Since opening in 2011 Cluj Arena wasn’t paying taxes and is now buried in debt. Romania’s second most modern stadium is under threat of being closed down.
Just when you think the most bizarre stadium closing scandal is over (after 100 games Stadionul National was found unsafe), Romania delivers one even more bizarre row. This one concerns the country’s second most modern stadium, Cluj Arena.
Unlike the Bucharest case, this one has nothing to do with structural safety, the €45-million stadium is just fine. But financially it’s a different story after it’s been revealed that the company operating the stadium hadn’t paid due taxes since inauguration in 2011!
Over the 5-year period Cluj Arena’s debt accumulated to over RON 13 million ($3.3 million) and now the building cannot even pay for utilities after its bank accounts have been frozen for 9 months already.
The paradox is that Cluj Arena is publicly owned and publicly operated, which means that – for the most part – the municipality owes money to itself. For this absurd to be even greater, the city hall in Cluj wanted to recapitalize the stadium in order for its own debt to be paid off with its own money, but legislation regards such move as... illegal state aid. Cluj Arena thus wanted to take a loan and get out of the red, but their credit rating is simply too poor.
As it stands now, there is no single solution out of the scandal and closing down the stadium is possible. It was proposed for event tickets to be more expensive, but one shouldn’t bet on this working out this way. Anchor tenant, the renowned club Universitatea, is in severe financial and legal crisis.
The club was relegated to 2nd league last year and its owner Florian Walter is under arrest. In fact, the “U” are at risk of being dissolved, which caused major protests in March, in which up to 5,000 fans took to the streets. In such circumstances asking fans to pay up doesn't seem too wise.