More fears for World Cup as Soccerex cancelled

Due to be held in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium on the eve of the World Cup’s draw in December, the Soccerex Global Convention 2013 has been suddenly cancelled amidst an unseemly row about where the blame for the unexpected move should reside.

That it was the Rio de Janeiro state government that cancelled the event is not in dispute. It’s why they did it that is the source of the row, with two very distinct and contradictory arguments put forward by each side. On the one hand the Soccerex organisers, who were expecting 4500 delegates at the event, are claiming that Rio de Janeiro’s state government had called off next month’s event due to concerns about “ongoing civil unrest” in Brazil; on the other the Rio authorities themselves state that Soccerex had failed to raise sufficient private funds to cover the cost of the conference, and that it was not prepared to put forward any public money to make up for the shortfall.

“Preparations for the event at the Maracanã Stadium were well advanced with content planned, speakers confirmed and partnerships in place,” said a Soccerex statement. “To be summarily cancelled in such a cavalier fashion, having hosted 33 events over five continents, is extremely frustrating but nevertheless it has happened and is in contravention of all of the contractual obligations of the Rio State Government, who have been notified of our intention to instigate legal proceedings for substantial compensation.”

However, the government itself strongly denied that this was the reason, instead pointing to a funding dispute surrounding the event. Its own statement [in slightly cleaned up English] reads: “The state guarantees the security for many events in Rio, including the upcoming New Year celebration, with millions of people on the Copacabana beach, as well as the Carnival, the World Cup next year. The Rio de Janeiro State Government encouraged the Soccerex organisers to seek culture or sport incentive funding to finance the event, but the organisers failed to do so.”

What is perhaps surprising about the story is the degree of emotive language used by Soccerex, which is accusing the Brazilian authorities of making a ‘political decision’. Soccerex CEO Duncan Revie even referred to the decision as being ‘unique and cruel’.

“On behalf of all at Soccerex, I would like to apologise to every business, football club, league, federation and media organisation affected by this news,” he said in a statement. “This unique and cruel conclusion to our time in Rio was completely out of our hands and everyone who has attended a Soccerex event over the last 18 years will know this is not how we do business. We must look forward now to 2014, to our new event calendar and the Global Convention in Manchester.”

Indeed, apart from the Rio event, it seems like business as normal for the rest of the Soccerex franchise, with plans well underway for both the next Global Convention in Manchester (which has been home to Soccerex Europe for the past three years) and Soccerex Africa. This would have been the fourth event in Rio.

As to implications for the World Cup, it is, frankly, exactly the sort of publicity that Fifa doesn’t want. Nevertheless Fifa’s marketing director, Thierry Weil, put a brave face on it while speaking to the BBC. “We do not believe this will have any influence in any way or form on the organisation of the Fifa World Cup,” he said.

It was also extremely bad timing for the Brazilian delegation visiting London and trying to assuage worries about the organisation of the tournament. Speaking to The Guardian, Ricardo Trade, the chief executive of the Brazil 2014 organising committee, said: “We were very happy with the results of the Confederations Cup. Of course, we had some challenges regarding the protesters outside the stadium. We tackled these with the federal government and the state government. They took care of this; they did a good job of supporting us.”

He also said that, once the draw had been made and the challenges of the geographically diverse, peripatetic nature of the tournament were known, provision would be made for extra flights and the rerouting of existing ones.

As SVG Europe has already reported, there are few fears regarding the host broadcast of the event, but all the same there will be plenty of people sitting on the phones as that draw is made on December 6 trying to secure hotel rooms and flights and prevent a logistical worry regarding the production of the unilaterals turning into an expensive nightmare. One can only hope that security issues don’t become an increasing factor as the tournament approaches.

However that shapes up, though, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the lawyers and see what Soccerex and the Rio government do next.

Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters