The lingering plan for the new Feyenoord stadium will receive a hard deadline and hard conditions from Rotterdam politics. A large majority of the city council wants to give the football club until the end of this year at the latest to get the construction costs, financing and business case in order.
If that succeeds, the municipality will step in as a shareholder for 40 million euros and construction of the stadium on the Nieuwe Maas can begin. If not: the municipality will withdraw and the ambitious stadium plan (441 million euros) will not go ahead.
That is what city councilors Dennis Tak (PvdA) and Jeroen Postma (GroenLinks) – two coalition parties – say, plus Robert Simons of the largest opposition party Liveable Rotterdam. With the support of the entire coalition and Liveable, there would be a majority of at least 34 of the 45 council seats.
make a decision
“The plan for Feyenoord City has been on the table since 2016. It is time for a decision to be made,” says Postma of GroenLinks. PvdA member Tak: “The stadium with 3,700 homes is intended to stimulate area development in South Rotterdam, but it has been standing still for years now.” Simons van Leefbaar: „We now put the ball to Feyenoord. We will see in December what the end result will be.”
The plan for Feyenoord City is hypersensitive in the city and with local politics. The idea is that the club should be able to earn more and thus perform better with a new stadium (63,000 visitors). But concerned supporters think the club will go bankrupt due to construction costs and disappointing operations. The political treatment was recently shut down after intimidation by opponents of the plan.
The Feyenoord management had therefore canceled earlier, but came to town hall last week to express support for the plan. Then it turned out that the club does not expect a construction contract until the end of this year, because the corona crisis has pushed up construction prices. There is also a gap of 40 million euros in financing; an option is now a ‘bridging loan’ of 30 million.
Tak, Postma and Simons have been very critical in recent months about the stadium plan, which will be discussed by a council committee this Thursday. But that they are now working together as coalition and opposition parties within the polarized Rotterdam council is “quite special,” says Postma.
Read the article Feyenoord City touches the supporters’ soul: ‘Millions disappear in the Maas’
The Municipal Executive wants the Council to make a decision on the shareholding at the beginning of July (financial commitment), to give confidence to other financiers. The council does not; PvdA, GroenLinks and Leefbaar have now drawn up an amendment that should replace the council’s proposal. The working title: ‘An exciting finale’.
The council therefore makes no financial commitment, but the municipal executive is instructed to prepare an ‘investment decision’. Postma: “We cut the decision in two. We are now giving a blow to the conditions of the city council that have already been met. And say: come before December 31 with a council proposal for a final investment decision.” There is not much more time: municipal elections will be held in March 2022.
The council also wants to inspect the contract with the contractor and be sure that the construction costs will not be detrimental to the municipality. Tak: “We want to avoid having to add 50 million euros at the expense of ordinary Rotterdam residents, because accidents happen during construction and costs are rising.”
The council also wants the business case to be tested by the International Stadia Group (ISG), a consultancy that approves stadium plans. All financiers, including the American investment bank Goldman Sachs, must then definitively approve the business case.
Finally, all conditions will be tested by a financial committee of the city council (COR), chaired by PvdA member Tak, who works as a banker in daily life.
The amended proposal is twofold: on the one hand it still gives financiers some comfort, on the other it puts Feyenoord under pressure.
The Rotterdam Court of Audit recently said that the council cannot yet say ‘yes’, and should actually say ‘no’ to Feyenoord City. Isn’t the city council still swimming in an ‘administrative trap’?
Read the interview ‘Feyenoord is by definition a very emotional file’
‘No,’ thinks Simons, ‘I agreed with the Court of Audit. The current council proposal is vaguely formulated: go to sleep peacefully, we as a council will watch over you. With this hard deadline and hard conditions, we as the municipal council are once again taking over control from the college.”
Tak: “With the positive message: we are a reliable municipality, if the plan is satisfactory, we will tie a knot around it.”
Do the three councilors still have confidence in the new stadium plan? A moment of silence…
Postma: „It is now up to Feyenoord to show it. And it can go both ways.”
Simons: „The management of Feyenoord has not yet convinced me that they really want to go for it. The city council has not ordered a new stadium, that is the club.”
Tak: “The dream remains a new stadium, with a unique area development. But the city council has no influence on steel prices or shortages in the labor market. It’s going to be crossing fingers.”
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A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of July 1, 2021