Owners of boxes at the Azteca Stadium refuse to give them up for the World Cup

MEXICO CITY.- Roberto Ruano owns a luxurious box at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City where he and his family can watch soccer games and other events in privacy and comfort. He doesn't plan to give that up for the 2026 World Cup.

When the stadium is handed over to the FIFA for the tournament, which will have the United States, Canada and Mexico as tournament co-organizers, hopes that world soccer's governing body will respect an agreement that dates back to the construction of the stadium six decades ago and that gives box owners unlimited access to their seats for 99 years.

“We already paid for the right to be there when we bought the title and there can be no restrictions for us,” said Ruano, 61, who is also spokesman and secretary of an association of 134 box owners. “We have a title that supports us. “It is not a topic of debate.”

What is not clear is whether the stadium owner and FIFA see it that way.

FIFA wants full control of the World Cup stadiums 30 days before the first match and seven days after the last. But the peculiar story of how the boxes at the Azteca were purchased complicates things.

To help finance the construction of the stadium in the 1960s, Mexican businessman Emilio Azcárraga Milmo sold boxes to private investors for 115,000 pesos, or about $9,000 at the time, giving the owners rights of use for 99 years. That included access to soccer games, concerts and other events, including the 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico, Ruano said.

“There were no problems 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 payment, so there is a precedent for that,” he said.

The Azteca Stadium boxes are a luxury product in Mexico City. The current sale price for a 20 square meter space ranges between 15 and 25 million pesos (between 900,000 and 1.5 million dollars). Some owners rent them for specific events.

Ruano, whose father bought title to the box, said he was hopeful of finding a solution for the 2026 World Cup after talks with stadium officials last week, although no concrete proposal was yet on the table.

Emilio Azcárraga Jean, current owner of the stadium through the multimedia company Televisa and son of Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, said he hoped the issue would be resolved soon.

“For my father at that time it was very important to sell the boxes to finish the construction and so far there have not been any previous problems with the owners of the boxes. We will try to find a solution,” Azcárraga Jean told W Radio, owned by Televisa.

No clear response from FIFA:

When asked for comment, FIFA said it was collaborating with the 16 host cities of the 2026 World Cup, including redevelopment plans for the Estadio Azteca, which will go down in football history as the first stadium to host matches in three Different World Cups.

“Specific details on fan access and other information about the matches will be announced in due course,” FIFA said.

Details of the remodeling plans for the World Cup are still unclear, but Ruano said some box owners outside his association have agreed to free up their seats for the 2026 tournament in exchange for upgrades to their boxes and other benefits.

“Every homeowner has the right to pursue what is best for them,” he said. “But that is not my case, I have the right to be there and no one can force me to leave, it would be like someone forcing me to leave my own house.”