FIFA: Brazil still behind schedule

Jerome Valcke said Thursday “there is not a single stadium ready today.” He added that beer must be allowed at matches despite Brazilian law prohibiting beer sales at games.

Valcke spoke alongside retired Brazil great Ronaldo and Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo following visits to two host cities, Fortaleza and Salvador.

Ronaldo, the newest member of the World Cup local organizing committee, said he was confident the stadiums would be ready on time.

Brazil’s World Cup will be played in 12 far-flung venues, including a 44,000-seat stadium being built in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus. Each of the 12 cities will host at least four matches, prompting concerns about travel in a vast nation where the ailing airport infrastructure repeatedly has been highlighted by FIFA as needing an upgrade.

Valcke already has urged Brazilian lawmakers to pick up the pace. On Thursday, he pressed the Brazilian Congress for approval of a package of laws regulating the World Cup.

Brazil prohibited alcohol sales inside stadiums in 2003 in a bid to reduce violence. But Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor and FIFA is urging lawmakers to allow beer sales in the stadiums during the showcase tournament.

“We’re not talking about alcohol, we’re talking about beer,” Valcke said.

Other disputes between FIFA and the Brazilian government include liability for security and safety problems, and the sale of discounted tickets to students and the elderly as guaranteed by Brazilian law.

Rebelo said the disagreements should be settled once Brazil’s Congress votes on the pending World Cup bill. The vote is expected to take place by March.

Ricardo Teixeira, president of the organizing committee, did not attend the news conference, although FIFA said in a statement he participated in the organizing committee’s meeting. Valcke said Teixeira could not attend the news conference because of commitments, and Teixeira’s absence was “his decision.”

Teixeira is implicated in a scandal involving millions of dollars in kickbacks from World Cup broadcast deals. FIFA postponed publication of documents in December that would identify the soccer officials involved because, the soccer organization said, of legal action by one of the parties. The BBC has reported that Teixeira and former FIFA president Joao Havelange are among those involved.

FIFA estimates the 2014 World Cup will cost about $1.3 billion, including the organizing committee’s budget. The governing body gets most of its revenue from sponsorship deals and other income related to its marquee event. Its budget forecast for the four-year cycle of 2011 to 2014 is expected to bring in about $3.8 billion, with profits of about $200 million.

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