As part of her visit to Spain, LNFS England Chair Albania Grosso stopped off at the new Olivo Arena in Jaén, Andalusia, Spain, which officially opened last month with a futsal match between Jaén and Mengíbar. Why “Olive” Arena? If you’ve ever been to this part of Andalusia, the capital of Spanish olive-growing, you’ll understand why!
Costing over 22 million Euros to build and funded jointly by the Jaén provincial council and the Andalusian Tourism & Sports Ministry, it has been described as a modern “benchmark” sports palace by Francisco Reyes, president of the Jaén provincial council.
The venue can host futsal, basketball, handball, and tennis, as well as exhibitions and concerts, and it seats over 6500 spectators. LNFS President Javier Lozano was instrumental in helping to win funding for this prestigious new facility.
Albania says: “I was so impressed by this beautiful new addition to the over 60 existing arenas in Spain. There are four times more indoor arenas in Spain than in England, even though Spain has a population of 47 million and England a larger population of 56 million. However, it’s not just the low number of arenas in England that’s a problem for indoor sports like futsal – it’s also their prohibitive cost. For example, use of the Copperbox in London for a day costs from £25000. The cost of using the Olivo Arena is much less because facilities such as this in Spain are seen as a public good, funded by the taxpayer for the benefit of the local community.”
Albania added: “We’re obviously a long way behind Spain when it comes to both the supply and the cost of venues suitable for futsal. However, we shouldn’t be discouraged by this. We need to start from a realistic understanding of where we currently are with futsal in England. Our teams are currently amateur and they play their matches in municipal leisure centres or university sports halls, most of which have a spectator capacity measured in hundreds and not thousands, and few of which have a court of international size. However, if the futsal community works together then we can build capacity sustainably year on year. If Spain can do it then so can we!”