Rapid Vienna ‘will not relocate’

Rapid Vienna bosses have rubbished claims they plan to relocate to a new stadium.Rumours that the club might leave the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium in Penzing district increased after a member of the city parliament suggested the team would be better off somewhere else than in the crammed housing estate the 17,500-seat arena is located.Vienna newspapers speculated Rapid could build a new venue in the Auhof area just a few kilometres from the team’s current home ground after the statement from Wolfgang Gerstl of the People’s Party (ÖVP) earlier this week.Now club boss Rudolf Edlinger has called for an end to the speculation. The former Social Democratic (SPÖ) finance minister said today (Weds): “Our stadium has developed into an invulnerable fortress since 1977. The club and the fans share unforgettable memories with the venue.”He added that the club would not participate in the “polemic-laden discussion.”Vienna ÖVP chief Christine Marek also declared the debate over.The Rapid Vienna president’s pledge not to relocate however follows years of discussions over how to make it possible for more fans to visit the matches.Rapid – Austria’s most popular clubs – has welcomed an average 15,000 fans per match in most of the past seasons, whereas matches against arch-rivals Austria Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg usually sell out within hours.And rumours the club board planned to invest in an expansion of the stadium nicknamed “St Hanappi” linger on.Rapid, who finished the 2009/2010 season in third, will play several friendly fixtures before the team clash with Lithuanian cup winners FK Sūduva Marijampolė in the second qualification round for the upcoming UEFA Europa League on 15 July in Vienna. The return match will take place on 22 July.The 2010/2011 season of the Austrian Bundesliga will start on the weekend of 17 July.