Commentary Football

Does Hungary really spend too much on stadiums?

Shortly after it came to power in 2010, the current conservative government has been under almost constant opposition fire for building too many stadiums at high costs. Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Shortly after it came to power in 2010, the current conservative government has been under almost constant opposition fire for building too many stadiums at high costs. Chief among the attack targets is the Pancho Arena, one of the pet projects of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a self-confessed football fan and former professional player.

News and opinion portal Mandiner takes a look at the numbers.

How popular is football in Hungary? According to the 2018 World Football Report by Nielsen, the popularity of football in Hungary at 54 percent, is just ahead of Germany and behind Britain and France.

The opposition keeps claiming that with the money spent on stadiums Hungary would have been able to solve all problems in healthcare, education while at the same time also solving the water supply of African children and save the rainforests of the world.

But the actual numbers show something different. Total state subsidies for the Pancho Arena amounted to HUF 2.7 billion (EUR 8.3 million). The opposition claims that the money would have sufficed to overhaul Budapest’s underground line 3 – not so. The 2019 state budget earmarked HUF 80 billion for the purpose.

But then surely, the cost of the stadium could have covered the cost of the Normafa Project (a recreational park in the Buda hills)? Again: not quite. That project has a budget of HUF 53 billion.

What about healthcare problems? The annual expenses of one single hospital in Budapest (the St John Hospital) amount to HUF 10 billion a year.

Another claim of the opposition – that Hungary has a disproportionate number of stadium seats compared to other countries – does not stand up to scrutiny either. Hungary has 53,338 seats per one million inhabitants, compared with 40,651 in Slovakia, 62,539 in Croatia and 80,545 in Austria.

Title image: The Pancho Arena in Felcsút

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