Sliema Wanderers FC is planning to convert its indoor football pitches at Tigné Point into offices and retail outlets, insisting the space dedicated to sport will actually double.

The project is likely to be the first of many across the island as sports clubs seek to take advantage of the new legislation allowing them to commercialise their facilities.

Sliema Wanderers FC president Keith Perry confirmed the club had applied to convert the two existing levels at the Tigné complex – currently comprising pitches and training facilities – into commercial space.

The club also plans to build two additional storeys to house more office space. The existing outdoor pitch will be rebuilt at the new roof level. The plans have raised concern among some residents in the vicinities who told the Times of Malta they were worried about traffic and other effects resulting from the addition of even more commercial space at Tigné and the loss of sports facilities.

Sports footprint would be doubled if the changes were approved

But Mr Perry, who also sits on the Sports Malta board of directors, said the sports footprint would be doubled if the changes were approved.

The club, he added, would be creating new medical and training facilities as part of its goal of turning fully professional.

The proposed changes must first be approved by the Commercial Sports Facilities Commission and will then be subject to an assessment by the Planning Authority.

The plans follow the introduction of new legislation last year allowing sports organisations to commercialise their venues, with the aim of helping them become financially self-sufficient.

A spokeswoman for the Sport Parliamentary Secretariat confirmed that Sliema Wanderers FC had submitted an application and that “many other clubs” were expected to make similar proposals in the near future.

“The analysis of each project will ensure that the commercial activity will lead to the infrastructural, financial and sporting growth of the sports organisation,” she said.

“The interests of associations and clubs are supreme and the commercial activity will serve the purpose of the sport facility and not vice versa.”

The spokeswoman reiterated that the government’s aim was to help the sport sector become more competitive and achieve better results from both a sporting and financial perspective.

The new law specified that the size of the sports facilities could not decrease as a result of a commercialisation project, the spokeswoman noted.