What is the price of a World Cup?
Olivier Atkinson takes a closer look at the darker side to this summers World Cup and tells us why so many Brazilian nationals are protesting against it.
As we await this evening’s big kick off between Brazil and Croatia, Oliver Atkinson takes a closer look at the darker side to this summers World Cup and tells us why so many Brazilians are protesting against it.
With the World Cup fast approaching, the football world is gearing up for the biggest tournament on the international stage in the spiritual home of the world’s most popular sport, Brazil. The home of the samba style football that has produced legends like Ronaldo, Zico and of course the genius that is Pele, to name just a few, sounds like the ideal place to hold the World Cup, a competition that Brazil have won an astounding 5 times.
In Brazil, as in many places around the world, football is more than a sport; it is a religion, a way of life, an ever present part of the country. So you would expect that Brazilians would be overjoyed to be hosting the world cup once again, another excuse to do the two things that they do best, football and partying. However, this is not the case as protests and strikes have swept the nation, demanding that the World Cup should not be held in Brazil this year.
But why are the Brazilians so against hosting the wonderful tournament? For one thing, it has been an exceptionally expensive undertaking as huge new stadiums have been built purely to host the World Cup games. Take the stadium in Manaus, the Arena Amazonia, where England kick of their campaign against Italy on Saturday. This 46,000 capacity stadium cost a staggering 190 million pounds to build, as materials had to be shipped up the Amazon River to the remote city, all amid concerns of not being ready in time for the tournament. Yet it will only host 4 group stage matches, at a cost of 47 million pounds per game, in a country where the average wage for a construction worker is a mere £220 a month. That is not the only cost of construction, as 3 workers have actually been killed in the building of this stadium alone. There is no team in Manaus capable of filling the stadium after the World Cup.
The total cost of hosting the tournament is expected to reach nearly £6.6 Billion, which is an incredible amount for a country with millions of people living in favelas on the outskirts of the major cities, in dire poverty. However, due to the high ticket prices and lucrative TV rights, there will be an estimated £2.3 Billion generated by the World Cup. But this money will not go to Brazil. FIFA takes all the revenue from the ticket sales and TV rights sales, while Brazil spends billions building the facilities. To make this problem worse, FIFA, in return for allowing Brazil to host the World Cup demands to be exempt from any form of taxes, cheating Brazil of around £290 million.
In 2003, the Brazilian Government passed a law banning the sale of alcohol at football matches, due to the high number of deaths as a result of people getting drunk. One of FIFAs main sponsors is Budweiser, the beer maker. To help its sponsor, FIFA sent its General Secretary to Brazil to change the law demanding that “there must be, as part of the law, the fact that we have the right to sell beer”. Amazingly the law, designed to prevent deaths, was changed to allow the sale of beer at the World Cup.
FIFA, in spite of this, still claims that it is a non-profit organisation, even though it has over $1 billion in its bank accounts, which FIFA President Sepp Blatter calls a “reserve”. Surely, that is far too much money for a simple rainy day fund? Recently this humble non-profit organisation spent around £27 million on a fictional film about its own origins for no apparent reason, other than to produce something amounting to propaganda. So far, Sepp Blatter’s Presidency has been rocked by endless bribery allegations, the newest about the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to the oil rich nation of Qatar, which has no footballing heritage of any sort. As calls mount for Blatter to step down, it is becoming increasingly clear that FIFA is corrupt to its very core.
Yet still, I, like many millions of people around the planet, are unbelievably excited for the greatest tournament in the world, in the spiritual home of football. I find myself able to ignore the comically corrupt organisation that runs and benefits from it, because football is a religion, a way of life, and an ever present part of my life.
By Oliver Atkinson.
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