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The Biggest Challenges Facing Brazilian Football Ahead of 2014

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The Biggest Challenges Facing Brazilian Football Ahead of 2014
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Brazilian football has seen its star rise in recent years, a result of improved finances and the ability to retain star players rather than immediately exporting them. As a result, Brazilian clubs are getting richer and spending more money.

The standard of the league is quickly rising.

With the standard at an all-time high, more and more players are convinced to stay for extended periods in the Brasileirao before heading abroad.

A good example is Neymar, who was willing to stay in Brazil until he signed with Barcelona.

In the days before the Brasileirao's new-found power, he'd have been whisked away to a European club at the age of 18. He stayed at Santos until he was 21, enjoying the lucrative sponsorships that come with being the world's most marketable athlete

Brazilian football is growing at a rate faster than some of the more renowned leagues. The Brasileirao was even named the fifth-best league in the world by World Soccer magazine.

However, such growth is causing problems in Brazil. There is already a divide between the haves vs. the have-nots.

While some clubs are prospering on the back of big investments, some are desperately struggling to stay afloat.  

 

Debts

Two of the oldest and most historic clubs in Brazil, Flamengo and Vasco da Gama, are struggling to make ends meet.

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Flamengo revealed their inability to finance themselves when they struck a deal to take CSKA Moscow's Vagner Love to Rio de Janeiro.

A €9 million deal was agreed to 2012, but Vagner Love's stay ended abruptly in January 2013 when Flamengo failed to keep up payments, forcing the Brazilian to return to Russia with CSKA Moscow.

As a result of debts, clubs are losing their star players to richer Brasileirao rivals or to foreign clubs. We could be seeing the Brasileirao become a league where the divide between the richest clubs and the poorest clubs become almost unassailable.

It would be a big blow to the league's competitiveness. Locals take pride in the unpredictability of the football and it's no surprise that there have been six different winners of the Brasileirao in the past ten years.

 

Rising ticket prices

As a result of spiralling debts and the desire to maintain the competitiveness of the league, clubs are resorting to raising ticket prices for Brasileirao fixtures.

Ticket prices are an inevitable consequence of club football becoming richer and richer, looking to claw in money from all avenues in order to maintain their dominance. But while clubs count their money, the average worker is being priced out of the game.

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A ticket for a Brasileirao match could set you back anywhere from R$50 (€17) to R$400 (€142), with the cheapest tickets at big games costing at least R$150 (€53). All the more astonishing when you consider that the minimum wage in Brazil is a mere R$678, or €240, a month.

This leads to low attendance figures, with World Soccer noting an average of just 13,004 for a typical Brasileirao clash, compared to richer leagues such as the Bundesliga (45,116), the Premier League (34,600), La Liga (28,796) or even Argentina's Primera Division (18,000).

 

Scheduling problems

If debts and poor attendances weren't enough to deal with, Brazil has an enormous elephant in the room. One entirely of their own making.

The football calendar in Brazil has long been a source of complaints over its sheer complexity and inflexibility.

A typical season in Brazil starts in January with the 27 state championships which can last well into May. The Brasileirao then picks up the baton at the end of May and runs all the way to December. The cycle begins anew in January.

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There is no equivalent of a summer break in Brazilian football. And to make matters worse, this season the Brasileirao will have to be suspended for nearly four weeks when the Confederations Cup rolls into town on June 15. That makes for an even tighter schedule this year.

Throw in continental competitions in form of the Copa Libertadores in the first half of the year and the Copa Sudamericana in the latter half and you have an enormous scheduling headache.

It's an issue which the CBF, the national football association, prefers to leave unsolved, content to let the circus that is the Brasileirao run itself into the ground.

The obvious solution here would be to do away with the state championships and shift the football calendar in Brazil to match that of Europe's. This solution looks unlikely to be implemented, however, due to the desire to maintain traditions.

 

Corruption and incompetence

With the Brasileirao facing such challenges, you'd think that the CBF would be ready and willing to wade into the waters to help solve these issues.

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This is sadly not the case, for the CBF have long been accused of bias towards the national team and Rio de Janeiro-based clubs, neglecting the rural and poor regions of Brazil. 

There are also allegations of corruption, with CBF president Jose Maria Marin accused of being involved in Brazil's infamous military junta regime of 1964-1985, as well as alleged to have played a role in the death of journalist Vladimir Herzog in 1975.

With the CBF seemingly part of the Brasileirao's ailments, it looks unlikely that they will play a role in any sweeping changes that Brazilian football so desperately needs.

And what a shame that would be, as the Brasileirao could easily establish itself as one of the world's leading leagues if given the chance to do so.

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