Following the success of the English Premier League, many soccer leagues around the world replaced their national competitions with more competitive and lucrative “super” leagues. But Brazil, the home country of jogo bonito—the “beautiful game”—hasn’t been able to follow suit.
Now, however, a potential new league made up of Brazil’s top clubs—which would effectively replace the current top-flight Brazilian league, the Brasileirao—has secured financing and is in the due diligence stage of making it happen, according to people close to the deal.
The team behind the league project consists of Brazilians and Americans with backgrounds in finance and media, including Scott Guglielmino, a former ESPN executive; Charles Stillitano, co-founder of Relevent Sports; Ricardo Fort, the founder of Sport by Fort; Flavio Zveitler, a Brazilian sports lawyer ; and Lawrence Magrath, director of Cremon Participacoes, an investment firm based in Rio de Janeiro. According to those close to the investors, Rick Parry, the “godfather of the EPL,” has been consulting the group and was present in video conference calls.
“There were failed attempts to realize a better league in the past, Clube dos 13 for example,” said Julio Casares, the president of Sao Paolo FC, the six-time Brasilerao champion, and a proponent of the new venture. “This time, the big difference is having a group of executives who come from the market with the experience. We are not only going to have direct investment in the clubs in the form of cash, but also have experienced professionals who already worked in major leagues to make the Brazilian football league a great one.”
Brazilian Football Federation (CBF), the country’s top soccer authority, historically neglected clubs to focus on the Brazilian national team. The federation forced clubs to participate in state tournaments, adding two more months to the calendar, creating an 11-month season with no international match breaks. While in the past these issues led individual clubs to revolt against CBF, this time they aim to work together. “All other competitions will be kept,” Casares said. “The role of CBF and the federations is important in this process. We can only build [this] with dialogue. I defend the creation of the league without breaking with the CBF.”
The new league could potentially start as early as 2022, according to Fort, but is likely “to kick off in 2023.” Clubs have a broadcast deal with TV Globo until 2024. “We will respect all contracts in place and negotiate new ones for when they expire,” Fort said. “Certainly after 2025, all contracts will be new.”
This is not the first time investors have tried to restructure Brazilian football, and Fort understands the difficulties ahead. “A lot of people before us gave their best shot, and they were not able to make it happen,” he said. “To be honest, I think that the chances that it’s going to happen are low, but at the same time, we have never been closer to make it happen.”