- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) - FIFA will continue to push local officials to organize fanfests during the World Cup and could pursue legal action against the host cities that back down from their commitment.

When the northeastern city of Recife said last week it would not spend public money to host a fanfest, which allows fans without tickets to watch matches for free on large screens in public areas, FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil was surprised.

On the sidelines of a workshop with representatives of all 32 World Cup nations this week, Weil said he remains hopeful Recife will reconsider and is willing to sit down with officials to try to find a solution, but adds that if the event is cancelled for good, FIFA will consider suing for breach of contract.

“If you have a contract in place with a party and the party is not respecting this contract, there is legal action you could take against them,” Weil said. “Have we looked at what kind of potential legal action we could take? We have not. Only once we clearly know it has not happened we will decide what to do. I strongly believe we will have the fanfest in the 12 host cities.”

The fanfests are only the latest concern for FIFA as Brazil struggles to get ready for the World Cup with less than four months until the opener on June 12. Delays in stadium construction and disputes over who will pay for temporary facilities required by FIFA are among some of the problems.

FIFA pays for part of the fanfests, including the large screens. Although it said it was willing to try to reduce some of its requirements, FIFA made clear it will not take over the costs that belong to the local government.

“If Recife wants, we will sit and analyze again and we can help them,” Weil said. “FIFA will not go to Recife and negotiate with them. There is nothing to negotiate. We will help them. I hope they will still come back and provide the fanfest to their citizens. If not, there is a contract in place.”

After Brazil selected the host cities, they all signed agreements promising to host fanfests. Weil said all of the Brazilian cities which wanted to be part of the World Cup after the bid was won in 2007, including those that eventually were cut from the final list, put a lot of emphasis on the fanfest and made it a crucial part of their bid.

“Yes, it is an obligation, but we put that in as an obligation because we strongly believe (in the fanfests),” Weil said. “For me and for FIFA it’s just a natural thing to have the fanfests in Brazil.”

He said there was no deadline to solve the problem with Recife, but noted local officials could be running out of time. He said at least two other cities which are not hosting matches have already come forward offering to organize a fanfest as a substitute venue.

Weil said FIFA considers fanfests as “the second-best place” to be other than inside the stadiums, especially because not all ticket requests for the World Cup will be fulfilled.

But with the imminent threat of violent demonstrations, sparked in part by the billions spent on the World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, local officials have been trying to distance themselves from the upcoming tournament. Some are afraid the fanfests could be an easy target for protesters.

Weil said cities are allowed to change locations for security reasons, which he said has happened with Brasilia and will likely happen with Porto Alegre. He said cities can also choose the size of the event, which can be scaled down to reduce costs.

Fanfests first became part of the official FIFA program in Germany in 2006, following the huge success of unofficial public viewing events in South Korea in 2002. Weil said a total of nearly 24 million people have attended fanfests.


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

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