Azteca luxury box owners challenge FIFA over 2026 World Cup

How Berhalter is hoping to build the USMNT towards the 2026 World Cup (1:17)

Gregg Berhalter explains how the USMNT are working towards the 2026 World Cup in North America. (1:17)

Luxury box owners at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium have said that for the 2026 World Cup they expect FIFA to respect a 60-year-old deal that gives owners unlimited access to their seats for 99 years.

FIFA, meanwhile, has said it wants full control of the World Cup stadiums 30 days before the first match and seven days after the last.

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But the peculiar history of how the boxes were purchased at Azteca has created conflict, luxury box owner Roberto Ruano said.

Ruano, 61, the spokesman of an association of 134 box owners, said he has no plans to give up his luxury box during the World Cup.

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 to use them for 99 years.

That included access to football matches, concerts and other events, including the 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico, Ruano said.

"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," he said.

Asked for comment, FIFA said it is collaborating with all 16 host cities of the 2026 World Cup, including on remodeling plans for Azteca Stadium, which is set to go down in football history as the first venue to host games during three World Cups.

"Specific details on fan access and other match information will be announced in due course," FIFA said.

The Azteca boxes are a top commodity 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 events.

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

"We've already paid for the right to be there when we purchased the title and there can be no restrictions for us," Ruano said. "We have a title to support us. It's not up for debate."

When the stadium is handed over to FIFA for the tournament co-hosted by Mexico, United States and Canada, Ruano said he expects the world football body to respect the deal dating from the stadium's construction six decades ago.

Ruano, whose father bought the title for the box, said he was hopeful the box issue would be resolved after talks with stadium officials last week, though no concrete proposal was on the table yet.

Emilio Azcárraga Jean, the owner of the stadium through multimedia company Televisa and the son of Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, said he expected an agreement soon.

"For my father, at the time, it was very important to sell the boxes to finish the construction and, so far, there has not been a previous issue with the box owners. We will try to find a solution," Azcárraga Jean told W Radio, which is owned by Televisa.

The details of the Azteca remodeling plans are unclear, but Ruano said some box owners outside of his association have agreed to release their seats for the 2026 tournament in exchange for upgrades of their boxes and other benefits.

"Every owner has the right to see what's best for them," he said. "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."