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FIFA Partner Faces Brazil World Cup Antitrust Complaint

Brazil’s public prosecutor filed a complaint with the country’s antitrust regulator against soccer governing body FIFA’s ticketing and accommodations partner for the 2014 World Cup.

The complaint against MATCH Services AG, based in FIFA’s hometown of Zurich, says the company’s exclusive rights to sell services within Brazil and externally is a “monopoly for the 2014 World Cup’s tickets market,” according to a statement e-mailed yesterday from the public prosecutor’s office. “This is something to be concerned about in terms of competition issues.”

The complaint also says MATCH will have “considerable market power” in the provision of hotel rooms because most rooms considered to be “FIFA standard” will be reserved in advance by the company.

The complaint was filed two days ago, the same day Brazil’s tourism agency Embratur released a report that showed hotel rates spiking as much as six-fold for next year’s World Cup, which kicks off in Sao Paulo on June 12 and ends in Rio de Janeiro a month later. Hotels in Rio are asking for an average of $461 per night during the competition, more than double the $200 it cost to stay in Johannesburg when the South African city hosted the 2010 final.

Brazil’s Supreme Court is deciding a separate suit concerning the World Cup brought by public prosecutors in June claiming a law governing the competition is unconstitutional. A ruling on that case may come later this month.

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Brazil’s antitrust regulator, known as CADE, confirmed it received the complaint and will analyze the case before deciding whether to start a formal investigation. MATCH spokesman Andreas Herren said he wasn’t able to immediately comment. FIFA didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

MATCH is a long-time partner of FIFA, and one of its subsidiaries also owns the rights to market and sell corporate hospitality for next year’s World Cup after paying the soccer body $150 million. Last June it said it had already made $262 million worth of hospitality sales for the tournament.

Should CADE, an independent body funded by Brazil’s ministry of justice, rule against MATCH, the company could face a fine and be forced to change its business practices in Brazil, according to an official who asked to not be identified because he isn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

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