Brazil’s Soccer Secretary Opposes Premier League-Style Structure

Brazil’s plans to reform soccer after decades of mismanagement won’t include an English Premier League-style model because it would weaken the national team, according to the government official overseeing the sport.

Lawmakers, club presidents and the Brazilian football confederation, or CBF, have been discussing the creation a new soccer structure as Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup.

Revenue for Brazil’s top 24 teams reached 3 billion reais ($1.4 billion) in 2012, according to a study by bank Itau BBA. The 20 clubs in the Premier League, soccer’s richest, generated 2.3 billion pounds ($3.7 billion) in 2011-12, Deloitte LLP said. England’s elite division has opened up to foreign ownership and teams are largely made up of overseas talent, reducing game-time at the top level for local players.

“It’s great league, but it’s very bad for the national team,” Toninho Nascimento, Brazil’s national secretary for soccer, said in an interview. “We don’t want this in Brazil.”

More than half of Premier League team owners, including Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich and Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke, come from outside the U.K. English players account for less than a third of playing time this season, according to a British Broadcasting Corp. study published earlier this month. English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke has set up a commission to look at ways of improving the national team amid concern a lack of homegrown talent is to blame for England’s failure to win a major championship since its sole World Cup triumph in 1966.

‘Big Problem’

Nascimento, a former sports editor of Brazil’s O Globo, said although the spectacle served up by the 21-year-old Premier League is “marvelous,” it comes at a cost. Squads full of foreigners harm national team prospects, he said.

“We have to be careful about what we do,” Nascimento added. “The system in England is a big problem.”

About 70 percent of all Premier League players are foreign compared to 6.9 percent in Brazil, according to website transfermarkt.co.uk, which monitors trades. The most high-profile are Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf of Rio de Janeiro’s Botafogo and Uruguay striker Diego Forlan at Internacional, which plays in Porto Alegre.

Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s chief executive officer, told reporters in July that his competition isn’t to blame for England’s title drought.

The league “didn’t start until 1992,” Scudamore said. “What happened between 1966 and 1992? Whose fault was that? The whole thing is immensely frustrating. It cannot be our fault on any level.”

World Cup Will

Brazil will go for a record-extending sixth World Cup title when it hosts next year’s tournament. Nascimento said staging the quadrennial event has helped to create momentum to fix the domestic game.

Professional clubs’ debt to the state has swollen to 4.5 billion reais, mostly through unpaid taxes. A group of leading players has also started an organization called Bom Senso FC, or Common Sense FC, to demand that the CBF improve their conditions. Players say the local soccer calendar risks their health because of the number of games they’re expected to play. They’ve also called for penalties for teams that don’t pay salaries on time, a commonplace occurrence in Brazil.

“I agree with the players,” Nascimento said. “The players are the spectacle so if we don’t protect them we don’t protect the spectacle.”

Cluttered Calendar

Brazil’s soccer season starts in January with state championships, followed by the national league, a domestic cup competition and South American championships, and it ends in early December. Nascimento said he’d like Brazil to adopt a European calendar running from August through May, and reduce the number of matches top teams play. Because of the World Cup, the league will have to break off midway before reconvening.

“That’s absurd,” said Nascimento. “The rest of the world doesn’t have this problem. Why are we so different?”

He also said a deal allowing clubs to refinance their debt, provided they sign up to tighter governance guidelines, is likely to be agreed by December. The regulations, which will allow debt to be repaid to the state over 15 or 20 years, include penalties such as points deductions and even relegation.

Romario, the 1994 World Cup winner who’s now a Brazilian lawmaker, said Oct. 16 that authorities won’t be able to administer the policy because clubs are too powerful.

Similar misgivings when the current league format was created in 2003 have proved unfounded, according to Nascimento. Critics said at the time the biggest teams would be saved if they were at risk of being demoted to the second tier.

“That didn’t happen,” Nascimento said. “So his argument is wrong.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in Rio de Janeiro at tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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