Football in the Americas | Brazil focus


Jamil Chade, writer and journalist, correspondent for O Estadao of Sao Paulo

How do you assess the commercial performance of the Brazilian league?

JC: The most popular sport in Brazil still has a national championship that does not match the country’s standard of football. Despite boasting clubs that produced the record five-time world champion national team, the league has a commercial performance and TV deal worth only a fraction of its potential.

In 2014, matches drew an average attendance of only 16,000 fans, with stadia filled to only 40 per cent. During that year, at least five games had fewer than 1,300 people in the stadium. During the World Cup year, the national league attracted fewer fans than ones in China or the United States.

In terms of TV revenues, 2016 will generate just under $400m (€377m) for the 20 clubs in the First Division. This contrasts badly with contracts of $800m per year in Spain and more than $1.2bn in Germany.

What is the potential for future growth?

JC: The potential is huge. Brazil is most probably the country with the lowest commercial benefits for its own league among all the winners of the World Cup. The margins for improvement are enormous. In 12 years, six different teams were champions, showing that the competition is intense.

By having the tournament in the same time zone of the US, it could be played in primetime in the American market, as well as during the day time (morning) in Asia.

By attracting TV deals abroad, the Brazilian League could attract money for clubs and, thus, the capacity to retain star players who otherwise leave at a young age for Europe.

After the World Cup, Brazil has new stadia fit to absorb the growth in quality and numbers of the local championship.

What are the main barriers to that growth?

JC: The first barrier is the control of the league by the Brazilian federation, the CBF. Without the freedom to run their own league, the clubs remain under the control of a semiamateur entity that runs football as a family business and neither as a public good nor with a professional administration. Political interests are still at the centre of many of the decisions related to Brazilian football administration.

Another barrier is the existence of regional and state championships. While they make sense for the smaller clubs, they block the capacity of the big ones to develop their brands and concentrate only on major tournaments, which generate larger revenues.

For the big clubs, such tournaments – like the Paulista Championship or the Rio Championship – represent a loss in revenues. For example, the Rio state tournament in 2016 drew an average attendance of 3,600 per game while 54 of those games registered fewer than 2,000 fans per match.

If you could make one decision to transform the league, what would it be?

JC: Create an independent organisation responsible for the organisation of the league, independent from the CBF and with a professional administration.

It should not be a closed league but should operate with current standard rules of relegation.

Brazilian domestic football can be one of the most exciting new frontiers to be developed around the world. The World Cup was a missed opportunity to attract fans around the world to the domestic Brazilian game, but a return of some of the big stars from Europe could transform the league into a key project.

To read further interviews with experts regarding the national leagues in the following regions, please click on the links below:

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