Brazilian and FIFA top people engage in debates at Play the Game 2013

For the first time ever, FIFA is sending a representative to speak at a Play the Game conference. Communications director, Walter de Gregorio also participated at Play the Game 2011, but this time he will be on stage discussing the FIFA reform process. Photo: Tine Harden/Play the Game


Brazil’s Deputy Minister of Sport Luis Fernandes is ready to debate with critics of the country’s mega-events this Thursday at Play the Game 2013.

The challenges for a huge nation struggling to consolidate its democracy while hosting some of the world’s most demanding and expensive global events have become very visible in Brazil within the past years.

Mass demonstrations against corruption, targeting not only domestic issues, but also FIFA and the World Cup. Harsh words from FIFA’s top administrator against the host country because of delays. Long-lasting debacles over prohibition of beer sale on World Cup stadia. The Rio mayor saying it is a shame that his city must host the Olympics.

And this week a surprising legal action against FIFA from Brazil’s public prosecutors who want more than 100 million US-dollars reimbursed for temporary structures at stadia for the Confederations Cup.

The popular and political turbulence may set a new benchmark for such events: A benchmark by which nations have open discussions about the events already in the bidding process, and by which the big sports organisations show much more concern with democratic and social legacy of their billion-dollar events.

At a gathering of sports ministers from all over the world this year in Berlin (MINEPS V), Brazil suggested that standard procedures for bidding for events are introduced worldwide.

This and many other challenges will most likely be discussed when top executives from Brazil arrive at Play the Game 2013 to discuss with some of their critics on Thursday 31st October in the morning in Aarhus, Denmark.

One of Brazil’s leading sports political observers, professor Katia Rubio from University of São Paulo, will join British investigative reporter Andrew Jennings in raising some of the difficult questions.

The organisers of Play the Game 2013 have warm words of appraisal for the Brazilian authorities who send two leading representatives:  Brazil’s Deputy Minister of Sport, Luis Fernandes, appointed especially by President Dilma Rousseff to oversee World Cup preparations, is announced to come along with the head of communication for the Local Organising Committee of the World Cup 2014, Saint-Clair Milesi.

“It is a worthy example of true democratic spirits when high ranking public officials make the effort of travelling halfway across the globe in order to engage in a difficult debate that is not designed with a guarantee of bringing them applause. This is a model behavior that international federations – who all subscribe to democracy in theory – could learn a lot from,” says Play the Game’s international director Jens Sejer Andersen, who look forward to an enriching debate.

FIFA speech for the first time in Play the Game history
In fact, one of the international federations has decided to engage for the first time in a Play the Game debate: after rejecting invitations from all seven previous Play the Game conferences since 1997, FIFA now sends its communications director Walter de Gregorio to a debate about the FIFA reform process.

This debate takes place Wednesday 30th October in the morning and will be no walk-over for de Gregorio who will outline FIFA’s progress in a debate with two leading governance experts. One is no less than the chairperson of FIFA’s own Independent Governance Committee, the Swiss professor Mark Pieth, who recently announced his departure from this position at the end of the year, hinting that FIFA is not really willing to make thorough reform.

Another opponent is even more skeptical: the American professor Roger Pielke has seriously questioned the results of the reform process in articles on Play the Game’s website, and in Aarhus Pielke will put forward the documentation behind his analysis.

You can still register for Play the Game 2013 – either for the whole conference or individual days – at the conference website.

The mentioned conference sessions will also be live-streamed and at a later stage available via video-on-demand.

Download the final conference programme here

Read more about the conference at

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