Taking off from James Young’s article featured in a recent post, I will contextualize the immediacy of Brazilian football directors and fans, based on an exchange of tweets I had earlier today.
I’ve been sustaining the argument that you cannot spend money you do not have. You cannot risk the life of an institution that has been around for a hundred years, buying expensive players in the belief trophies and additional revenues will come and take care of the deficit. That would be irresponsible. Unjustifiable.
The ferocity of the argumentation from my twitter “opponent” took me somewhat by surprise. Yes, I know he’s a fervent palmeirense, but he’s also a recognised historian, and specialised in, would you guess, Palmeiras. I thought he, if any, would seal for the longevity and stability of the institution.
Instead, he let me know he is a supporter first and foremost and what matters to him is seeing Palmeiras strong on the pitch. Football first. “Inverting the pyramid is suicide”, he claimed. He concluded that it was a matter of ambition: either you invest aggressively in order to win, or you invest nothing and fight against relegation. For this particular man, “fiscal responsibility” is a swearword. He’s not alone. Far from it.
I imagine this to be the exact reasoning behind the massive debts most Brazilian clubs sustain. In fact, club directors don’t even make an effort to hide it. In the words of Corinthians’ chief financial director, Raul Correa: “We decided on a policy to set things straight. First, we invested in football. That left us with no money to pay taxes. Then, when we were in a better shape, we started paying. Today we pay regularly. But there’s this residual to pay.” By “residual”, Correa is referring to a US$ 77 million trifle. Now, what Correa is in fact saying is “Corinthians opted for for not paying taxes in order to reap benefits on the pitch.”
What about Maurício Assumpção, president of Botafogo, openly admitting he opted for not paying taxes for eight months (!) awaiting the approval of a Bill of Law expected to benefit precisely those clubs who have failed to pay taxes? Botafogo’s tax debts amount to US$ 155 million. Mind you, in 2012, Scottish traditional club Ranges were relegated from first to fourth division due to their US$ 30 million in tax debts.
Andrés Sanchez, Raul Correa, Maurício Assumpção… These men, and so many others, should be in jail. These clubs should be relegated. But none of that will happen, because in certain aspects, Brazil is a Mickey Mouse country.
Palmeirenses proudly boast their new arena – the Allianz Parque – is being built with nothing but private investments, with no public money or tax breaks. That sets us worlds apart from Corinthians. Paying all our taxes should also be setting us worlds apart. In addition to steadily be implementing sound and professional financial management routines and policies. Sounds like obvious steps to take for a football club with a couple of hundred million of yearly turnaround. Not obvious in Brazil. Not quite yet.