No divorce as Brazil, FIFA let bygones be bygones
BRASILIA (AFP) –
After a nasty public spat over lagging World Cup preparations, hosts Brazil and football’s world governing body FIFA have let bygones be bygones and are vowing to work together to make the 2014 tournament a success.
“We are no longer fighting each other because it is pointless. Unlike a couple, FIFA and the Local Organizing Committee cannot divorce,” FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said in Rio, where he was attending Soccerx, the global football industry convention.
“The most important thing is to work together to find solutions to outstanding problems,” he added.
It was Valcke himself who unleashed a firestorm last March with his comments that the Brazilian organizers of the next World Cup needed a “kick up the backside” to deal with delays in preparing for the event.
Valcke and FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter had to apologize for the remarks, which sparked outrage in the host country.
At one point, a furious Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo Rebelo said Valcke would no longer be welcome as a FIFA spokesman.
But with the tournament only 18 months away, the two sides made up and Brazilian authorities appear to have eased some of FIFA concerns over the state of renovation or construction of the 12 host stadiums and over infrastructure projects.
Valcke said that lingering concerns focus on transport and accommodation for the nearly 500,000 visitors from around the world expected for the first World Cup to be held in Brazil since 1950. There are also fears about safety.
“We must work hard to make sure that the fans receive a very good welcome,” he added.
Without naming it, he pointed to one host city where “there are 17,000 rooms while the (local) stadium has 45,000 seats.”
“I would say that something is not quite right,” he added. “The only solution would be to put three people in the same bed.”
“The biggest airports are being expanded and, if necessary, we will set up makeshift terminals,” said Luis Fernandes, a government representative on the Local Organizing Committee.
“Our planning guarantees the organization of the events, meeting all the demands, all the commitments signed with FIFA,” he added.
A first test will come next year with the holding of the Confederations Cup, when eight teams will compete between June 15 and 30 in six Brazilian host cities. The draw for the event will take place Saturday in Sao Paulo.
The Confederations Cup will serve as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup.
In addition to speeding up construction work, Brazil said it would authorize beer sales in stadiums during the World Cup, a key FIFA demand.
In June, President Dilma Rousseff announced the government will temporarily shelve a law banning the consumption and sale of beer in stadiums for the duration of the 2014 World Cup.
World football’s ruling body FIFA had requested a change in the law following an agreement it signed with US brewery Budweiser, a leading FIFA sponsor.
The temporary amendment will also be applied to the Confederations Cup.
After FIFA spent many months lobbying Brazil to soften its stance on beer in stadiums, Brazil secured from FIFA guarantees that it could sell a minimum number of match tickets at half-price to students, people aged over 60 and those who normally receive government hand-outs.
FIFA is set to put 300,000 tickets aside for Brazil to sell them on at half their face value.
Despite the amendment, opposition lawmakers insist FIFA must still negotiate beer sales with the various federal states.
FIFA meanwhile also secures exclusive rights to pictures, sound and other forms of expression linked to the World Cup, with criminal and financial sanctions for any illegal reproduction.
“For FIFA, the World Cup is first and foremost a business but Brazil does not necessarily have the same agenda as FIFA,” said Pedro Trengrouse, a United Nations consultant for the 2014 World Cup.
“For FIFA, the Brazil World Cup is already a success, with more expected revenues than at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa,” he added.