Government support for Thialf skating hall uncertain, cabinet investigates alternatives

The cabinet cannot directly support the Thialf skating complex in Heerenveen in financial trouble, as the House of Representatives would like. Secretary of State Blokhuis informs the House that this is contrary to European rules.

Blokhuis does want to investigate whether something can be done in a different way so that athletes who go to the Winter Games can in any case continue to train in the skating hall in the coming months, he writes to the Chamber.

The

parties called on the cabinet last week to make 1 million euro public support available in order to keep the skating complex open for at least the current season. Dutch skaters could then continue their preparation for next years Beijing Olympics in Heerenveen.

Thialf has been struggling with financial problems for a long time. Top skaters, including Sjinkie Knegt, Sven Kramer and Ireen Wรผst, sent a fire letter to politics in October. They asked for a one-off government contribution of 20 million euros. But with such a direct financial injection, Blokhuis foresees problems โ€œwith state aid and other wrongfulnessโ€.

State aid is possible

Friso Douwstra, deputy in Friesland with sports in his portfolio, read the letter from Blokhuis in his own words with astonishment. โ€œHe was suddenly there and it was strange to us,โ€ he says in a response.

โ€œIn our opinion, it can be done. In Brussels, state aid is fine, as long as it is not unauthorized. And according to our lawyers, and also according to the national lawyer, this can be done by the braces. As a province, we also provide similar support and therefore see this really differently.โ€

Douwstra says that immediately after reading the House letter, he contacted Blokhuis and transferred his concerns to the Secretary of State. There will be further consultations tomorrow.

Support for necessary interventions

Blokhuis does write together with NOC*NSF to see how the necessary replacement of essential parts in Thialf can be โ€œsupportedโ€ to maintain the quality of the ice floor. He will inform the House about this before the end of the year.

Previously, sports dome NOC*NSF, skating association KNSB, the municipality of Heerenveen and the province of Friesland decided to support Thialf with 1.4 million euros.

There are also plans to make the skating hall financially healthy. For example, the stadium should also be used by other branches of skating sports in the future. For example, Skaatsbond KNSB wants the stadium to become the national training center for art competitions.