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The Paulistão 2018 final initiated a backstage war between Palmeiras and the São Paulo Football Federation (FPF) still far from its end.

In short, the sequence of events includes Palmeiras issuing a note, announcing the break with the Federation; the release of a video, showing the external influence in the game against Corinthians; and the club’s request for a formal investigation at the São Paulo Court of Justice for Sports (TJD-SP). The FPF responded by returning the box at the Federation’s disposal at the Allianz Parque.

For considerable time, Palmeiras supporters have demanded a firmer position from the Club concerning the frequent referee errors. Thus, in this case, they stand united, backing all decisions so far taken by the directors, including the no-show at SporTV’s Segunda Campeã after the game against Botafogo. On social media, it is common to see supporters advocating that the club do not dispute the 2019 São Paulo state Championship, or alternatively, line-up nothing but the U20 squad.

Opting out of the Paulistão would not be an easy decision. Even though most state championships are experiencing nothing short of a crisis, the São Paulo edition brings significant revenues to the clubs. Let us have a look at the numbers for 2018.

Broadcasting rights
The broadcasting rights of the Paulistão carry the highest price tag among all the state championships. In 2018, Rede Globo, through the PFP, distributed R$20 million to each of the big four (Palmeiras, Corinthians, São Paulo and, oh well, Santos) in the state.

Although the contract between the broadcaster and the Federation has never been disclosed in its entirety, it is considered “common knowledge” that clubs must play the championship with their main squad to receive their share.

Six of Palmeiras’ games were broadcasted on free-to-air television. In total, these games reached 187 rating points, as measured by IBOPE, corresponding to 13.4 million televisions tuned in. No Palmeiras sponsor would like give up such expressive brand exposure.
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Rating points, Palmeiras games on free-to-air television

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Ticketing
Palmeiras had nine home games in the Paulistão 2018: eight at the Allianz Parque and one at the Pacaembu (semi-final against Santos). The Verdão headed both attendance and revenue rankings, with an average 31.399 supporters per game and a gross ticketing income of R$18 million and a net income of R$ 11.5 million.
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Palmeiras gross ticketing revenues, Paulistão 2018

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Prize money
The Paulistão hands out the biggest prize among the state championships: R$5 million to the champions and R$1.6 million to the runners-up (Palmeiras, in this case).

Adding up the numbers
Palmeiras’ net revenues from this year’s edition of the Paulistão, comprised of broadcasting rights, ticketing and prize money, surpasses R$ 33 million. This corresponds to roughly 5% of Palmeiras’ annual gross income and would pay a full month’s worth of expenses generated by the club’s professional football department. Not at all negligible.

If opting out of the Paulistão, part of the revenues could be recovered through a pre-season tour, adding to the ticketing of the U20 team competing in the state championship. Still, Palmeiras would hardly reach the R$33 million mark.

What about the Federation?
From the Paulistão, the FPF receives 7% of gross ticketing revenues from the big 4 and 6% from the other 12 participating clubs. This arrangement brought the Federation a total of R$ 3.3 million this year. In the chart below, we can see that a whopping 38% of these revenues originate from Palmeiras; it would certainly be a hard blow to the Federation should it lose its primary source of ticketing income.
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FPF ticketing revenues, 2018 São Paulo State championship

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Furthermore, add to this the damage to the Federation’s reputation, potentially reducing the value sponsors are willing to pay for the Paulistão. One of the biggest teams refusing to play the championship is not a minor issue and should not be underestimated. Palmeiras’ refusal could signal the beginning of the end of the Federation, as we know it today.

The hearing that took place last Tuesday is a clear indicator that Palmeiras are not bluffing. The club wishes to bring the truth out. The Federation should prepare for acknowledging its errors and aid in the quest for transparency. We have seen nothing of the sort so far and, to be frank, odds are small, very small.

With the backing of their supporters, Palmeiras are in a position to play hardball. Stay tuned.

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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Within days of the scandalous Paulistão final against Corinthians, Palmeiras were in possession of video footage showing Director of Refereeing of the São Paulo Football Federation (FPF) twice approaching one of the assistant referees by the sideline. This takes place while the main referee is on the pitch, trying to put into effect his decision to award Palmeiras a penalty. Shortly after, as we all now, the referee changed his ruling.

According to regulations, the Director of Refereeing, in this case Mr. Dionísio Roberto Domingos, is not allowed to enter the grounds while a match is taking place, much less address any of the referees.

Based on the video and the initial, unconvincing statements from the involved, Palmeiras’ legal department last week filed a request for the initiation of an investigation at the São Paulo Court of Justice for Sports (TJD-SP). A first hearing took place Tuesday, lasting eight hours, with statements from the five referees, the Refereeing Supervisor and the Director of Refereeing – the individual Palmeiras accuse as pivotal in bringing about the external interference.
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From last Tuesday’s hearing at the TJD-SP (photo credits: Tossiro Neto)

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Palmeiras are going all in. So much, the club has reinforced its team with a renowned criminal lawyer, Mr. José Luis Oliveira Lima. In addition, Palmeiras have hired the services of Kroll, one of the largest private investigation companies in the world, with headquarters in the USA and branches in some 30 countries, including Brazil. Though neither Palmeiras nor Kroll will comment, at least two Kroll representatives were present at the TJD hearing earlier this week, in addition to Mr Lima and Palmeiras’ regular lawyers. Kroll will present an independent analysis of events leading up to the reverted ruling on the pitch.

The TJD judge assigned to the case is expected to present his report by Monday 23rd April. Based on the report, a prosecutor and the Court president will then determine whether to put the case to the archives or de facto initiate proceeding, which could end up formally cancelling the final.

Mr. Lima spells it out. “Palmeiras want to lay out the truth of the matter. If that truth entails showing the Courts that there were external interference and that the match must be invalidated, then that is what Palmeiras will do. After all, it is in the regulations of the competition”.

On a side note, it has been gratifying to see how Palmeiras supporters have expressed their support for the club’s chosen route: not because of the Paulista title itself, but for the good of Brazilian football. However clear the evidence of external interference, the odds are not in Palmeiras’ favour and Palmeiras are likely to suffer direct and indirect consequences. Then again, there is the possibility that this is a turning point. That Palmeiras will act as a catalyst for substantial change. Hope never dies.

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Unfortunately, this match review is less about football and more about external interference that decided the final of Brazil’s most prestigious state championship.
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A giant mosaic covered the whole stadium (photo credits: Augusto Oazi)

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Backed by 41.227 supporters (new Allianz Parque attendance record), Palmeiras allowed Corinthians a start they wouldn’t even dream of: a goal to equalize the aggregated scorecard already in the first minute. Matheus Vital slipped through Marcos Rocha and Antônio Carlos to pass the ball behind to Rodriguinho; the shot would have been easily saved by Jailson had it not deflected off Victor Luiz.

After the early goal, the game evolved as expected, Palmeiras exercising superior ball possession but at large being blocked by Corinthians’ defensive line. The team in black and white basically parked the bus, waiting for that opportunity to counter-attack.

Palmeiras did not create that many opportunities during the game, but in the 26th minute of the second half, Dudu received a heavy challenge from Ralf inside the box and went down, well-positioned referee Marcelo Aparecido de Souza without hesitation awarding the penalty. Dudu took the ball and placed it on the 9-meter mark, but as the referee continued aggressively surrounded by Corinthians players, play did not resume. This went on for almost two minutes, de Souza fencing off Corinthians players and handing out a yellow card. Enough time for the fifth referee, who had been positioned at the other side of the pitch completely, jog over to the fourth referee, say something, and the fourth referee approach de Souza with what could only have been fresh info based on camera reviews: Ralf might have touched the ball before clipping Dudu, there might be room for interpretation, there might not have been a penalty. The referee looked ready to change his mind, now with all Palmeiras players ventilating their frustration. In vain, we learnt. The confusion lasted for a total of eight minutes, no penalty awarded, the external influence crucially changing the game’s outcome. Need I mention de Souza’s refereeing career was hanging on a thread there?

In the remaining 20 or so minutes, Palmeiras tried their best, coming close with a free kick just wide from Marcos Rocha and a header from Thiago Santos. Also Corinthians had an opportunity with Sidcley, driving the ball not far from Jailson’s left post.

In the penalty shootout that followed, our players were clearly frustrated, and more nervous than Corinthians’. Cássio saved the shots from Dudu and Lucas Lima, our first and third kickers respectively. Victor Luiz, Marcos Rocha and Moisés scored for Palmeiras. Corinthians missed only one penalty, the fourth, Fagner sending the ball to the stands. Below, a first video with the highlights, and a second, with the eight minutes culminating in the external interference.
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After the game, Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte did not spare his criticism. “Shameful” was the word, repeated over and over again. Galiotte informed no Palmeiras representative would be present at today’s closing ceremony of the championship at the Paulista Football Federation.

As palmeirenses and lovers of football, yours respectfully hope, with all sincerity, that president Galiotte and Palmeiras transform words into action, sparing no effort to protect the club and the sport against biased and harmful practices that stain Brazilian football at an accelerated pace. What happened yesterday is the mirroring of Brazil, where impunity reigns and the powerful do as they please. Overwhelming as the task may seem, we believe we speak for an absolute majority of Palmeiras supporters when we say we are ready, come what might. There needs to be change.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi and Kristian Bengtson

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With uncharacteristic speed, the Superior Brazilian Tribunal of Sports settled the “external interference” matter of last week. Not surprisingly, there will be no rematch, and the three points have been returned to Flamengo. However, it is surprising that the Tribunal did not even rule on the claim. The president of the entity simply archived the case, justifying his decision with “Lip reading is not proof of anything, and the inspector of refereeing says he did nothing wrong, so… Case closed”.

Case closed, ladies and gentlemen. No investigation, no ruling. Straight to the archives.

The signal is clear: external interference will be tolerated. A precedence has been set. A precedence that is destined to change dynamics on the pitch. In dubious situations, we will see players huddle the referee and simply not allow the game to restart until someone somewhere, with access to a replay, gives the players a thumbs up or down.

“But Flamengo won on the pitch and football should be decided on the pitch, not by a tribunal”, many argue, including quite a lot of sports journalists. I strongly disagree. Flamengo did not win on the pitch, Flamengo drew on the pitch. Flamengo drew, because the referees allowed an offside goal for the opponent – something not uncommon and “part of the game”. The draw only turned into a win for Flamengo due to the external interference; the illegal, off-pitch interference. Where is the justice in that?

The game has changed. Not for the better. And it is all self-inflicted. Congratulations to everyone involved.

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The round could not have shaped up any better for Palmeiras. Figueirense might be in the relegation zone, but are strong at their home grounds Orlando Scarpelli, where they lost only two games this season. Three games now.

Cuca surprised, placing rarely used Fabiano on the right flank, displacing Jean to the middle. Could have worked, but Figueirense populated the midfield with defensive players, effectively clogging things up. However, Palmeiras slowly learnt to master both the slippery surface and the spaces available on the flanks, creating chances in the last third of the first half. Virgin scorecard in halftime.

Palmeiras came out determined, applying pressure and creating several chances within the first minutes. At the seventh, Gabriel Jesus received an arm to his face as he went up heading a ball in the penalty area. Much confusion as the Figueira players applied Flamengo-style pressure on the referee, perhaps buying time in hope of an external interference. No such luck: while Gabriel Jesus received medical attention, Jean tucked the ball away, giving Palmeiras the lead.

Palmeiras continued dominating the game. The referee could have awarded Figuerense a penalty, as Egídio stupidly made contact with an opponent right on the divisor of the penalty area, but did not. Just as he did not reward Dudu with one in the first half, when our forward was taken down inside the area.

At 39 minutes, Gabriel Jesus broke free on the left flank and somehow got the ball into the middle, where a charging Jean found his second brace for the night. The three points seemed in the bag, but no: shortly after, Figuerense scored on a corner, Jaílson completely misjudging the trajectory of the ball. A few minutes of nervousness ended with the final whistle. Major victory.

Simultaneously, we palmeirenses had all been keeping an eye on Inter vs Flamengo and Botafogo vs Atlético. Both games swung back and forth, but ended with defeat for the two title contenders. With that, Palmeiras pulled ahead of Flamengo four points, and Atlético a whopping eight points.

— ooo —

Four points ahead of Flamengo, which today Tuesday, at least momentarily, turned into seven points. The Supreme Tribunal of Sports accepted Fluminense’s claim that their game against Flamengo – which originated the external interference scandal – should be subject to their ruling. As Fluminense are seeking a rematch, the points awarded Flamengo have been suspended, the two teams now featuring one game short compared to the rest. No one knows when the court will decides on the case. It can take weeks.

A special feature on Brazilian TV significantly strengthened Fluminense’s case last Sunday, analysing footage from the game. In the middle of the ruckus, with players from both teams pressuring the referee, a man in a suit, identified as the inspector of refereeing for the game, is seen talking to the referee – which is a violation in itself – lip synch experts affirming he says “TV showed it, TV showed the offside”.

External influence is such a severe breach of regulation, a rematch would be expected in any serious country. I leave it at that.

— ooo —

Palmeiras now switch attention to the Brazil Cup, where Grêmio await tomorrow Wednesday. Having lost the away leg 2-1, a simple 1-0 victory would see Palmeiras through to the semi-finals. That being said: Cuca will opt for sparing roughly half of his ordinary starting eleven, letting players like Moisés, Dudu, Roger Guedes, Edu Dracena and Yerry Mina rest ahead of the game against Sport on Sunday. No doubt the Brazilian Championship it the top priority. And I completely agree, although I believe Palmeiras have the quality and the manpower to win both titles this year.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

*photo by César Greco

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I am not even going to try. Sure, Palmeiras faced Chapecoense without three key players: Zé Roberto, Robinho, Thiago Santos. And the Santa Catarina side came boosted with moral after having advanced to the quarterfinals of the South America Cup earlier in the week. Not the ideal scenario for an away game. It got worse when we saw the line-up.

Coach Oliveira opted for Amaral besides Arouca and kept Egídio on the left flank. Egídio might have some offensive qualities (although these have been absent as of late) but his defensive qualities is non-existent. An open invitation to advance. Immediately explored. And when Arouca was injured halfway through the first half, our defensive lines fell apart completely.

What about Palmeiras’ strong offense? Dudu, Barrios, Gabriel Jesus and Rafael Marques were all there, but there was no midfield to talk about, no one exercising the playmaker. Again, coach Oliveira curiously opted for keeping both Allione and Fellype Gabriel out of the starting eleven, leaving it to Rafael Marques and Dudu to act out the roles of Robinho and Zé Roberto. No go.

All of the above is however not enough to explain the shamefully inflated score. Our men resigned. They should never. Never. Not only the squad needs an earful: also coach Oliveira must feel a bit of heat.

Now don’t think the absurdities stop there. The referee yesterday put on quite a show. After a duel between Egídio and Barbio, the former was shown a red card and sent off. Minutes later, in his earpiece, referee Jaílson Freitas received word from the fourth referee, trotted over to him and learnt that Egídio did not commit a foul, that he had won the ball cleanly in dispute with the Chapecoense forward. Result: Freitas overturned his decision and brought Egídio back from the locker room.

True, Egídio did not commit the foul, but that is irrelevant considering the much more important question: why did it take the fourth referee several minutes to get his ocular testimony through to referee Freitas? There is only one plausible explanation: the fourth referee did not actually see the Egídio vs. Barbio situation, but was informed about it by outsiders, by people with access to television replays. Obviously, a gigantic breach of FIFA regulations.

It has been discussed here before. The question of whether or not to adopt electronic/external aid for football referees is a necessary (and to a certain extent ongoing) debate, but any implementation of the sort must take place in the open, in full transparency and with FIFA authorization. The discussion [sic] that the 2012 handball incident stirred led absolutely nowhere. Don’t expect different in 2015.
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The Brazilian championship now takes a 10-days break as World Cup classifiers are played. This is bad news for Palmeiras supporters, who will have this last game glued to their retinas with nothing to replace it with. On the other hand, the break is a godsend for Marcelo Oliveira and the squad, who must take full advantage of the opportunity to reflect and correct. Nine rounds to go, Palmeiras in sixth with 45 points, one point from that Libertadores spot and with upcoming semi-finals in the Brazil Cup. No time for regrets.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The handball incident is certainly leaving its mark on Brazilian football and society, but unfortunately not in a very impressive way. One would perhaps think that the use of electronic aid to determine the outcome of a goal situation would raise serious questioning about the integrity of Brazilian referees, the role of the CBF, the rule of law. Rather the contrary, it seems.

Following Palmeiras’ formal protest with the Superior Tribunal for Sports (STJD) and the Tribunal’s decision (actually, standard procedure) to temporary “freeze” the points dealt to Internacional until presenting a ruling on the case, there’s been a moral outcry: Barcos and Palmeiras are being virtually crucified under the general understanding – and this by the man on the street as well as experienced and respected [sic] sports journalists – that justice was done when the goal was disallowed through external influence. Along the same lines, Barcos should be ashamed and should officially apologize. Palmeiras are desperate and playing a foul game, trying to direct the supporter’s frustration against external actors, i.e. the CBF and the STJD. By “seeking to validate an irregular goal” [sic], Palmeiras show just how low it is possible to sink, smudging the traditions of the club.

Journalists are voicing these “concerns” and others, being openly ironic and sarcastic, mocking Palmeiras on social media and elsewhere. Very few see the bigger picture. Or perhaps they deliberately choose not to?

One of the few who state the obvious is Alessandre Abate of the Lance! football magazine, arguing we live in a society of rules and regulations and that even if a replay clearly shows an irregularity, that replay can never be used to influence the sovereign decision of the referee in a game of football. The question of whether or not to adopt electronic/external aid for the football refs is a necessary debate, but any implementation of the sort must take place in the open, in full transparency and with FIFA authorization.

Palmeiras and palmeirenses are NOT outraged by the disallowance of a handball goal, but rather that the rules of the games suddenly “changed”, the referee allowing himself to rely on a reply to support his decision-making: a much more serious breach of regulations that the handgoal in itself and something that threatens opening up Pandora’s box if not properly dealt with by the CBF and the STJD.

In addition to the above, journalists are showing a blatant lack of consistency. Some excellent research done by Tania of the Clorofila blog exemplifies how handgoals – when committed by players from other teams and especially when playing for the Brazilian national team – have been subject to outright praise by the same journalists who now demand Barcos’ public apology.

I’m not endorsing conspiracy theories. I’m however sick and tired of the double-standards, hypocrisy and stupidity surrounding us. Equal treatment is all we wish for. Rule of law. Would that be asking too much?

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