It probably doesn’t surprise anyone to know that Brazil’s corrupt soccer federation engaged in corrupt behavior, but these newly released documents are pretty alarming. According to Brazilian paper Estadão, the federation sold all sorts of the Seleção’s economic rights to a marketing firm, including final say on who gets called up and who plays in games.
The various contracts and the negotiations that granted the Cayman Island-based Saudi Arabian front firm ISE these rights are interesting in all their particulars, but the highlight is the company’s power over the squad itself.
Per the secret agreement, it was stipulated that the Seleção should always take the field with its main players without any possibility of testing young prospects or using friendlies to prepare the Olympic team. “The CBF will ensure and guarantee that “A Team” players who are playing in official competitions participate in any and every match,” says Article 9.1.
Any violation of this agreement means a lower payment quota. “If it happens that players of any game are not the “A Team,” the rate of payment under the agreement will be reduced by 50%,” states the contract. The CBF is paid $1.05 million per game in accordance with the agreement.
If a player is dropped by injury, for example, the CBF must prove this with a medical certificate to ISE that the athlete is unable to play. “Any changes to the squad shall be communicated in writing to the ISE and confirmed by mutual agreement. In this case, the CBF will endeavor to replace them with a new player of a similar level, with respect to marketing value, technical skills, and reputation.”
This does make some intuitive sense. It was already believed that call ups for guys like Ronaldinho, Robinho, Kaká, and Maicon, among others, in recent years were mostly for their name recognition rather, and the lack of caps for younger, promising players—especially those on the non-elite teams in Europe—did seem curious. This explanation goes a long way towards verifying those suspicions.
The underlying contract between the CBF and ISE was signed back in 2006. That one granted the firm all of the team’s marketing, publicity, copyright, and broadcast rights, along with the power to organize and profit from the Seleção’s friendlies. However, in 2011, then-coach Mano Menezes took a squad missing Neymar, Kaká, Marcelo, and other big names to play Egypt in Qatar. Upset about this, ISE came to the president of the CBF, Ricardo Teixeira, to renegotiate the deal. From those talks came the new deal extending to 2022, which tacked on the squad selection stuff.
The CBF has released a statement addressing the allegations, which basically accuses Estadão of reading the contract with the most sinister of interpretations. They admit that there is a contract with ISE, that it is for the organization of international friendlies, but deny that anyone other than the coaching staff has the authority to determine who is in the squad. Still, the reported contract language clearly implicates some kind of shenanigans.
This is all pretty bad stuff, but Brazil may not be alone on this sort of behavior. The squad selection issue is grossest, but farming out the economic rights of the team to someone else makes these kinds of conflicts of interest inevitable, if not always acted upon. Who knows, if we knew more about U.S. Soccer’s own Soccer United Marketing, we might find that we aren’t that different.