Brazil's lower house finally passes key World Cup bill

The lower house of Brazil's Congress on Wednesday finally passed a bill giving FIFA the guarantees needed to organize the 2014 World Cup.

Updated: March 29, 2012 10:09 IST
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Sao Paulo: The lower house of Brazil's Congress on Wednesday finally passed a bill giving FIFA the guarantees needed to organize the 2014 World Cup.

The Congress approved the bill after several delays which had raised concerns about whether Brazil could fulfill the commitments it made to FIFA when it accepted hosting rights for the tournament. The bill will now go to the upper house, the Senate, before reaching President Dilma Rousseff for her signature.

Among the controversial issues was the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, currently against the law in Brazil but demanded by FIFA.

The approved legislation doesn't specifically authorize alcohol sales, but the government says other articles in the legislation mean it can meet FIFA's requirement.

Opposition lawmakers tried to veto the sale of alcohol at venues but were defeated.

Without the text specifically authorizing the sale of alcohol, FIFA theoretically will have to negotiate with a few states, although the government has said such deals likely will not be difficult to achieve.

"The government's sovereignty has never been in question. Brazil accepted the right to host this tournament," House government leader Arlindo Chinaglia said. "Two or three hours in a stadium will not turn someone into an alcoholic."

There was no official deadline on the bill, but FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke had said he wanted the proposed laws approved by the end of March. FIFA has been urging Brazil to put the law into place as soon as possible so preparations for the World Cup and next year's Confederations Cup can be expedited.

Brazil Sports Minister said he expected the law to be sanctioned no later than April.

In a meeting with FIFA President Sepp Blatter on March 16, the Brazilian government promised to have the bill passed so it could fulfill the World Cup commitments it signed up to in 2007.

A congressional commission approved the bill on March 6 but the government was struggling to gather enough support to have it approved in the lower house. The vote was repeatedly put off, and Chinaglia on Tuesday said that it could be delayed again until next month.

But opposition and government leaders reached a deal later in the day after the government agreed on a date to vote on other legislation that had been causing the delay on the World Cup bill. Congressmen wanted more attention to a forest law that has been debated for much longer than the World Cup law, and the government agreed to vote on it in April.

Congressmen were also hesitant to approve the bill because it had been generating a lot of controversy in Brazil, with critics saying that it gave FIFA too much power. Some didn't want Brazil changing its laws just because FIFA demands it.

"The national Congress is setting a terrible example to the Brazilian society by allowing alcoholic beverages inside stadiums," congressman Vanderlei Macris said.

Congressman Andre Moura added: "We were able to ban alcoholic beverages back in 2003. We shouldn't retrocede, we should move forward."

In other issues contemplated by the bill approved by the lower house, the elderly will have access to half-price tickets in all categories of seating, and 1 percent of the tickets will have to be made available to those with special needs.

In matches featuring the Brazilian team, at least 10 percent of the tickets will have to be Category 4, which have the cheapest price. Also, FIFA's sponsors and partners will only have exclusive rights within 2 kilometers (1.2 mile) of each stadium in the 12 host cities.

The bill also sets rules on trademark infringements, commercial rights and liability for security problems, among other issues.

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