SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Soccer has always been the preferred topic of conversation at bars throughout Brazil. But now that the country is preparing to host the 2014 World Cup, the sport is also being discussed in Congress.
The General Law of the World Cup is a priority among members of Congress, who have just returned from recess.
Congress must debate and formalize the rules for hosting the event, which will feature 32 national teams and is expected to inject R$183 billion (US$104.5billion) into the Brazilian economy by 2019.
Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, the government’s representative in preparation for the World Cup, says he expects the General Law of the World Cup to be approved by both houses of Congress in March.
Then, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff can sign the bill during the next visit to the country by Sepp Blatter, the president of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), which is scheduled for next month.
Why a law?
A federal law is needed “due to the magnitude of the event,” FIFA told Infosurhoy.com by email.
The same procedure was followed with the other host countries, according to FIFA. The federation insists it is asking the same of Brazil that was asked of South Africa and Germany, which hosted the 2010 and 2006 World Cups, as well as Russia and Qatar, which will host the event in 2018 and 2022, respectively.
Vicente Cândido, the bill’s rapporteur in the House, says the law provides the legal framework needed for the implementation of the 11 guarantees requested by FIFA in 2007, when Brazil was selected as the host of the 2014 World Cup.
“Brazil needs to be prepared, not just with respect to its infrastructure, but also with a legal framework that facilitates the issuance of passports, work permits and televised broadcasting of the games, for example. The General Law [of the World Cup] will come from Brazil, not from FIFA,” Cândido says.
The bill, which is being widely discussed by the Brazilian public and lawmakers, has been criticized.
The Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute (IDEC) launched a campaign against FIFA’s requirements, such as the freedom to set ticket prices and the sales system, which it deemed abusive.
“The project does not mention half-price tickets, which are guaranteed by law to senior citizens [people over 60] and students [by state law],” says IDEC attorney Guilherme Varella.
That particular excerpt of the original text, as well as others, run counter to Brazil’s existing laws, which could cause a legal deadlock, Varella says.
“As it stands, the project gives total power to FIFA. It’s as if it were some sort of super-supplier [a company operating above the law],” Varella says.
Cândido says the issue of half-price tickets is being reviewed.
“We’re closely considering the position of President Dilma Rousseff that the rights of senior citizens not be suspended,” he says. “There’s an operational problem in this regard. We received assurance from FIFA that the category 4 tickets (which would include senior citizens, students and the beneficiaries of government welfare programs, such as the Bolsa Família) would be sold exclusively in Brazil.”
The category 4 program would allow entry to at least 300,000 fans at half price, according to FIFA.
The other ticket categories would be available worldwide over the Internet.
“It is estimated there will be 10 million applicants for the 700,000 tickets available over the Internet,” Cândido says. “Should this estimate be accurate, FIFA is going to hold a drawing. As a result, there would be no guarantee a Brazilian senior citizen would obtain his or her ticket. We need to fix that.”
Another legal issue widely discussed by lawmakers and the Brazilian public surrounds the exclusive sales and advertising by sponsoring companies within the stadiums, access ramps and areas surrounding the official locations, which are stipulated by FIFA.
“If Article 11 [which refers to FIFA’s areas of exclusivity] were to be taken literally, business owners would have to remove signs and furniture that featured the brands of other companies,” says Alexandre Sampaio, president of the National Federation of Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and Related Businesses and director of the National Confederation of Commerce. “We want to negotiate a way out of that.”
Cândido says in the Dec. 20 report filed in the House, a proviso was added with respect to the Article 11 cited by Sampaio.
“The proviso guarantees the rights of those who are already established within the area of exclusivity to operate freely during the World Cup events, in accordance with Article 170 of the Brazilian Constitution,” Cândido says.
The establishment of an exclusive area for the sponsoring brands is one way to avoid so-called ambush marketing, according to FIFA. These are opportunist companies that occupy areas close to the venues to promote their brands and sell their products and services, “without any ethical commitment.”
“The protection of commercial rights merely seeks to prevent ambush activities by large companies and also ensure that any merchandising surrounding the World Cup be produced using a code of ethics and fair working conditions,” FIFA explains.
During some of the games played by the Brazilian national team at the 1994 World Cup, the main competitor of the beer brand sponsoring the broadcasts of World Cup matches put its name on plaques next to the field and hired fans to wear uniforms with its logo.
The “intruding” company got more air time during the broadcast than the official sponsor’s brand.
In 2014, for example, there will be 300 television channels broadcasting the games across the world.
“We at FIFA, the Local Organizing Committee and the government still have a lot of work ahead of us,” says Jérôme Valcke, the secretary general of FIFA.
“Given the commitment and willingness expressed by the minister of sports, by the Special Committee [in the Brazilian House of Representatives] and by the Brazilian Congress, I’m optimistic we’ll finish this process within the required timeline,” Valcke says.
2014 World Cup by the numbers
Source: FIFA and the Brazilian government’s World Cup website