Updated | Junior minister insists waterpolo team received all support requested

Opposition Whip David Agius urges PBS to 'do everything in its power' to broadcast Malta's participation in European Water Polo Championship live from Belgrade  • Government claims PN 'have got their facts wrong' 

The Nationalist Party has criticised the government for turning down its request to sponsor the Maltese waterpolo players’ full-time training ahead of their involvement in this month’s European Water Polo Championship.

PN whip David Agius in a statement took the government to task for failing to develop special travel arrangements for Maltese fans wishing to support the team live in Belgrade.

He also criticised PBS for failing to purchase the TV rights to broadcast Malta’s matches, noting that the government had managed to find the money to book Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s trip to Belgrade to watch a waterpolo game live. It however transpired that TVM2 purchased the rights to air the match.

“The national team trained every single day in December, but only on a part-time basis, with many players having to sacrifice their vacation leave,” Agius said. “It is an utter shame that the government is so hard-headed in the sport sector and chose to ignore our concrete proposals.”

The Opposition whip argued that the European Championship is to waterpolo what Euro 2016 is to football and the Eurovision Song Contest is to singing.

“PBS should do everything in its power to broadcast the games in which the national team is playing live,” he said.

Kurt Izzo’s waterpolo team will start their European adventure tomorrow, with a match against France. They will then play hosts Serbia on 12 January and Croatia on 14 January. As every team in the group stages will qualify to the round of 16, Malta is guaranteed at least one more game – against either Montenegro, Spain, the Netherlands, or Slovakia. 

‘PN have got their facts wrong’ – government

The parliamentary secretariat for sport retorted that the PN had got their facts wrong and accused them of resorting to “a negative and partisan style of politics over an event that should encourage national unity”.

It claimed that Agius is “misinformed” about the national broadcaster’s coverage of Malta’s games at the event.

“The PN are trying to undermine ongoing discussions between parliamentary secretary for sport Chris Agius and the Aquatic Sports Association for the Maltese national waterpolo team to be as prepared for their games as possible,” the secretariat said in a statement.

The government added that it is ready to accept the ASA’s demands, including by providing financial assistance for work hours lost while players are training – through funds from the Good Causes Fund, SportMalta and the Malta Tourism Authority.