The Maracana Stadium in Rio is undergoing a $280 million facelift (All photos Getty Images0

(WFI) Brazil’s sports minister Orlando Silva insists cuts in the government’s 2010 budget will not impact preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

The government announced a cut of $1 billion in a budget presentation on Monday. Leading politician Geraldo Magela said security and the infrastructure could be adversely affected by the funding drop.

But Silva said: “These resources that have been eliminated from the budget have nothing to do with the program agreed by the federal government with states and cities hosting matches of the World Cup.”

“This budget restriction does not imply any change in federal government’s strategy,” he added in comments carried by Xinhua.

He said the resources required to renovate Brazilian stadiums and build new ones would be financed by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). The bank BNDES is set to provide nearly $3 billion to bring the country’s stadia infrastructure up to scratch for the World Cup.

Silva’s comments came at a meeting held at Brazil’s Ministry of Sports on Tuesday during which the Brazilian government presented a bill granting full exemption from federal taxes FIFA for organizing the World Cup.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke and Brazilian Football Confederation attended the announcement which follows President Luiz Inacio Lula da Siva’s commitment to FIFA in 2007 about the country’s organization of the World Cup.
The tax exemption is in place through 2015 and extends to companies providing services and products to be acquired by FIFA.

Renovations of Rio’s Maracana Stadium, the venue built for the 1950 World Cup, begin this year and are set for completion in December 2012. The 87,000 capacity of the iconic stadium that once held 200,000 will be reduced by 5,000 to meet FIFA standards.

The $280 million facelift of the stadium, likely the final venue, is reportedly already 20 per cent over budget.

Brazil has much work to do on upgrading its dated stadia infrastructure. Of the 12 host venues, not one of them currently meets FIFA’s exacting standards for a World Cup.

MLS star wants quick resolution in labour dispute

Major League Soccer’s 2009 MVP Landon Donovan says a work stoppage would do “real damage” to football in the U.S.

“The league shutting down MLS in February would do real damage to the development of the game in the United States and to our efforts to prepare for South Africa,” he said.

“It is difficult to understand why the owners would take this course, when all we are asking for are the same rights enjoyed by other players around the world, not just in the biggest leagues, but in leagues of all sizes,” Donovan commented in a FIFPro statement.

Donovan played alongside David Beckham for the 2009 MLS Cup runner-ups Los Angeles Galaxy and is now on loan to Everton of the English Premier League. He will play for the U.S. national team at the World Cup in South Africa.

Landon Donovan is urging the two sides to reach an agreement and avert a damaging work stoppage.

FIFPro, the world body representing football players, expressed its support for MLS players on Tuesday.

The MLS Players Union and the league are clashing over a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires Jan. 31 and there is a looming work stoppage if both sides cannot hammer out an agreement.

Premier League seeks technology partner
The English Premier League is expanding its sponsorship and partnership programme with the addition of an official technology partner.

The EPL says the category was created to meet the increasing demand for more professional and fan-based information about Premier League matches. It hopes to have filled it by the start of the 2010/11 season.

“We have found in recent years an increasing demand for in-depth information about Barclays Premier League matches,” said Richard Masters, the EPL’s director of sales and marketing.

“We know there is a huge amount of interest at many and varied levels. Last season we saw 13.5 million fans attended Barclays Premier League matches with an estimated cumulative global audience 2.65 billion watched the 100,000 hours of coverage broadcast. Our online and general media presence continues to grow at an enormous rate.”

The technology partner would join a group of EPL sponsors including Barclays, Nike Lucozade Sport and Budweiser.

MLS Cup remains at neutral venue
The MLS Cup final will continue to be played at a neutral site, Major League Soccer has announced. The league considered having the championship at the home of the higher-seeded team.

“Following a detailed review and careful analysis of both options, we have elected to continue with a neutral-site format for MLS Cup 2010,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.

“We believe this format will provide an exciting environment for our fans while also allowing the necessary planning time for our key constituents. We will continue to assess the possibility of playing MLS Cup at the home stadium of the higher seeded team in the future.”

MLS is reviewing host cities and will select a 2010 site in the first quarter of the year.

The 2009 MLS Cup featuring the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake was at Quest Field in Seattle. The official attendance was 46,011.

Paraguay changes World Cup training camp
Paraguay has refused to use the coastal town of Mossel Bay as its base for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Team officials are said to be unhappy with the venue’s practice pitch and accommodation facilities at the Point Hotel, as first reported by the Sunday Times.

Paraguay football federation chiefs visited Mossel last month and voiced concerns that the “uneven” pitch did not meet FIFA standards.

Reports say the team has moved its base to KwaZulu-Natal.

Rich Mkhondo, a spokesman for the 2010 World Cup organizing committee, said Paraguay was free to choose its own base. “The choice is theirs and they have until the end of January to do so. And we hope that they will choose from among the list of 56 venues we have supplied to them,” he said.

Written by Sam Steinberg and Mark Bisson
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