Brazilian clubs rock the boat – a trend developing across world football

BRAZILIAN football clubs want to breakaway and run their own competition, pushing for a divorce from the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (CBF), who currently run the league. It’s a tough time for Brazil and its clubs; infection rates are high, the country has just hosted a Copa America that nobody really wanted, and their football clubs have lost income owing to the pandemic.

We are in a time of disruption, the pandemic has affected all walks of life and some business sectors are constantly exploring ways to fill some of their revenue gaps and adjust their business models. Football is no diferent and we have seen attempts to shake things up, mostly from a club perspective. 

The European Super League – as flawed as it was – the African Super League and other possible restructurings are all a symptom of an industry looking for ideas and ways to leverage the popularity of their product. There’s also a loss of confidence in both UEFA and FIFA and the game is also emroiled in politics and has developed a penchant for introducing and over-complicating competitions.

As much as people see Brazil, indeed South America, as far away and not Europe’s concern,  Brazil provides more expatriate players than any other nation – there are currently around 1,300 Brazilians playing in major leagues worldwide. Unsurprisingly, the most popular migratory route in global football is Brazil to Portugal. 

Yet the pandemic has already had its affect on player traffic from Brazil. In 2020, outbound transfers from Brazil totalled US$ 326 million, 12% lower than 2018-19 and the second consecutive season of decline.

Brazil’s clubs continue to fare well in the Copa Libertadores and the 2021 season is no different, only Santos failed to qualify from the group stage, but Flamengo, Fluminense, Internactional, Palmeiras, São Paulo and Atlético Mineiro all progressed.

The clubs want to move away from the CBF because of the governing body’s habit of being involved in scandals and controversy. As well as CBF president Rogerio Caboclo being suspended for an accusation of sexual harrasment, the federation has also had to answer claims of homophobia owing to the absence of a number 24 shirt in the Copa America. This number apparently has links to the gay community. 

The clubs may feel they need to challenge the status quo after a year in which Brazilian football saw its revenues decline by 14% to R$ 5.3 billion (US$ 998 million). At the same time, club debts rose by 19% to R$ 10.3 billion (US$ 1.9 billion).

All aspects of revenue generation dropped in 2019-20: commercial income was 6% down to R$ 677 million, broadcasting fell by 28% to R$ 1.7 billion and matchday was 46% lower at R$ 523 million. Interestingly, Flamengo accounted for 14% of all revenue, while five clubs (Flamengo, Mineiro, Corinthians, Palmeiras and Grêmio contributed 56% to the overall total).

Brazil’s underlying problem remains its inability to keep home grown talent in the country, although player trading remains key to many clubs. One leading football oficial stated that: “We have them between 18 and 19 and then they move abroad. They return when they are 32. This cannot be good for Brazilian football, so we have to find a way to keep some of our best players at home longer, to make our football more attractive, both visually and sustainably.” A bold ambition, but there is no easy solution to that problem while young footballers can earn huge sums of money in Europe.

Photo: ALAMY

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