While some stadiums are shut, others are furiously debated. Robert Shaw reports on problematic preparations for 2014
With the Homeless World Cup played in September in Brazil some of the country's clubs might have felt entitled to stage their own version. The stadium-building and renovation programme for the 2014 World Cup has already left several clubs without a home ground as work begins in earnest to prepare the 12 venues.
Fluminense and Flamengo were effectively evicted from the Maracanã in early September, midway through the national championship, while Atlético Mineiro's and Cruzeiro's prospects have had to take a back seat to the ambitions of their home city Belo Horizonte to stage the opening game in 2014.
Fluminense had hoped that they could play in the Maracanã with a reduced capacity, as they seek their first national title since 1984. In persuading the state government agency to close the stadium, the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) cited "strictly technical reasons", arguing that the reduced capacity would not be able to cope with demand for tickets at the decisive stage of the championship. This provided a curious argument since even a pared-back Maracanã offered a similar option to the principal alternative – the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, better known as Engenhão. This stadium, built for the Pan American Games in 2007, before becoming the home of Botafogo, only holds a maximum of 46,000 – barely more than the Maracanã with just the upper tier open.
The sudden citing of the supporters' charter, a 2003 law which aims to codify the rights of fans, to defend the closure was risible – the Maracanã and other Brazilian grounds have flouted this in various ways, such as stadium safety, in recent times. The renovation of the Maracanã also started without the correct building licences in place, rendering the process technically illegal.
In reality, the Maracanã closure appears to have been prompted by personal and political motives. Fluminense president Roberto Horcades recently backed a rival candidate to the one favoured by CBF head Ricardo Teixeira in the elections to head the C13, an organisation that represents the interest of the country's major clubs. Teixeira was reportedly left fuming by what he regarded as an act of betrayal by Horcades, who had previously been his doctor. Teixeira claimed that the stadium should have been closed over a year before its actual September shutdown. Curiously, he did not raise the matter of closure during Flamengo's surge to the championship in front of packed houses in the Maracanã last season.
Fluminense and Cruzeiro have so far managed to sustain their championship challenges despite no longer playing in their traditional grounds. Atlético Mineiro's battle to stave off relegation will have to be achieved without the cauldron of the Mineirão. The club's fans are likely to be less of a trump card in other stadiums.
None of the São Paulo clubs has been affected, although hackles were raised by the surprise exclusion of the city's biggest stadium, the Morumbi, from the 2014 hosting list. Again the São Paulo president Juvenal Juvêncio coincidentally happens to be at political loggerheads with Teixeira. The process of stadium selection is in itself problematic, as both the CBF and FIFA have tried to point the finger at each other for contentious decisions or policies. Despite Teixeira's campaign against the Morumbi, the CBF president tried to explain away his attitude as being solely a product of FIFA's technical requirements for World Cup stadiums.
The way the new home of Corinthians, currently under construction in Itaquera, came to be offered as an alternative to the Morumbi dismayed many observers. From nowhere the stadium suddenly became the hot candidate to stage the tournament's opening game, despite the fact that at a planned 48,000 it would be almost 20,000 short of the capacity required by FIFA.
Hotfooting it from South Africa, FIFA executives including Jérôme Valcke have made repeated warnings that Brazil needs to show more urgency in stadium construction. As with London's Olympic Stadium, and previously the case with the Engenhão, purpose-built stadiums are being prepared for the main event, without a clear idea of who will occupy the stadium afterwards or much planning on how it will generate revenue. The capital Brasilia will compete with Belo Horizonte to stage the opening game in its planned 70,000-capacity Mané Garrincha Stadium, yet the city has no Serie A club and lacks a strong footballing tradition.
For the next few years Brazil's football fans will have to muddle through in unfamiliar, makeshift stadiums. This is not a problem for the run-of-the mill matches but will be for big games. Flamengo and Fluminense plan to play games in the Engenhão, with São Januário (for Fluminense at least) and Volta Redonda being other options. It could also provide Flamengo fans nationally with a treat. In the past the club have taken games out-of-state to capitalise on the their massive fanbase. For the marketing men this may yet prove a silver lining to the club's current accommodation problems.
From WSC 285 November 2010