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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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Palmeiras are little by little unloading dead weight in the squad. Midfielder Régis never progressed and has been returned to Sport. Today, fullback Leandro Almeida signed with Internacional, on loan, for the rest of the season. Every palmeirense jumping with joy, no irony.

tobioThe future of Fernando Tobio remains uncertain. In 2015, after losing space in the squad and facing personal issues, Tobio made clear his desire to leave, more or less forcing a transfer to Boca Juniors. His time now up at the Argentine club, Boca initially announced they would not evoke their right to purchase. As a return to Palmeiras was practically ruled out, negotiations with Flamengo started. Yesterday the Rio de Janeiro club announced they had instead opted for Réver, from Internacional. This explains [sic] why Inter went after Leandro Almeida. Full circle, with Tobio as bystander and his contract with Palmeiras running until end of 2019. However, rumours yesterday claim Boca have changed their mind and are signing Tobio for three years, liberating him from Palmeiras at a US$ 2,7 million price tag.

The supposedly promising Chilean midfielder Arancibia, by some dubbed “the new Valdivia”, did not see his contract renewed with Palmeiras. Youth division manager Sampaio says there has been an accelerated development among players competing for the same position, like Arthur and Kauê, making Arancibia superfluous. The Chilean arrived at Palmeiras in April 2015, suffered a series of injuries and never caused much of an impression.

Midfielder Arouca had an arthroscopy last week, treating a minor knee condition. Expectations are for a speedy recovery. Check out his message to fans on social media, with a picture of him undergoing the procedure.

Alecsandro-3Palmeiras yesterday confirmed that a urine sample from striker Alecsandro, collected on 3 April after the 1-0 victory against Corinthians for the São Paulo championship, tested positive for steroids. A second test will be conducted early next week. More info to follow.

Palmeiras finished the U17 World Club championship as runner-up to Real Madrid, the title being decided in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw at full time. Our young players were very close to the title, conceding the draw only a few minutes from stoppage time. Nevertheless, a splendid campaign, showing Palmeiras’ relatively recent investments in the youth divisions are paying off.
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The organised supporter group Mancha Verde has announced it is expelling nine members, identified as participants in last Sunday’s violent outbreak at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia, where Palmeiras beat Flamengo 1-2. The Mancha also say they will cooperate with the police. Both these acts are nothing short of a mini-revolution if considering the organisation’s track record. Let us hope this is the beginning of a new Mancha Verde.

Also Palmeiras are cooperating with the police, having identified 17 of the troublemakers as Avanti members and excluded them from the supporter programme. In addition, Palmeiras are studying the possibility to take these supporters to court for “dishonouring the name of the club” and possibly inflicting punishment on Palmeiras from authorities.

The strained relationship between Palmeiras and Allianz Parque constructor/manager WTorre reached new heights as the “partner” announced Palmeiras would not have access to the stadium on yet another home game, as on that date it would be used for a screening of the movie “Independence Day: Resurgence”.

The contract between Palmeiras and WTorre is a very sad piece of work: Palmeiras have no means of vetoing dates and events as long as WTorre pays a specific fine (which, by the way, the construction company has failed to do). Still, frustration felt by Palmeiras supporters have been somewhat “under control” due to class acts like Iron Maiden, Katy Perry and Paul McCartney being the cause for Palmeiras having to play elsewhere. Now, expel Palmeiras in order to promote a movie screening?! Supporters went nuts when they learnt about this and within hours, campaigns were drawn up to put pressure on the organisers. The protests soon escalated to a promise: go through with the plans, and we will sabotage your event, making more noise around and inside the stadium than you could possibly imagine.

I am absolutely convinced our supporters would have won this tug-a-war, but we will never know: the Brazilian Football Federation accepted Palmeiras’ request and anticipated the date of the game, avoiding a clash.

Now, that was yesterday. Today supporters learnt that yet another event is planned, exactly on the date Palmeiras would receive Santos, this time in order to conduct a religious service on the premises. The “ThereWillBeNoSceening” hashtag was quickly replaced with a “ThereWillBeNoService” equivalent, climbing the ranks in no time. The message seems clear enough: no third party event at the Allianz Parque will be peaceful unless conceived in harmony with Palmeiras and Palmeiras’ supporters.

As you notice, a week full of excitement, the major one still ahead of us: Sunday’s derby. Why not raise the adrenaline level a notch or two? It is easy to place a bet, you know…

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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wolvesA goalless draw yesterday against Oeste, and pressure is again on the rise. Coach Oliveira agrees that Palmeiras are not performing as expected. That’s rather obvious, but it’s still good that he acknowledges it, as acknowledging is the first step towards correcting. Not that we should be worried, not yet at least: in my book, Oliveira has plenty of credit. Nevertheless, the wolves have started moving about and this year, Oliveira has no excuse falling back on: the squad is basically last year’s with a few additions; he knows the players well; training conditions are top notch; salaries paid on time. He has to make it work.

Palmeiras’ focus now is on next Tuesday’s Libertadores debut, away, against River Plate of Uruguay. Hence, a mixed team is expected against Linense on Saturday. This will be the season’s first game at the Allianz Parque, and more than 15K tickets have been sold already. Midfielder Moisés is expected to make his debut, which is something to look forward to: he made a good impression participating in the pre-seasonal mini-tournament in Uruguay last month.

The Allianz Parque has been equipped with new grass. It’s actually the same sort of grass, but apparently with better roots and in a shape that permits easy swapping of patches, if needed. WTorre claims having invested R$ 1 million (US$ 250K) in getting the new pitch ready. Let’s hope this time it holds up – last year was a disgrace. We can’t have Palmeiras playing home games at other venues while the Allianz Parque grass recovers after a show.

Speaking of WTorre, our “partner” seems to be in trouble not only with Palmeiras, but also with all other partners and subcontractors in sight. Lagging payments, unexecuted services… There are plenty of lawsuits piling up against WTorre, all linked to the Allianz Parque and how it’s run.

Now Palmeiras’ official stores, part of the “Academia Store” franchising model, are doing very well, thank you very much. Currently with 23 establishments – all located in the state of São Paulo except for one unit, in the state of Paraná – the franchise recently celebrated three years of operations. Another 14 units are expected to open in 2016.

Anything Palmeiras was featured in two interviews recently, one in Portuguese and one in English. They turned out rather well, if you ask me. Below, the links, in case you’re interested.

Esporte Final (on the “Lance!” web portal) and BettingRunner.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Alberto Valentim led Palmeiras to a tight 2-1 victory against Fluminense in his first and only game as interim coach at Palmeiras post Oswaldo de Oliveira: yesterday, Marcelo Oliveira was presented as new coach, contract until end of 2016, and has already conducted two training sessions.

lucas_barriosToday, on facebook and twitter, Paraguayan national team striker Lucas Barrios (right), aged 30, announced he will fly Palmeiras’ colours as soon as the Copa das Américas finishes in July: great catch!

28-year-old Coritiba centre-back Leandro Almeida is expected to sign for Palmeiras any day now: the former captain of the team from Paraná has been on the Verdão’s wish list for some time, but Coritiba have refused to negotiate.

New coach, new striker, defender in the pipeline, everything is good except for the disgraceful state of the Allianz Parque pitch: WTorre and World Sports – the two responsible – released a joint statement on Monday, blaming the poor condition of the grass on the “excessive number of events”, without making any future predictions or commitments – pathetic.

From Sweden, with love.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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One of the worst features of Brazilian society – and consequently reflected in Brazilian football – is the lack of predictability. Rules changes constantly. And when they don’t, the share number of them and their fuzziness lead to uncertainty. In addition, there’s a chronic disregard for rules, in part due to a lack of harmonization of existing ones. Any businessman will tell you about state and federal rules that are incompatible: follow one and, automatically, break the other.

Every so often, rules of the Brazilian championship, the Brazil cup or, especially, any of the state championships change. A little more than a decade ago, this was an effective measure to ensure that the “right” clubs were kept in the competition: if any of the major clubs are relegated, change the name of the competition and tweak a rule or two, then invite them right back in.

The lack of predictability at club level is symptomatic, Palmeiras being no exception. Lately, most of the turbulence has been generated around the Allianz Parque, now 97% completed. It’s of course normal with constructions suffering delays, but it will be almost five years before we see the Allianz Parque completed. Now, once an opening date is picked, you’d better be damn sure nothing will get in your way. The massive expectations surrounding the game against Atlético Mineiro last Saturday – turned to dust by the lack of a complete set of operating licenses – was another indicator of how desperately Palmeiras need directors who can trace an objective and execute, step by step, in an orderly fashion. Blame the constructor WTorre if you want, it doesn’t matter: ultimately, it’s the Palmeiras supporter who takes the wrap. Being so, the responsibility is Palmeiras’.
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Pretty, yes. But unfinished. And wrongly timed.

Pretty, yes. But unfinished. And wrongly timed.

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Same logic applies to the recent removal of rows of seats and the hastily erected dividing structures – both measures imposed by the police to increase partition between home and away supporters – taking away an astonishing 4.000 seats, almost ten per cent of the total capacity of the stadium, in addition to creating blind spots. How come this was not foreseen? WTorre is clearly not delivering, but Palmeiras have not done their homework either. Where’s all the talk about “FIFA standards” now?

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New problems pop up on a daily basis. Palmeiras supporters have been questioning for months why no institutional symbols are to be found on the outside walls of the stadium, as featured on all drawings and models presented by WTorre throughout the years. Only today, an explanation was offered: the size of the Palmeiras badge – or any other badge for that matter – violates municipal laws, falling under the city of São Paulo “visual pollution” act. Couldn’t this have been solved through the obtaining of an exception? Shouldn’t have to take four years and a bit, should it?

With so many problems arising, attention is effectively diverted from the celebration that the inauguration of the Allianz Parque deserves. The problem is further aggravated by a sudden change in the rating of the Avanti supporter programme, a rating that is crucial in determining who will have ticket priority ahead of big games; the Allianz Parque opening game against Sport on 19 October obviously being one of these. It’s almost criminal.

I say drop the whole thing, use the stadium for shows and whatever, but have Palmeiras use it only as of 2015.

Last Saturday, Palmeiras lost 2-0 at home to the Atlético Mineiro bench. With five rounds to go, Palmeiras are no more than five point above the relegation zone. That’s where our focus should be. Starting with Sunday’s derby against The Eternal Enemy SPFC.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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ArenaOct.
Torturous months, well years, are coming to an end. Yesterday, it was confirmed that 10.000 spectators will have the privilege to assist the first game to be played at the Allianz Parque – a veteran’s game in homage of “the Divine” Ademir da Guia. The match, taking place on Saturday 25 October, is the second test event out of three; the first event was a movie screening for a selected audience of 3.000 in late September.

Palmeiras and WTorre seem to be on speaking terms again, probably in a mutual understanding that the various pending issues regarding the contract – most importantly the right to commercialise seats – mustn’t hinder South America’s most modern multipurpose arena being put to good use as soon as possible. Last Monday, vice-president of the CBF, Mr Marco Polo del Nero, visited the Arena, for three hours, in the company of Walter Torre and Paulo Nobre. I can’t remember the last time I saw these two gentlemen together. A good sign.

Friendly games in all honour: when will Allianz Parque experience live ammo for the first time? Everything points toward 9 November, the date Palmeiras receive Atlético Mineiro for the 33th round of the Brasileirão. If – and that’s a big if – a third test event can be arranged before the 9 November, the Allianz Parque will be allowed to operate at full capacity when Palmeiras play Atlético: some 43.000 supporters. It’s speculated a training session – with 30.000 supporters on the stands – could be that third event. If no such event is carried out, only 30.000 supporters could be allowed in for the opener against Atlético. Not ideal, of course. Not bad either, but not ideal. Fingers crossed.

In any case, the stadium is 97% concluded and will be 100% ready when SIR PAUL McCARTNEY steps into the spotlights on 25 November, as now officially confirmed.
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Of course Sir Paul has chosen the Allianz Parque as his venue. The permanent technologic installations alone are worth some US$ 20 million. That includes 500 wi-fi antennas providing free internet access to spectators and the two jumbotrons, where interaction with the audience will take place much like in the NFL. In addition, expect regular TV screens in every corridor and corner – some 700 in total – allowing fans to watch the game when standing in line or executing some other fundamentally important biological function.

ArenaOctNightAllianz Parque is not only modern, but stunningly beautiful. Aerial shots at night, like the one to your right (by Dan Albuquerque), gives you an idea. Recently, the stadium won two categories in the prestigious “Corporate Architecture Awards”, one of the most important of its kind in Latin America. No wonder WTorre has already closed deals on 75 out of the 80 available VIP cabins, their annual renting fee coming at US$80K-210K a piece.

Did we mention the acoustic experience, expected to turn the Allianz Parque into a cauldron of Bombonera magnitude?

You might be asking yourself, who will run this flagship? None other than Susan Darrington, former vice-president of the CenturyLink Field, the largest stadium in Seattle, USA.

susan_darringtonCenturyLink Field is the home of current NFL champions Seattle Seahawks. It’s also where the Sounders receive an average 44.000 spectators a game in the Major League Soccer. The arena hosts a whopping 300 events per year – large and small – and 1.5 million visitors. For ten years, Canadian-born Mrs Darrington was one of the responsible for managing the CenturyLink Field. And it’s this experience she is now deploying as General Manager at the Allianz Parque. Yes, deploying, as in present time: Mrs Darrington is working for AEG – the company contracted by WTorre to run the Arena for the coming ten years – and has been in São Paulo since the beginning of 2014. Together with Director of Operations Raj Saha (with the Madison Square Garden on his CV) and the two Brazilian executives Felipe Soalheiro and Pedro Machado, she has the mission to transform the Allianz Parque into the main multipurpose arena in the country. The aim: attract same number of events as the CenturyLink Field.

Palmeirenses should keep in mind that the club is entitled to 20% of net revenues from “non-football” events during the first five years of the contract with WTorre (all revenues from games are Palmeiras’). The club’s share of these external revenues increases by 5% every five years, meaning Palmeiras will be entitled to 50% of net revenues during the last five years of the contract. When the contract expires, in 30 years’ time, all revenues will go to Palmeiras.

Just like a good wine, for Palmeiras, the Allianz Parque will get better and better year by year. Talk about a bright future!

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Amsterdam Arena_3.
With Palmeiras’ 100th birthday at D-55, no effort should be spared in trying to get our new home ready in time.

An important component was stuck in customs for quite some time, but has finally arrived at the arena in eight, large containers: the “Stadium Grow Lighting” system consisting of six MU160 MU360 units and two MU50 units (below, you see the technology in operation at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium), designed to provide superior conditions for natural grass to grow strong. Dutch company SGL is the market leader in this segment, contributing to perfect pitches in more than 140 stadiums all over the world. This particular piece of equipment was imported by World Sports, contracted by WTorre to handle the pitch. Planting of the grass is expected to initiate early next week and the first trim should happen some 30-40 days later. Thus, we’re talking playing conditions maybe second, more likely third week of August. And that’s a best case scenario.
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Real Madrid / Stadion Beleuchtung.
The Allianz Parque itself is more than 90% complete. Retractable chairs are being fixed to the metallic rails, some 20.000 seats already in place. At the very upper part of the stands, partially overlapping large plates allow for air to circulate while at the same time confining noise, promising to turn the stadium into an intimidating place for visiting teams. The two 103 square meter LCD screens are up. There are wifi antennas everywhere. Many of the security cameras are also up and ready, and VIP boxes have received their windows facing the pitch.

WTorre is also involved in the execution of several changes to the area surrounding the stadium, allowing for greater mobility both for visitors and residents. Additional improvement have a longer timescale: the Brazilian development bank BNDES recently approved some US$ 2 billion for the construction of a new Metro line in São Paulo, a line that includes a stop very close to the Allianz Parque. Unless there are delays, the line will be ready by 2020.

There’s no telling if the Allianz Parque will stand ready in late August. WTorre has promised it will, again and again.

Not only Palmeiras are eager to see the stadium ready; other sporting events are lining up, the Italian Supercup being one of them. The competition consists of a single game between the Italian national champion (Juventus) and the Italian Cup champion (Napoli). On six previous occasions the Supercup final has taken place outside of Italy: 1993 in Washington DC, 2002 in Tripoli, 2003 in New Jersey, and 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Beijing. And 2014 in São Paulo – at Allianz Parque – if this group of investors are successful in promoting their idea. 23 December. Save the date. At least, out of precaution.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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