Fifa to meet Brazil's president as row escalates over World Cup preparations

Mon, Oct 3, 2011, 01:00

BRAZIL’S PRESIDENT Dilma Rousseff will meet Fifa president Joseph Blatter in Brussels today in a bid to defuse mounting tensions between her government and Fifa over preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

Football’s governing body is reportedly unhappy with a bill sent by Ms Rousseff to Brazil’s congress last month which will regulate the organisation of the tournament within the country.

Once passed, the legislation has the potential to upset Fifa’s financial projections for the tournament as it would place severe restrictions on its ticketing policy and potentially prevent its sponsor Budweiser from selling beer inside World Cup stadiums.

Normally Fifa has been quick to publicly welcome progress by Brazil in preparing for the tournament, but the arrival of the General Law of the Cup in congress was greeted with silence from Fifa headquarters in Zurich.

Disagreements over the bill are just the latest in an increasingly intense behind-the-scenes battle of wills between Ms Rousseff and football executives over the tournament’s organisation.

Since her inauguration in January, Ms Rousseff has hardened Brazil’s stance in negotiations with Fifa. In August she reportedly told its executives she considered “absurd” their demands that the Brazilian state accept responsibility for any damages suffered by Fifa, its leaders and installations during the tournament.

She has made it clear that Brazil will not let Fifa impose its demands on Brazil in the same way it did with South Africa ahead of the 2010 tournament.

As a result, Ms Rousseff has ensured that the new bill complies with Brazil’s constitution regardless of Fifa’s demands. It respects a national law that guarantees half-price admission for students and pensioners, a move vigorously opposed by Fifa which demands full control over the sale of tickets for the tournament.

It also does not meet Fifa’s call to guarantee the sale of alcohol in stadiums during the tournament. Under Brazilian law, such sales are regulated by state governments.

This means if the bill passes unaltered, Fifa would have to negotiate alcohol sales with each of the 12 state administrations with jurisdiction over the 12 host cities.

The bill also fails to meet Fifa’s demand that anyone caught distributing falsified World Cup merchandise be punished with between three months and one year in prison. Instead, the proposed General Law of the Cup follows more lenient Brazilian legislation that sets a maximum of three months in jail as punishment.

Fifa had thought Brazil acceded to the requirements it places on the host country when then president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed the contract to host the tournament. However the former president has come out in support of his successor, saying: “No country in the world would set aside its sovereignty to attend to the interests of this or that entity, whatever the reason.”

According to the host agreement signed by the former president, Fifa has up until June 1st of next year to rescind the contract with Brazil and move the tournament to another country.

As well as the clash over control of the tournament, executives are also concerned about the slow pace of preparations. Fifa had wanted a bill passed in time for its October 20th congress when it is to announce the calendar for games at the World Cup, but it is by no means certain Brazil will vote on the World Cup bill in time.