The huge cost of staging the competition has led to a very real backlash among ordinary Brazilians who do not appear enthralled by the prospect of the world’s most exciting tournament coming back to their shores for the first time in 64 years.
There is a real unease though that huge amounts of public and private money is being spent on stadiums that could well prove to be white elephants in the future. The 1994 World Cup winning forward Romario has been vocal in his opposition despite originally being an advocate for the country hosting the competition.
“The Brazilian is excluded from the party,” Romario star told Radio Band News. “To have an idea a cup of beer inside the stadium is costing €4.20, which once stood at around €1.40. A acaraje (a food typical of Bahia) is €3.50. Everybody knows that outside the stadium is around €1.75.
“Which Brazilian can keep up with this pace? This World Cup is not for Brazilians, especially those who have the habit of attending the stadiums. With the stadiums we’re spending €2.5 billion, equivalent to 150,000 housing units. The greatest legacy of this World Cup would be urban mobility, but it would increase the cost of the event.
“So the government decided to take it all off, like as subway lines and train, for example. Unfortunately, it was just leaving the luxurious stadiums, which is what matters to FIFA.”
These are testing times for FIFA. When a country hosts a tournament, they sign a World Cup law in which they agree to allow FIFA to come in, run the competition and run off with their money at the end tax free. All while they impose huge costs and risks on a host nation. It is an unsustainable model which is now being challenged and forcing world football’s governing body to wake up. They’ve had a tough time of it in Brazil. They struggled to get the World Cup law passed as Brazilian lawmakers objected to being forced to allow alcohol sales in stadiums. But of course this is a red line for FIFA, given their high profile sponsorship by certain alcohol producers.
What it all means is that FIFA must now be careful of the steps they tread next. There was a telling comment a while ago from Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary and ultimately the man responsible for the organisation of the World Cup. He said that, reflecting on the swift progress Russia has made so far in preparing for 2018, that sometimes less democracy is good for FIFA and the World Cup. He’s right but wrong at the same time. Less democracy is never good – except for if you are FIFA – because that is how they are able to force their demands on a host nation easily. And that sums up the world governing body most – they will enjoy easy World Cups in Russia and Qatar, two countries devoid of democracy, but they cannot tour the world’s autocracies forever without the rest of the world turning even more against them. Maybe 2018 and 2022 will pose few threats, but long term, this is a challenge FIFA cannot run away from.