I would do anything for love… But I won’t do that

I posted this yesterday in Portuguese, and although I’m not a huge fan of translated articles, I thought I’d whip up a quick English version as this is quite an interesting subject for those outside of Brazil

At this time of the year in Brazilian football, the same old debates always surface regarding the infamous state championships. It is impossible to deny that they are no longer as relevant as in years gone by, and their continued existence should really be brought into question. However, that’s a discussion for another day.

Today, I would like to talk about another issue concerning the state championships, and that is the stark decrease in attendance numbers. Getting people through the turnstiles has been a problem for the state championships since the mid 1990’s, but I sincerely can’t recall these figures being as low as they are today.

There are various factors that contribute to this decline, the inflated ticket prices as an example. The average price to stand on the terraces in Brazil is around R$30 ($17.50), which compared to every other country in South America, is utterly extortionate. The days of the R$5 or R$10 tickets are gone (when the famous Maracanã still had its geral section, entrance could be as low as R$1), and one has to seriously consult their budget if they plan to attend regular football matches.

However, in my opinion, the predominant cause lies in the crazy mid-week kick-off times. So as not to interfere with the lucrative nine o’clock telenovela, broadcasting giants Globo will push back the kick-offs of the mid-week games, with the matches kicking off as late as ten o’clock. Clearly, this arrangement is excellent for Rede Globo, as they can televise the football without affecting their faithful novela viewership. But they appear to be the only ones who benefit.

It’s no secret that a substantial slice of the fan-bases of Brazil’s biggest clubs belong to the working-class. With considerable shortcomings in urban transport in big cities such as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, these supporters will often be waking up at five or six o’clock, and leaving home to sit in horrendous traffic jams or overcrowded buses on their daily commute. For them, to be standing in a football stadium at midnight on a Wednesday evening is terribly impractical.

It is not as if these supporters do not have the desire to go to the stadium and watch their favourite teams, however in the typical lifestyle of many, attending these late kick-offs are just not feasible. But do you think Rede Globo or the state football associations really care about that? I wouldn’t be so sure. In today’s footballing landscape, money is king, and while Globo are drawing in the viewing figures and the state associations are having their matches screened on national television, nothing will change.

For me, the crucial problem is that these low attendances are simply being blamed on the common fan. Clearly, it is important for supporters to make an effort to watch their teams, but when the cost is so high and the time is so awkward, the blame cannot be placed at their doorstep.

Last night, Palmeiras played a Campeonato Paulista match against XV de Piracicaba at the Pacaembu in the centre of São Paulo. 10pm kick-off, R$30 for the cheapest tickets. Being based in the east of the city and without a car, for me to have attended that game I would have required to spend the night in a nearby hotel, or pay for the most expensive taxi journey of my life. Needless to say, I stayed at home and watched on television as my treasured Palmeiras staggered to a 3×2 win. Like Meat Loaf would say, ‘I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that’.

It is a true shame, but with the ever-increasing ticket prices and terribly inconvenient kick-off times, justifying a trip to the stadium is becoming harder and harder for the average Brazilian.

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