Israeli football stadium of hope

By Simon Griver, September 21, 2010

The Israel FA has unveiled its timetable for a new 60,000 capacity national stadium in Ramat Gan.

Planning and design will now begin and the existing Ramat Gan National Stadium will be pulled down at the end of the 2011/12 season. Israel FA chairman Avi Luzon said: "The plan is to launch the new stadium by staging the Champions League final in 2016 or 2017."

The £1.7 billion cost of building the stadium will come from the Israel Sports Betting Board (Toto-pools), private donors and the development of land around the current stadium for income-producing commercial property.

There has been major dissatisfaction in recent years with the 40,000 capacity Ramat Gan Stadium, which was built in 1951 to host the Maccabiah Games and other major sporting events, and upgraded in 1980.

The ultimate snub came earlier this month when Hapoel Tel Aviv decided to play their Champions League group matches at its 15,000 capacity Bloomfield Stadium because of Ramat Gan's lack of atmosphere, due to a disused athletics track that distances the crowd from the action.

With emerging economies like South Africa, Poland and Ukraine able to build entire national networks of 21st century stadia for major tournaments, there has been much criticism of the dilapidated facilities in a relatively affluent country like Israel.

The new national stadium is part of the Israel FA's plan to improve the country's outdated amenities. New stadia are currently being built in Haifa, Netanya, Petach Tikvah and Beer Sheva.

Last updated: 1:20pm, September 22 2010