city hall had "heard nothing" from the club over its plans for the stadium.

Work on the ground began under the club's previous owners in 2007 but was halted in 2009 as Spain's economic crisis damaged the property market and de-railed the planned sale of land on which the club's Mestalla stadium lies.

Lim, who previously tried to buy Liverpool, was welcomed by supporters when he purchased the club in 2014, pouring money into the club on new signings and pledging to finish the 55,000 seater arena.

Yet the project remains at a standstill while fans have grown increasingly angry with his handling of the club, particularly after coach Marcelino was sacked in 2019 and many high profile players were sold last year.

The team are also suffering on the pitch and fell to a 3-0 defeat by Getafe last week, leading to captain Gabriel Paulista crying in a post-match interview.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)