AFRICANGLOBE – The World Cup used to be a news item solely for the sports pages. In the past, the main concerns would be about the performance of the national team, the footballers and the chances of winning the cup. Times have definitely changed!
This year’s World Cup tournament of this enthralling sport has, however, brought to the surface a whole series of contradictions between public and private interests, between the interests of the rich and those of the working class.
Public money has drained the government’s coffers to prepare for the event. In total, it is estimated that more than 30 billion Brazilian Reals ($13.5 billion) have been taken from the state budget to fund the Cup!
The lavish waste is evident in some cases. The cost of building the Amazonia Arena, the football stadium in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil, was 605 million Reals ($270 million) – all financed with public money. This is a stadium that is going to host four games during the World Cup and will then no longer be used, because football is not very popular in that region.
The Amazonas league has an average of 640 spectators per game, while the new stadium has a capacity to seat 44,310 fans, and the cost of maintaining it adds up to 6 million Reals a year, which will be shouldered by the regional government. To free themselves of this burden, they are considering the possibility of turning it into a jail after the World Cup. Perhaps they have in mind the demonstrators who are being repressed and criminalized!
In Rio de Janeiro, the Maracana Stadium, which has been refurbished for the third time in the past 15 years, cost the public coffers no less than 1.19 billion Reals ($530 million)! This is more expensive than some stadiums that have been built from scratch, such the Arena Corinthians – or Itaquerao – in Sao Paulo, which is expected to require a final outlay of 855 million Reals ($380 million).
But what is scandalous is that after being refurbished, the Maracana Stadium, that historic symbol of Brazilian football, was privatized and placed in the hands of a consortium formed by Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company; IMX, owned by Eike Batista; and the American AEG. This consortium will pay 7 million Reals ($3 million) a year for 33 years – the concession is for 35 years, but they are exempted from paying for the first two years – which will yield a total of 231 million Reals ($103 million) for the Rio de Janeiro government, a figure that is well below the cost of the last renovation and amounts to 18 percent of the value of the three last renovations of the Maracana.
In June of last year, during the big mobilizations that shook the country, placards were carried that ironically called for FIFA-sponsored hospitals, and protesters chanted, “Hey Cup, my hand is open; I want money for healthcare and education.” They were absolutely right in pointing out those contradictions, yet another demonstration of the Dilma government’s submission to the interests of capital.
Who Gains From The world Cup?
The defenders of the World Cup say that it will stimulate an inflow of billions to the national economy, but what they don’t explain is that most of that money will go into the pockets of the rich, both national and international.
The leadership of the PT, of the PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil), as well as other government forces, maintain that the World Cup tournament should not be seen as an obstacle to investment in social spending, in sectors such healthcare and education, and they also label the protest movements against the World Cup as being right wing and accuse them of wanting to destabilize the federal government. This is a limited and superficial analysis.
The truth is that young people and workers feel outraged at having to suffer on a daily basis an overcrowded, expensive and low quality public transport system, run-down schools and waiting lists for decrepit hospitals, while the government is setting apart billions to organize an event that they won’t even be able to enjoy because they can’t afford it.
A ticket for the opening match costs between 160 and 990 Reals ($72 and $450); and a ticket for the final match costs 330 and 1,980 Reals ($150 and $890). A cheaper ticket for a game in the group selection phase, in the worst part of the stadium, costs 60 Reals ($27).
Someone who wants to follow the Brazilian team from the opening game right up to the final – if it gets to the final, of course – in a front seat can buy a special ticket for 6,700 Reals ($3,000), as well as having to pay for the travel costs, accommodation and other additional expenses in the different cities where the games will be held. The truth is that for most people this World Cup, as always, will be watched on television.
The Role of FIFA
According to FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, FIFA will make around $3.5 billion from its commercial rights over the Brazilian World Cup. At the same time, it will spend $3.3 billion in the organization of the competition.
“In the end, FIFA will make a profit of $200 million, which will go into our accounts,” said Valcke. Everything indicates that that figure may be an underestimation. An auditing company, BDO, has calculated that FIFA’s proceeds from the World Cup will in reality amount to $5 billion, most of it from its broadcasting rights, followed by the whole marketing industry generated by the event.
Professional football moves a lot of money and has vested interests around the world. FIFA is an international organization that manages this profitable business. Its power and influence are immense. One just has to look at the demands imposed for organizing the Cup, which have been dutifully respected by the Brazilian government.
The stadiums have to be built according to a specific plan, FIFA’s plan. New laws are drawn up to accommodate the organizers; half-price tickets for students have basically been scrapped, because now they only give access to the worst parts of the stadium.
The FIFA bosses, in all their arrogance, treat national governments as mere servants. But the worst thing is that the Brazilian government has accepted this role, submissively bending to the needs of FIFA.