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MX News Update 2024

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Box owners at Mexico’s iconic Azteca Stadium are refusing to release their seats for the 2026 World Cup

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Roberto Ruano has a luxury box at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, where he and his family can watch soccer games and other events in privacy and comfort.

He has no intention of giving that up for the 2026 World Cup.

When the stadium is turned over to FIFA for the tournament co-hosted by Mexico and the United States, Ruano expects the world soccer body will respect an agreement that dates back to the stadium’s construction six decades ago and that has benefited box owners for 99 years gave unlimited access to their seats. years.

“We already paid for the right to be there when we bought the title and there can be no restrictions on us,” said Ruano, 61, the spokesman for an association of 134 box owners. “We have a title that supports us. It is not up for debate.”

It is unclear whether the stadium owner and FIFA also see it that way.

FIFA wants full control of the World Cup stadiums thirty days before the first match and seven days after the last. But the peculiar history of how the boxes were purchased from Azteca complicates matters.

To help finance the stadium’s construction in the 1960s, Mexican businessman Emilio Azcárraga Milmo sold boxes to private investors for 115,000 pesos, about $9,000 at the time, giving the owners the right to use them for 99 years. That included access to soccer matches, concerts and other events, including the 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico, Ruano said.

“There were no problems in 1970. For the 1986 World Cup they wanted us out and we met with FIFA officials, and they let us use our place without extra payment, so there is a precedent for that,” he adds to.

The Azteca boxes are a top product in Mexico City. The current asking price for a 20-square-meter box ranges from 15 million to 25 million pesos ($900,000 to $1.5 million). Some owners rent them out for specific events.

The 83,000-seat stadium will host five matches during the 2026 World Cup, including the opening match.

Ruano, whose father bought the title for the box, said he hoped the box issue would be resolved after talks with stadium officials last week, although no concrete proposal was yet on the table.

Emilio Azcarraga Jean, owner of the stadium through multimedia company Televisa and son of Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, says he expects an agreement soon.

“For my father at the time, it was very important to sell the boxes to complete the construction and so far there has been no previous problem with the owners of the boxes. We will try to find a solution,” Azcarraga Jean told Televisa-owned W Radio.

Asked for comment, FIFA said it was working with all 16 host cities of the 2026 World Cup, including on renovation plans for the Azteca Stadium, which will go down in football history as the first venue to host matches in three World Cups.

“Specific details on fan access and other match information will be announced in due course,” FIFA said.

The details of the plans for the Azteca renovation are unclear, but Ruano says some box owners outside his association have agreed to give up their seats for the 2026 tournament in exchange for box upgrades and other benefits.

“Every owner has the right to see what is best for them,” he says. “But that’s none of my business, I have the right to be there, and no one can force me out. It would be like someone forcing me out of my own home.”

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AP sportswriter Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed.

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AP football: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer