The truth behind the cancellation of Soccerex

The truth behind the cancellation of Soccerex Global Convention

Well, it’s not clear, although the primary reasons given are security concerns and a funding dispute between the city of Rio and Soccerex. The cancellation of the major conference and exhibition announced in London by a FIFA representative. The event was due to start on 30 November at the Maracanã stadium in Rio.

The Rio state government said the late cancellation was due to a financial dispute rather than security reasons. "The state guarantees the security of multiple events, including New Year's Eve on Copacabana beach, carnival, and the World Cup," it said in a statement. "The government of Rio de Janeiro encouraged the organisers to seek cultural and sports incentives [funding] and they failed to do so. Soccerex were advised to seek funding to host the event so that the state would not have to use public money."

The cancellation stirred this response from Soccerex organiser who claim the Rio government pulled the plug for fear that spending public money on the event would spark public unrest:

 “It [Rio government] has referred to an alleged failure by Soccerex to secure investment for the event through the Sports Incentive Law, and therefore attempted to apportion blame via this avenue, as opposed to the civil unrest and resulting public pressure as cited to Soccerex by the Rio government.

“Any reference to ‘recommendation’ for Soccerex to use the Sports Incentive Law is a smokescreen…As responsibility for organising any funding via this avenue would not have been Soccerex’s in any case, it is unacceptable that the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro, after disregarding its contractual obligations, resulting in a significant impact to Soccerex, is still looking to deliberately mislead public opinion on the subject.

“With regards to the speculation that the cost of the Maracana as the event venue was the cause of the event cancellation, we can categorically deny that this was the case. The securing of the event venue was also the contractual obligation of the Rio government.”

► Was it really a security issue? What type of new intelligence might have caused the Rio government to cancel the event?

► Was it some perceived risk that the use of the Maracanã for the ‘moneyed’ side of football could enflame the locals?

► Was it that the state of unreadiness of the Maracanã would be revealed and become a major embarrassment for government?

► Was it costing too much to host and were the expectations of the prominent visitors too high for government to stomach?

► Was Soccerex, a private concern, just not delivering for the city of Rio sufficient kudos and benefits?

► Simply, were the arrangements for revenue flow to government not being realised? After all, the government made the Maracanã available (or was it a direction by government?) – and that was done at short notice and late in the piece, just a couple of months ago.

The Rio state government insisted it pulled the plug not because of security worries but because organisers did not raise sufficient funds to stage the event and wanted the local authorities to foot the bill.

Soccerex added that hosting costs were "contractually assumed by the Government" as early as 2010….and that that the securing of the Maracanã was "the contractual obligation of the Rio Government" and therefore the Rio government had "sole responsibility … regarding any investments and the event venue."

Commentator Keir Radnedge writes “The ability of Soccerex to maintain its status in some fraught venues around the world spoke volumes for the work of ceo Duncan Revie and his team. That Rio proved too complex even for Soccerex does not reflect well on Brazil” And continues, “The Soccerex cancellation is a back-handed compliment, suggesting it may have become almost too successful: if Soccerex were not so high-profile it would not have been swept away by the political/financial maelstrom swirling around not only the World Cup but the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”

Yes, of course, this has ramifications for the 2016 Olympic Games. The Maracanã is to be the major stadium for key events, staging the opening and closing ceremonies and intended as a sports icon for Brazilians to be proud of.  It’s hard to see that last one being fulfilled.

Soccerex said it would be instigating legal proceedings for “substantial compensation”. It is understood Soccerex is seeking a seven-figure sum from the state government. Soccerex celebrated the signing up with Rio with a golden soccer ball.

Eric Winton

Director, New Millennium Business

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