WCup bill passes first stage of approval in Brazil

TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer Published:

SAO PAULO (AP) -- A key bill needed for the organization of the 2014 World Cup passed the first stage of approval on Tuesday, giving FIFA and the Brazilian government an important victory as they try to overcome a recent spat.

FIFA has been urging Brazil to sanction the bill because it sets the tournament's legal and financial framework and gives football's governing body the necessary guarantees to organize the event.

Among the contentious issues approved by the congressional commission was the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, a FIFA demand but against the law in Brazil.

The bill still has to go through the lower house and senate, but the commission's approval had been in doubt after FIFA and the Brazilian government traded accusations about the country's preparations for the World Cup and next year's Confederations Cup.

The vote came just hours after FIFA President Sepp Blatter sent a letter to the Brazilian government apologizing for the remarks of Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who sent a blunt message to Brazil on Friday: "You have to push yourself, kick your (backside)" to speed up the preparations.

Valcke apologized on Monday after Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo officially told FIFA that the government would not deal with him as the person responsible for working with the country to prepare for football's showcase event.

The vote had been delayed several times, one of the reasons that prompted Valcke to step up his criticism of Brazil's preparations. But his attack infuriated some congressmen and gave more ammunition to those saying that Brazil was giving FIFA too much power and exempting it from responsibility.

Some protesters held banners criticizing Valcke as the commission prepared to vote on the bill in Brasilia, the nation's capital.

The sticking point was the sale of alcohol inside the World Cup venues, as Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor.

FIFA demanded the law be changed, but critics said it took Brazil a long time to introduce the ban, a move that helped reduce fan violence in Latin America's biggest country.

"I don't think it's reasonable to make such a big investment in stadiums and then penalize the vendors during the matches," said congressman Vicente Candido, the bill's author. "It's a unique moment, in which there will be control and punishment to those who abuse."

The bill says the law will be in effect only during the Confederations Cup and World Cup, and allow only the sale of beer in plastic cups. People in VIP areas would have access to other types of alcoholic beverages.

Local prosecutors and other groups had said they were against the sale of alcohol during the World Cup, claiming that violent incidents inside stadiums dropped significantly after the alcohol ban went into effect.

Also approved was the right for the elderly to buy half-priced tickets in all categories, and that 300,000 of them will be reserved at lower prices for students and participants of some government programs for the poor.

Some congressmen unsuccessfully tried to remove the imposition of penalties to those wanting ticket refunds, which was something consumer rights groups had wanted. They also were not able to include an extension to visitors on electronic visas for other sporting events in the country, a move that could have boosted tourism.

The bill also set rules on possible trademark infringements, commercial rights and liability for security problems.

___

Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni