World Cup winner Ronaldo fails to score on reforming zeal with Brazilian faithful
Former player identified with contentious effort to modernise Brazilian football
Even among some of his fans Ronaldo has become identified with the controversial effort to modernise Brazilian football, which has so far resulted in higher ticket prices for fans but without improving the quality of football on the field or the financial health of clubs off it.
The impact of
a national icon’s return in 2009 after years in Europe was central to a huge marketing campaign by the traditionally working-class Corinthians that raised the club’s profile among wealthier Brazilians.
“His image ended up being used to ‘modernise’ the club, which ended up being exclusionary as it took many poor people off the terraces,” says Leonor Macedo, a former spokesman for the Gaviões da Fiel.
Ronaldo has benefitted from the increasing amount of money circulating in Brazilian football. On his retirement he founded a sports marketing agency, 9ine, in which global marketing giant WPP has a 45 per cent stake. His agency already represents several leading Brazilian sports stars, including Barcelona striker and Brazil talisman Neymar.
This has led to accusations of a conflict of interests as Ronaldo is also a commentator on Brazil’s Globo network which holds the broadcast rights to all Brazil’s games. Come June he will be asked to give his opinion of several clients whose value to his company increases the more they appear for the seleção .
Ronaldo and Globo have denied any problem, instead preferring to exalt his independence and 9ine also said that as a key World Cup organiser Ronaldo played no part in helping one of its clients, Marfinite Arenas, secure a contract to supply seats to the new World Cup stadium in the city of Salvador; a claim that raised eyebrows in the local press.
With a fortune from a long and lucrative playing career estimated by Brazil’s financial press at between €150 million and €300 million money alone is unlikely to be Ronaldo’s motivation for continued involvement in football.
Top hats of Brazilian soccer
Earlier this year he indicated he was aiming at the presidency of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF): “Brazilian football needs many changes.” Ronaldo has praised the new players’ union, Common Sense FC, founded last year to protest the often wretched conditions in which local league players must perform.
However, his increasingly close identification with the cartolas, or top hats, that run Brazilian football means many advocating reform are sceptical if Ronaldo is the man to deliver it.
“Ronaldo could have been a catalyst for reform when he returned in 2009. If he had used his prestige and influence he would have been the best placed person to transform Brazilian football,” says Fernando Ferreira, a director at Brazilian sports consultancy Pluri. “But he did not take on this role. Now he is associated with status quo. Today no one sees him as a potential reformer.”