Soccerex conference now an ex-soccer conference

Just seven months before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, a major football conference in Rio de Janeiro was called off for what organisers claimed was ”ongoing civil unrest,” a claim denied by the state government.

State government officials said the event was cancelled in a dispute over how the event was to be financed.

The cancellation is another blow to Brazil and World Cup organizers after the Confederations Cup was targeted this year by protesters upset with Brazil’s poor public services, high taxes and lavish spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The protests saw 1 million take to the streets across Brazil on a single day, have grown smaller, but more violent and show no sign of going away.

Soccerex, due to be staged in Rio de Janeiro on the eve of the World Cup draw was expected to be attended by a host of leading football figures. The organisers immediately threatened to sue the Rio state government. Its chief executive, Duncan Revie, called the move a “unique and cruel” decision. It said the Rio de Janeiro state secretary of sport had taken a “political decision”.

However, the Rio state government said the late cancellation was due to a financial dispute rather than security reasons.

“The state guarantees the security of multiple events, including New Year’s Eve on Copacabana beach, carnival, and the World Cup,” it said in a statement. “The government of Rio de Janeiro encouraged the organisers to seek cultural and sports incentives [funding] and they failed to do so. Soccerex were advised to seek funding to host the event so that the state would not have to use public money.”

The event was due to take place in the newly refurbished Maracanã stadium that will host the World Cup final next summer and was due to be attended by 4,500 of “football’s leading decision-makers”.

Meanwhile, in London, FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said the conference cancellation was not an indication of heightened security fears ahead of its showpiece that opens June 12 and ends July 13.

”We do not believe this will have any influence in any way or form on the organization of the FIFA World Cup,” Weil said.

Former Brazil star Ronaldo, a member of the World Cup organizing committee, suggested the decision to cancel Soccerex was an overreaction.

”The people are going out onto the streets to show their displeasure about how they were treated for so long, so they wanted change,” Ronaldo said through a translator at the London briefing.

He said canceling the event exaggerated the threat, and said the World Cup would help Brazil.

”I am in favor of any nonviolent protests,” Ronaldo added. ”Brazilians are tired of being ignored for so many years and want the government to respond to that weariness.”