(WFI) With the prospect of protests ahead of World Cup kick-off, FIFA is attempting to deflect attention away from the cost of the tournament for Brazilians and the massive profits football’s governing body will pocket.
FIFA released a three-page document titled ‘Setting the record straight’ on Tuesday in which it sought to “clarify some of these misconceptions”.
It said FIFA had covered the entire $2 billion operational costs of the World Cup with money raised from the sale of World Cup TV and marketing rights. “We don’t take any public money for this,” FIFA stressed.
FIFA expects to generate around $4 billion in commercial revenues from Brazil 2014.
In its statement, FIFA denied it was simply on a mission to make a profit and didn’t care about anything else, hitting back at its critics and Brazilian protesters who have waved anti-FIFA banners at demonstrations up and down the country.
FIFA underlined that it was a “non-profit organisation which shares the success of the FIFA World Cup with the global football community”.
Yet Blatter is understood to have signed off on handing over $25 million from FIFA’s coffers to make the just-released film United Passions. The Executive Committee did not even have a say in the decision.
Brazil has spent $11 billion on World Cup preparations, including building or renovating 12 stadiums in the host cities that will stage the 64-nation tournament.
Answering concerns that investment in a dozen venues was ordered by FIFA, the Sepp Blatter-led organisation said it was Brazil’s decision to build 12, part of efforts to spread the World Cup around the country. Eight or 10 venues would have been enough for FIFA, which did not dictate how they should be designed.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has been the target of demonstrations in Brazil’s largest cities in recent months and during the Confederations Cup. They say money would have been better spent on modernising rundown public services such as health and education.
Amid the outcry at expensive tickets that many Brazilians claim have priced them out of seeing games, FIFA insisted there were many cheap tickets available for the World Cup compared to other events such as the Olympics, Formula 1 races and tennis tournaments.
For the group-stage matches, tickets were available to Brazilians for as little as $15, the federation added. A total of 58 percent of the 2.7 million tickets have been bought by Brazilians.
FIFA refuted suggestions it had demanded a full tax exemption for its sponsors or any commercial activities during the
competition. It also said it fully accepted its social responsibility as part of the World Cup and was not leaving Brazil alone to deal with its social, economic and ecological problems.
In addition to a sustainability strategy, FIFA said it was also supporting a wide range of social projects, including a nationwide health initiative.
Blatter Hails Brazil
Under-fire Sepp Blatter used his speech at the FIFA Congress opening ceremony to sing the praises of Brazil, saying the World Cup will be “a great event not only for Brazil but for the world”.
His remarks ahead of a cultural spectacular underlined Brazil’s achievements in delivering the tournament, despite seven years of preparations plagued by chronic delays, financial problems and anti-World Cup protests.
Encouraging delegates to get in the festive mood, he said discussions about the football business could wait until the FIFA Congress session on Wednesday.
“It was right to come back to Brazil. Brazil will celebrate football,” Blatter said.
He commented on how much Brazil had changed since it last staged the World Cup in 1950, saying it was “now an economic powerhouse on the global stage and has much to offer to the world”.
“It is a real joy to be in country that lives with and breathes its football,” he went on.
“We all hope this Brazil can embrace the potential of FIFA’s World Cup to make the most amazing opportunity and fiesta. The show to the world will be incredible.”
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was scheduled to address officials from the 209 football federations present, but had to attend to other governmental matters.
Instead, sports minister Aldo Rebelo delivered her speech.
“We have worked hard in order to meet the infrastructure needs. We have built and remodelled 12 stadiums scattered from north to the south so the Cup would be played all over the country integrating Brazil
“They will be a legacy to the Brazilian people.”
Saying the best outcome would be a sixth world championship for Brazil, Rebelo added: “With your help we are ready. We’re ready to hold the Cup of the Cups.”
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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