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Last week, the Fundação Getúlio Vargas Chamber of Arbitration – set up to rule on a series of issues where Palmeiras and Allianz Parque constructor WTorre disagree – ruled in favour of Palmeiras on the most important topic: how many of the stadium’s 44.000 chairs WTorre is allowed to commercialise. It has always been Palmeiras’ understanding that the number was 10.000, but a poorly drafted agreement left room for alternative interpretations, WTorre claiming they had the right to all the chairs, which would effectively kill Palmeiras’ highly successful supporter membership programme “Avanti”. Not only did the FGV side with Palmeiras regarding the chairs, but also ordered WTorre conclude the works on the Allianz Parque. That means ensure the stadium complies with FIFA standards, finish construction on the panoramic restaurant, the museum, the trophy room… A massive victory, both financially and morally, setting the game board for years to come.

With a ruling finally in place, Palmeiras can go back at tweaking the club’s supporter programme, look into how to optimise stadium capacity, optimise pricing. Moreover, Palmeiras should consider how to deal with the overly large portals giving access to the pitch; these portals facilitate getting heavy/bulky stage equipment onto the pitch (think rock shows), but have a considerable impact on stadium capacity.

“Optimise stadium capacity, optimise pricing”. What is “optimise”? Many would argue it is a simple equation, where optimise means securing maximum revenue for the club. Others say optimising is the point where two curves meet: highest revenue with highest possible attendance – an acknowledgement of the importance of supporters to a team’s success. A third line would argue that additional factors, like social inclusion, must come into the equation: it is fine the club making less money, if that means contributing to a greater good. 

Are football clubs expected to take direct responsibility for improving social inclusion? In England, studies show they are indeed: when asked what they value about their club, English supporters do not stress their success on the field, nor the value of the club’s shares, or whether it was in profit or not, but their importance within their family, social and community life. Similar views were expressed almost uniformly by clubs’ chief executives, staff and local residents and businesses, everybody emphasising the social function of a football club. I would not think the result would be much different in Brazil.

Still, one should not forget that competition is in the heart of sports. And here is where the major barrier to football’s ability to be a force for good – in England, in Brazil, in any part of the world – becomes evident: the financial strains most clubs face, primarily due to the pressure of putting a competitive team out.

Must one chose between financial optimization/competiveness and social inclusion? Perhaps yes, in the realm of immediacy. However, we should look further.

I few weeks back I visited Vienna, and the Vienna Opera House. Opting for a ballet performance, I was not surprised to find tickets almost sold out, with the few remaining going at €160-180 apiece. Then a word, on a sign a bit further away, caught my attention. “Stehplatz”. Standing space. Something more and more common in sports arenas across Europe, and at one point also discussed as an option for the Allianz Parque. To my surprise, the Vienna Opera House seats more than 1.700 persons, but in addition has the capacity to cater for close to 600 standing spectators. Most of the stehplatz tickets are released only a couple of hours before the performance, on a first come first served basis. Ticket price? €4!

Here we have a prime establishment, which certainly could be making a lot more money by filling the space up with chairs, offering tickets at €4 apiece. Talk about social inclusion.
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Stehplatz rows in the foreground, Vienna Opera House

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The Vienna Opera House might be losing money in the ticket box, but they are also getting good PR through the people now able to attend something they otherwise never would. From tourists, crashing in at the last minutes, being amazed by the performance, sharing pictures on social media, contributing to the fame and hype. Social inclusion, the “doing good”, is likely to bring financial revenue to the Opera House in the long term.

I can easily see this applied to the Allianz Parque. The creation of a popular section – and why not through the Stehplatz concept, getting rid of those gaping holes through easy-to-assemble, removable standing grids – where the less fortunate, and tourists, or anyone really, can either buy in advance or cue up on the day to have the true Familia Palmeiras experience.

After all, if we are family, we must care for one another. Strengthening Palmeiras and the “Palmeiras brand” in the process.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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There’s hardly anything more linked to a football club than its jersey. Supporters wear it proudly, crest over heart, many considering it a second skin. As such, a jersey is a natural gift and object of desire.

Palmeiras have always been rock ‘n’ roll. No coincidence the 101th anniversary was set to AC/DC. And with big names in town, it’s inevitable jerseys swap hands.

Legendary Swedish death metal band At The Gates ended a long Latin America tour in São Paulo earlier this months, receiving a tailored Palmeiras jersey – the initiative originating from fans and the Academia Store in Tatuapé.
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Lead singer Tomas Lindberg, At The Gates

Lead singer Tomas Lindberg, At The Gates.

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Mike Patton, front man of Faith No More, is a Palmeiras fan since the 90ies. “I love this club and the culprits for this are Igor and Max Cavalera [original band members of Brazilian class act Sepultura]. Words fail me, I am very thankful for this present.” he exclaimed upon receiving a jersey, handed over by Palmeiras’ marketing department last Thursday in São Paulo – one of the stops on the band’s Brazil tour.
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No need to be a rock star though: this week, Italian General Consul to São Paulo, Mr Michele Pala, visited the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras. Joined by the Director for Italian Language Mr Augusto Bellon, the two diplomats met with president Paulo Nobre, learnt more about the club and its Italian roots, and each received a jersey.
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Earlier this year, in March, the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Mrs Jan O’Sullivan, received a signed Palmeiras jersey while visiting São Paulo during Saint Patrick’s Day. The Irish General Consul, Mrs Sharon Lennon, has been at the Allianz Parque on several occasions, rooting for the Verdão.
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left: Minister O'Sullivan; right Consul General Lennon and yours truly.

left: Minister O’Sullivan; right: Consul General Lennon and yours truly.

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You remember Kevin, the Celtic supporter who in 2012 was escorted out of the Pacaembu by the police, facing the rage of Corinthians supporters for wearing a Celtic top? This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin and his family for the first time, in Edinburgh, Scotland. With the collaboration of Palmeiras, I could personally hand him a jersey, signed by the squad, and also a jersey for his son Oscar. Kevin, who wants to become an Avanti supporter but for the moment is held back by not possessing the compulsory CPF identity card (it is for Brazilian citizens only), has framed the jersey and hung it on his wall.
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And that is Palmeiras and the palmeirenses – through acts large and small – winning hearts and minds, making friends all over the globe.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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ps. Have you graced someone “famous” with a Palmeiras jersey? Got pictures? If yes, you’re more than welcome to submit your story (in English or Portuguese), sending it to anything.palmeiras (at) gmail.com

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TV Palmeiras
– the youtube channel – last week reached 300.000 subscribers, making it the 8th largest in the world and the only non-European football channel to reach the milestone. With more than 18 million views, it has rapidly become a prime source of information for Palmeiras supporters.

Yesterday, Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme Avanti reached the 110.000 mark, making it the 9th largest. Recently overtaking Internazionale and Manchester United, the next “victim” is Borussia Dortmund with roughly 120.000 members. 

“The Avanti is the primary reason behind our growing investments in football. The more members we have, the stronger Palmeiras become”, club president Paulo Nobre explains. Seems like the supporters are buying the argument: in Brazil, Palmeiras are second only to Internacional, the gaucho side computing some 130.000 members. If Avanti maintains the pace, it’s just a matter of time.

Not only the supporter programme boosts revenues: turnout at home games have generated impressive profit for the club so far in 2015. Palmeiras’ net revenue from the group stage of the Paulista championship totalled R$11.251.787, compared to the R$10.564.009 the other seven teams going through to the knockout phase managed to collect. Yes, that’s right: Palmeiras ALONE netted more than the other seven TOGETHER – some US$5 million. 

Palmeiras might be making big bucks, don’t think for a second it means entering spending mode. Valdivia can tell you more. The midfielder is unhappy with the current proposal for contract renovation, where Palmeiras offer a fixed salary roughly a third of his current, compensating with hefty sums each time he enters the pitch. Valdivia probably feels he is being punished for getting injured a lot. Palmeiras certainly feel they might finally get their money’s worth out of the player. With Mattos in the driver’s seat, we can assume the breaking point has been well defined and that Palmeiras won’t budge. Which is excellent.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Yesterday, close to midnight, Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme Avanti reached the milestone of 100.000 members. This morning, club football manager Alexandre Mattos celebrated the feat, laying out the success behind the impressive growth of the programme before a large group of journalists. Mattos did however have some initial difficulties in exposing the importance of the programme in terms of revenues, self-esteem and visibility for Palmeiras: the journalists were more interested to hear about Valdivia and the ongoing negotiations regarding renovation of the Chilean midfielder’s contract. Mattos mainly sidestepped the question, saying that negotiations were underway, that there wasn’t much to report on, that it was a priority to have Valdivia back on the pitch as soon as possible and that Palmeiras – the institution – was working as a collective, where every piece is important but no piece is larger than the institution itself or irreplaceable. Several journalists insisted, up to the point that Palmeiras’ press office stepped in and said Mattos would answer no more questions about Valdivia at this point.
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What has reached Anything Palmeiras is that negotiations between the club and Valdivia are tough: Mattos feels the player’s fixed salary must be considerably lower (obviously due to the athlete’s high injury rate), compensating that with productivity-related revenues. Mattos reportedly also seeks to secure Valdivia’s presence at Palmeiras, perhaps by including clauses that would limit the player’s coming and going to the Chilean national squad’s training camps and friendlies.

Spotlights used at this morning’s press conference were still cooling down when Valdivia fired away on twitter, claiming he needed to “tell his version”. He complained that scheduled meetings to discuss his renovation had been cancelled, that no one had told him a new contract would be productivity-related, and that the productivity model anyway needed to be revised because otherwise he feared Palmeiras would suffer like in the previous year. He continued stating he would never play for another club in Brazil and that he was eternally grateful for Palmeiras, but if it was time to leave, he would be leaving through the front door. And finalized: “Never have I positioned myself above Palmeiras, Mr. Mattos. With all your experience, it’s easier for you to call me up for a conversation”.

Valdivia is being Valdivia: self-centred, impulsive, and childish. As the other day, when he published a picture of a coffee cup with a Rio de Janeiro motif in the midst of speculations regarding a possible interest from Flamengo. That’s Valdivia. No news there. The question is: is there space for this kind of attitude in “Team Mattos”? I would say there is not. I would say Valdivia’s days at Palmeiras are numbered and that what we saw today, was a prelude to a farewell.

*UPDATE – while these lines were written, Valdivia posted a formal communication, saying he doesn’t want war, appologising to Mattos and reassuring everybody that he wants to extend his contract with Palmeiras. Mattos this afternoon met briefly with Valdivia’s father, giving continuity to negotiations.

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tacasavoiaExactly 100 years ago, on 24 January 1915, Palmeiras – at that time of course known as Palestra Italia – played their first official game of football: Sport Club Savoia were the opponent at the Campo do Castelão and Palestra Italia won 2-0 after goals from Bianco and Alegretti. The date not only marks Palmeiras’ debut on the pitch and the club’s first victory, but also the first trophy: the winner of the clash was awarded the “Taça Savoia”.

futmelhor24 January 2015 will be remembered for a much lesser but still important event: Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme Avanti reaching 80.000 members and overtaking Grêmio’s position as the second largest after Internacional of Porto Alegre. With more than 16.000 new members only in January, the Avanti is continuously showing remarkable progress, no doubt fuelled by optimism due to the perceived strength of the squad and the attraction that is the Allianz Parque. As the programme grows, so does Palmeiras’ revenues: at current scenario, the Avanti should bring in some US$ 7.5 million to the club this year.

However, a word of caution: numbers can and most likely will fluctuate rather heavily as it only takes one missed monthly instalment for a member to drop out of the statistics. If Palmeiras fairs badly; if prices of the membership programme suffer adjustments (which they will, as they have been stale since 2013); if Brazil’s economy worsens… all these factors and many more can lead supporters to drop out – temporarily or permanently.  

That being said: a few months ago, the top duo from Porto Alegre looked sovereign. Today, only Inter and some 50.000 members stand between Palmeiras and the top position.  

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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While yesterday’s post was still hot off the presses, Palmeiras confirmed the signing of centre-back Victor Ramos. The player, currently at Monterrey (Mexico) will undergo medical exams before joining the squad, as a loan, until the end of 2015. At Palmeiras, the 25-year-old will face competition from Wellington, Thiago Martins, Gabriel Dias, Tobio, Nathan and Vitor Hugo.

Today, Palmeiras kept the amazing pace, with two more players set to join and raising speculations that the club struck oil at the recently rebuilt Allianz Parque multi-purpose arena:

Alan_PatrickAlan Patrick – the offensive midfielder started his career at Santos, in the same batch that brought us Neymar and Ganso. His economic rights belong to Shaktar Donetsk of Ukraine, although he played last season for Internacional of Porto Alegre. Passing medical exams, he will join the squad – either on loan or as a purchase. To be confirmed.

kelvinKelvin – the 21-year-old forward comes as a loan from Porto (Portugal) until the end of the year. In Brazil, Kelvin only played for Paraná before his early transfer to Europe. At Porto he made history by scoring the decisive goal against Benfica in the game that gave Porto the 2013 championship title. Kevin is fast and works his magic predominantly on the right flank: it’ll be interesting pairing him up with Dudu up front, with Valdivia (or Robinho) and Zé Roberto feeding them balls to work on.

Reportedly, Palmeiras are also negotiating with centre-back Jackson, belonging to Internacional but who played for Goiás last season. Palmeiras and Jackson have agreed on terms and apparently Inter, this afternoon, gave the deal – a one-year loan – its blessing. Stay tuned.

Finalizing, there’s Aranha. The competent Santos keeper yesterday followed Arouca’s example, seeking to be released from his contract due to unpaid wages. Likely destination? You got it.

With all this activity, no wonder Palmeiras’ membership programme AVANTI has skyrocketed: today, Palmeiras passed both Corinthians and Cruzeiro. With some 68.000 members and counting – more than a thousand 2370 new members only today – Palmeiras now has the third largest supporter programme, trailing only the two largest clubs from Porto Alegre: Grêmio (80K) and Internacional (128K).

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Jack Bauer’s sitting this one out. After all, it’s a domestic affair. In exactly 24 hours, Palmeiras are returning home. The opening game, against Sport, will be a feast for the eyes. For the soul. Not an empty seat in the Allianz Parque. The squad will be wearing a special jersey, with the well-known Brazilian phrase “o bom filho a casa torna” (the good son returns home) circling the badge. A light cannon, projecting the Italian tricolore in homage of the club’s origins, will be announcing – tomorrow and every time from now on – when Palmeiras are on the pitch.
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Tickets were made available firstly based on Avanti rating, secondly based on the level of Avanti, and then released to club members. Most were sold online, but some also physically. Some people waited as long as 7-8 hours in line in order to guarantee their seat at the event of the year.

But it’s not all roses. Far from it. After Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to São Paulo, Palmeiras need the three points desperately. The inauguration of the Allianz Parque will be forever remembered either as the game that propelled Palmeiras out of harms’ way, or as one of the most humiliating moments in the club’s history. No telling how our youngish squad will handle the pressure, especially without the reference of experienced Valdivia on the pitch: the Chilean is on tonight for his national team in a friendly against Uruguay. It was speculated that he would take a flight straight to São Paulo after the game, being available against Sport in case Dorival needed to pull an ace out of the sleeve in the second half. No such luck: the list just came out and our playmaker is not on it.

No, this did not turn out the way it was planned. Or rather: this is what you get when planning is lacking.

39.000 at the Allianz Parque must be one tomorrow. 15 million supporters idem. Harsh words, but tomorrow is not about celebration, not about gaping in awe at South Americas’ most modern multipurpose stadium. It’s about carrying eleven men towards victory at absolutely any cost.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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