Skip to content

Box owners at Mexico's Estadio Azteca refuse to release seats for World Cup

Hector Vivas / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Roberto Ruano has a luxury box at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium where he and his family can watch soccer games and other events in privacy and comfort.

He's not planning to give that up for the 2026 World Cup.

When the stadium is handed over to FIFA for the tournament co-hosted by Mexico, Canada and the United States, Ruano expects the world soccer body to respect a deal dating from the stadium's construction six decades ago that gave box owners unlimited access to their seats for 99 years.

"We've already paid for the right to be there when we purchased the title and there can be no restrictions for us," says Ruano, 61, the spokesman of an association of 134 box owners. "We have a title to support us. It's not up for debate."

It's 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 peculiar history of how the boxes were purchased at Azteca makes things complicated.

To help finance the construction of the stadium in the 1960s, Mexican businessman Emilio Azcarraga 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 soccer matches, concerts and other events, including the 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico, Ruano says.

"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 adds.

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.

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 Azcarraga Jean, the owner of the stadium through multimedia company Televisa and the son of Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, says 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," Azcarraga Jean told W Radio, which is owned by Televisa.

Asked for comment, FIFA says 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 soccer history as the first venue to host games in three World Cups.

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

The details of the Azteca remodeling plans are unclear, but Ruano says 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 says. "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."


AP sports writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed.


AP soccer:

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox