Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Democracy Not in Action

FIFA has chutzpah, you have to give them that:
Brazil must hurry up and pass a package of new laws if the 2014 World Cup is to go ahead, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told the country's Congress on Tuesday, adding there was "not a day to lose."

"Either we do (the Cup) together or we will never manage it," said Valcke, pointing out that Brazil had first been asked to pass the legislation in 2007 when it was awarded the right to host the tournament.

Brazil's Congress must agree to implement a number of special rules in the so-called World Cup law, covering matters ranging from the price of tickets to penalties for selling pirate merchandise and the sale of alcohol in stadiums.

Some of these over-ride local laws, which has stirred up nationalistic sentiment in a country intensely proud of its soccer tradition and its recent economic progress.

Some Congressmen have already dug in their heels, threatening to delay the bill's approval and adding to concerns over Brazil's lagging preparations for the global showpiece.

Former Brazil striker Romario, himself now a Congressman, is one of the most outspoken critics, saying the law would trample on the country's sovereignty.
What is at stake? Just $1 billion and the World Cup itself:
There are several parts of the law that some Brazilian lawmakers wish to change. The most contentious issue involves half price tickets for students and senior citizens; FIFA calculates that these discounts would amount to a $100 million loss for the organization. Discounted tickets for students and seniors are guaranteed by Brazilian law, but FIFA proposed an alternative: setting aside 10 percent of all sales for $25 tickets. These tickets would be sold exclusively to Brazilians, but of any age. FIFA also maintained its demand to sell alcoholic beverages in stadiums (Budweiser is one of FIFA’s biggest sponsors). Alcohol is prohibited in Brazilian stadiums due to concerns over violence and illegal sales to minors, but it’s likely Congress will concede on this point. Since piracy is an ongoing problem in Brazil, FIFA has mandated a change to the penal code to increase jail time for pirating FIFA products and illegal transmission of games. The likely compromise will be to increase piracy prevention, but not to change the penal code. Finally, Brazilian legislators are under the impression FIFA wants to create special temporary courts to try cases involving the event and FIFA brand. If Brazil allows the temporary courts, they would be run by Brazilian magistrates with support from the attorney general’s office. However, FIFA denies this particular demand, claiming it was a unique situation in South Africa, due to the inability of local courts to handle FIFA cases.

Though Rousseff supposedly worked out an agreement with FIFA in October, Valcke’s visit indicates an uphill battle in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies. Brazil has always been sensitive to sovereignty issues and is also eager to flex its muscles as an emerging world power. But FIFA is keen to protect its business interests. According to VEJA, FIFA could lose up to $1 billion if Brazil refuses to meet its requirements. 

Brazil is under considerable pressure to pass the World Cup law, though it may not be approved until next year. A clause in the original FIFA agreement would allow the World Cup to be removed from Brazil as early as next year, should the law fail to pass or should FIFA decide Brazil is in violation of its agreement.
Sometimes it seems that FIFA officials think that the organizations demands trump national laws. Here is FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke:
"It can’t be seen as a national event, it can’t be seen as a purely Brazilian event, and it can’t be seen as an event controlled by a single country. The World Cup is organized by FIFA for the rest of the world.”
If I was Romario that would get my dander up too.


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