Brazil’s Top Clubs Are Planning a Breakaway League

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Earlier this month, clubs listened to the speeches of local and foreign groups who wanted to take part in the new championship, which they believed could be worth multiples of their current value. Via a Zoom conversation, a group that includes billionaire Stephen Ross’s US-based sports entrepreneur Charlie Stillitano, affiliated with Relevent Sports, and Ricardo Fort, former sports marketing manager of Coca-Cola, came up with a plan that includes the sale of 20 percent of its shares. League of private equity interests for $1 billion.

The money would be used to clear huge debts some teams had incurred due to years of chronic mismanagement. Convened by Brazilian sports lawyer Flavio Zveiter, and also including former top executives from FIFA and ESPN, the group discussed how Brazilian teams should follow the Premier League example. A spin-off formed by leading English teams in 1992, this league is now the most popular domestic championship in the world.

“We looked and thought, It’s a moon view,” Stillitano said. “The more I looked at it, the more I said, ‘If you do this right, remove this, you’re talking about an incredible opportunity.” The group even called Rick Parry, the Premier League’s first CEO, to explain what needed to be done.

Of course, not all the diseases of Brazilian football can come to the door of the Brazilian federation. Clubs, mostly made up of member organizations that elect their own presidents, are often poorly run, with rising debts linked to unpaid taxes, salaries or transfer fees. Romildo Bolzan Júnior, president of one of the country’s biggest teams, Grêmio, said any cash injection should have regulation at the center of any reformulation.

“Money by itself means greater organization,” he said. “All of this must be accompanied by a cultural shift, better management in clubs and stronger rules on governance.”

Bolzan said he felt the separation process was “still fragile” and recalled moments at the turn of the century when similar ideas collapsed in the middle of what he described as “hard politics”. “Everyone will want to protect the privileges,” he said, “but if we do that, the league won’t be successful.”

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