by Patricie Barricelli, Attorney, São Paulo Bar Association, Brazil *
The Brazilian General World Cup Law was enacted last June with the aim to amend Brazil’s legal regime for sporting events as required to meet International Federation of Association Football (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, hereinafter “FIFA”) hosting country requirements. However, some politicians and scholars have proposed that the host country event requirements imposed by FIFA conflict with some important aspects of Brazilian laws that should be preserved. Brazil’s recent hosting of the FIFA Confederation Cup has re-ignited the debate.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 20th FIFA World Cup, is an international association football championship that will be hosted by Brazil for its second time. This global tournament, to be held from June 12 through July 13, 2014, is cause for national excitement, due not only to the host country’s passion for football, but also because of its significant expected economic impact, especially in regard to tourism and sponsorship. Yet Brazil’s recent hosting of FIFA’s Confederation Cup this past July was marred by some of Brazil’s largest street protests in decades.
FIFA is the international governing body of the national football (aka “soccer”), futsal (indoor soccer), and beach soccer associations. To acquire the right to host the international competition of the World Cup, FIFA requires a host country to agree to a set of conditions. To meet the FIFA conditions, on June 6, 2013 the Brazilian Congress enacted the “General World Cup Law” (Lei Geral da Copa). Since its proposal, this law has generated serious debate among legal and political scholars. The prominent discussions resulted in a presidential veto regarding the following aspects of the law: relaxation of volunteerism rules, new restrictions for issuing tourist visas, and control of ticket sale policies.
In regard to the first issue of relaxation of volunteerism rules, President Dilma Rousseff vetoed the sections of the law that allowed the possibility of “volunteerism” to subjugate the general labor law requirement of payment of wages. The president exercised her veto based upon three public policy reasons: job insecurity, worker safety, and worker well-being.
Moreover, the president reasoned that the volunteerism section of the World Cup Law was unnecessary in that Brazilian Labor Law already provides for the possibility of volunteerism within the context of rules to avoid the misuse of voluntary work. The president alleged that if the World Cup Law’s section on volunteerism were allowed to stand, such would lead to serious conflict as to whether, and when, it or the general labor law should be applied to a situation.
Regarding the second issue of new restrictions for issuing tourist visas, the president vetoed the World Cup Law section that stated that a tourist visa could only be obtained in an applicant’s home country and that a visa application had to be filed by electronic application form at least 30 days in advance. The president exercised this veto because such restrictions, if imposed, conflict with current Brazilian visa procedures, which neither restrict an application to a home country nor require a 30 day minimum in order to file such application. Enactment of a new restrictive visa policy, the president reasoned, could lead to visa conflicts and relaxation rollbacks with other countries.
In regard to the last issue, the president vetoed two aspects regarding the control of ticket sales, being (1) discounted tickets sales, and (2) a special category for advance, discounted tickets. The World Cup Law proposed prohibiting half-price ticket sales to students and elders. The president reasoned that the Brazilian Federative Pact prohibited a federal law suspending gratuities and discounts assured by state and municipal law. The president suggested that FIFA must negotiate for restrictions of discounts provided by local law directly with the states and cities hosting specific events.
The World Cup Law proposed setting aside a special category of advanced, discounted ticket sales. The special category would have included 10 percent of the total tickets of each Brazilian Team match, offered at an advance purchase discount (i.e. an “accessible” price). The president vetoed this special category as inequitable because it would have advantaged persons able to purchase tickets in advance to the exclusion of others unable to do so. Moreover, the president reasoned that it would not be possible to forecast the matches in which the Brazilian Team will play until after the group finals of the championship.
Other aspects of the World Cup Law that have drawn political and legal scholar debate deserve attention in another article. These contentious FIFA requirements include: mandating the sale of alcoholic beverages in stadiums (because of beverage sponsors); allowing sales (i.e. game ticket) conditioned on the acquisition of other products or services such as hotel packages and travel; suspension of the right of return legal guarantee for online sales as such may be applied to FIFA’s products; and permission for FIFA partners (i.e. sponsors) to offer products or services, such as credit cards, without necessarily meeting normal consumer regulatory requirements.
In defense of the FIFA requirements enacted (and vetoed), Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s General Secretary, stated that FIFA is neither asking more nor less than it required from its past host nation South Africa, nor from its next host nation Russia. According to the General Secretary, FIFA respects host country’s national laws and regulations, working within the existing framework when possible. However, the General Secretary contends that it is necessary for host country political and legal authorities to recognize that the World Cup competition is a unique, one-off event that demands some local law adaptations for its success.
Finally, while the president and commentators have focused on the issue of the political and legal acceptability of various aspects of the World Cup Law, none have yet addressed the underlying fundamental issue of whether a sport competition sponsored by a non-governmental sports organization, even as unique and exciting as the FIFA World Cup, is justification for modifications, albeit temporary, of a national legal system. In light of the million person protests of FIFAs Confederation Cup this past month, this underlying issue, as well as the underlying economics of the competition, will surely now be raised to the national, and international, spotlight.