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World Cup 2026 controversy: Azteca Stadium box holders refuse to release seats

FIFA can rarely organise a World Cup these days without any issues, and more World Cup 2026 controversy has emerged in recent days in relation to one of the most iconic stadiums being used for the tournament.

The Azteca Stadium in Mexico will host five games, including the opening match, during the tournament in two years but FIFA are struggling to find an agreement with box holders at the stadium in relation to ticket allocation.

World Cup 2026 controversy azteca stadium
The Azteca Stadium will host five game at the 2026 World Cup – Photo by Icon Sport

FIFA want to have full control of the stadiums and to be able to distribute tickets, including hospitality and private boxes, how they see fit. However, how private boxes have been purchased at the Azteca over the years is giving officials a major headache.

When the stadium was being constructed in the 1960s, Mexican Businessman, Emilio Azacarraga, sold private boxes under the guise that they would have exclusive rights to use them for 99 years. As a result, anyone who purchased a private box at the Azteca in the 1960s is under no obligation to hand it over to FIFA for the tournament.

Azteca Stadium box owner opens up about World Cup 2026 controversy

During the 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico, the issue of these private boxes wasn't a major problem and box holders were able to enjoy all matches at the Azteca as promised. However, this time around, FIFA aren't happy about the predicament.

azteca stadium 1986
Diego Maradona lifts the World Cup at the Azteca Stadium at the 1986 World Cup – Photo by Icon Sport

Speaking to AP news, one box owner at the Azteca, Roberto Ruano, opened up on the controversy. He said:

“We’ve already paid for the right to be there when we purchased the title and there can be no restrictions for us. We have a title to support us. It’s not up for debate.”

“There were no issues in 1970. For the 1986 World Cup they wanted us out and we met with FIFA officials, and they allowed us to use our place without extra pay, so there’s a precedent for it.”

“Every owner has the right to see what’s best for them. But that’s not my case, I have the right to be there, and nobody can force me out. It would be like someone forcing me out of my own home.”

How FIFA go about tackling the issue remains to be seen. The only comment they've made on the situation to date was a statement that read: “Specific details on fan access and other match information will be announced in due course.”


Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance sports writer with ten years of experience covering major sporting events across Europe. He has also been a season ticket holder at Old Trafford since 2008 and has visited over 40 football stadiums in the United Kingdom and abroad following the Reds.

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