Box holders at the famous Azteca Stadium in Mexico refuse to give up their seats for the 2026 World Cup

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Roberto Ruano has a luxury box in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca 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 FIFA for the tournament hosted by Mexico, Canada and the United States, Ruano expects FIFA to honor a deal dating back to the stadium’s construction six decades ago that gave box holders 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’t be any restrictions on us,” says Ruano, 61, spokesman for an association of 134 fund owners. “We have a title to back us up. It’s not up for debate.”

It is unclear 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 strange history of how chests were purchased in Azteca makes things complicated.

To help finance 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 the rights to use them for 99 years. This included access to soccer matches, concerts and other events, including the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico, Ruano says.

He adds: “There were no problems in 1970. For the 1986 World Cup, they wanted us to come out and meet with FIFA officials, and they allowed us to use our place without paying extra wages, so there is a precedent for that.”

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Azteca chests are one of the most important commodities in Mexico City. The current asking price for a 20-square-meter (65-square-foot) box ranges from 15 million to 25 million pesos ($900,000 to $1.5 million). Some owners rent them out for specific occasions.

The 83,000-seat stadium will host five matches during the 2026 World Cup finals, including the opening match.

Ruano, whose father bought ownership of the box, said he hopes the box issue will be resolved after talks with stadium officials last week, although there is no concrete proposal on the table yet.

Emilio Azcárraga-Jean, who owns the stadium through multimedia company Televisa and Emilio Azcárraga’s son Milmo, says he expects an agreement to be reached soon.

“For my father, at that time, it was very important to sell the boxes to finish the construction, and until now, there has been no previous problem with the owners of the boxes. We will try to find a solution,” Azcárraga Jan told Televisa-owned W Radio.

In response to a request for comment, FIFA said it was cooperating with all 16 host cities for the 2026 World Cup, including plans to redesign the Azteca Stadium, which is set to go down in football history as the first venue to host matches in three World Cups.

“Specific details about fan access and other match information will be announced in due course,” FIFA says.

Details of Azteca’s redesign plans are unclear, but Ruano says some box owners outside his federation have agreed to give up their seats for the 2026 tournament in exchange for upgrading their boxes and other benefits.

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“Every owner has the right to see what is best for them,” he says. “But this is not my case, I have the right to be there, and no one can force me to leave. It would be as if someone forced me to leave my house.”


AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed.


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