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Flamengo, Fluminense to continue operating Maracanã

Featured image credit: Flamengo

Flamengo and Fluminense have claimed a one-year extension to their deal to operate Estádio do Maracanã, hitting out at Campeonato Brasileiro Série A rival Vasco da Gama in the process.

The one-year deal with the Rio de Janeiro State Government for 2024 is for the Maracanã Complex, which includes both the iconic stadium and the adjacent Maracanãzinho arena. It is intended to be a stop-gap measure amid a tender process which is currently taking place for a long-term contract.

Flamengo and Fluminense are currently the main tenants of the Maracanã. Indeed, the two clubs have also served to manage the stadium since April 2019 after they agreed what was then an initial six-month deal for the Maracanã Complex.

The deal came after the Government announced that it would regain control of the 78,000-seat stadium following the annulment of a contract with its private administrators. The Government stated at the time that it was owed around BRL38m (£6.31m/€7.22m/$7.71m) by Maracanã SA, the group that used to run the stadium. This group was led by the Odebrecht conglomerate and operated the stadium from 2017 after securing a 35-year contract.

Flamengo and Fluminense’s announcement yesterday (Thursday) evening came just hours after fellow Rio club, Vasco, said that it would drop out of the process. Vasco said it had taken the decision after making a failed appeal to the Government over the terms of the tender notice. The club said the terms of the call prevented the participation of its private partners in the process and also excluded the participation of the club itself through “unreasonable demands” that only the current licensee could meet.

In a lengthy statement announcing their new deal, Flamengo and Fluminense fired back at Vasco, stating: “The conduct adopted by Vasco da Gama demonstrates that its actions during the last few months had the sole objective of disrupting the usage permission granted to Flamengo and Fluminense, in order to coerce the State of Rio de Janeiro into adopting a competition model aimed at their own interests and not the public interest. Vasco da Gama’s stance demonstrates that it does not want a ‘Maracanã for everyone’, but rather, a ‘Maracanã for no one’.  

“Vasco da Gama even protests against the fact that the State of Rio de Janeiro values, in its proposals, the ability of interested parties to guarantee a greater number of games at the stadium, that is, to seek to guarantee that the future licensee ensures the Maracanã is the destination that earned it the nickname ‘Temple of Football’, a major icon of Rio de Janeiro’s image as the host of major and historic sporting events, and the purpose for which Maracanã was built.

“The State of Rio de Janeiro, cautiously and concerned about one of its greatest tourist assets, cannot allow the Maracanã to become a space intended, primarily, for entertainment events, imposing, as seen in several national stadia, the displacement of matches to other venues, so that the manager can profit from other events.

“Likewise, the notice launched by the State of Rio de Janeiro, correctly, requires the demonstration of technical competence and experience so that not only the Maracanã stadium can be handed over to third parties, but also the Maracanãzinho Gymnasium, which was once the stage of historic and Olympic sporting events.

“It would be irresponsible for the state to treat the Maracanã Complex as if it were any sports facility and did not need expertise for its management. 

“In this regard, Vasco da Gama’s repeated legal efforts to hold games at Maracanã on dates consecutive to other matches demonstrates that this sports organisation either does not have experience in maintaining pitches or does not care about the quality of the show. 

“The 2023 Copa Libertadores final gave an example of how important it is to preserve the pitch, which proves that any technical refusals to play on a damaged pitch are not a question of discretion, but of managerial necessity.

“On the other hand, it is strange that Vasco da Gama would boast so much interest in managing the Maracanã Complex, made up of the Maracanã and the Maracanãzinho, while: (i) it claims that it does not even have the technical capacity and experience in managing arenas; (ii) demonstrates repeated difficulties in managing its own stadium; and, furthermore, (iii) is about to renovate the Estadio São Januário, increasing its capacity, through resources resulting from municipal law.”

The Government last month launched a fresh tender process to find a long-term operator for the Maracanã. The contract will run for 20 years, with interested parties having until December 7 to submit their proposals.

In October last year, the bidding process to award a contract to operate the stadium was suspended after it was reported that Márcio Pacheco, a member of the Court of Auditors in the State of Rio de Janeiro, alleged that the bidding document did not include a financial feasibility study.

Vasco said yesterday that despite its decision to withdraw from the short-term tender, it still intended to “present the best proposal” for the 20-year concession.