The Scottish press have reported that the national team are to play in a ‘glamour friendly’ against Brazil at the end of March.  Looking for confirmation, I checked the Brazilian press and found no mention of any ‘glamour friendly’, though they did confirm that Brazil were playing Scotland at the end of March.

The game is breaking new ground for Scotland – it is being held at the Emirates Stadium in London.  Now, I was back in the UK over Xmas and I didn’t see anything on TV about Scotland having invaded England.  And I am pretty sure it would have reached the papers in China if someone had invaded our southern neighbour since.  So I am left to conclude that Scotland have elected to play a non-competitive football match (perhaps in more than one way) in a foreign country that isn’t the land of our opponent.

Why?

Do the millionaire superstars of Brazil not fancy the trip north?  It’s only an hour on the plane, and it’s not like Kaka and co. would have to line up at Victoria Bus Station with assorted students, jakeys, and student jakeys.  Maybe it’s the weather?  The beach in Largs isn’t exactly the Copacabana in March.  (Or July, for that matter.)  Though it is just as famous, what with Jimmy Johnstone’s antics in 1974.

Is it the cuisine?  I did hear that Rafael and Anderson shared a munchie box after Manchester United’s trip to Glasgow last year, so perhaps Brazil coach Mario Menezes was concerned about what tubby hitman Ronaldo might do to himself if he sees a Blue Lagoon chip shop.  But Ronaldo’s just announced his retirement from football, and he hasn’t played at international level for a while anyway.

Is it Hampden?  Maybe the Brazilians have bad memories of the place.  After all, they did get torn apart 1-1 in 1966 by a team containing the Jim Baxter and Billy Bremner.  Brazil were comprehensively outplayed in the first 60 seconds and were a Stevie Chalmers goal down almost before the game had started.  Pele & co recovered to scrape a draw; perhaps this trauma is still latent in the Brazilian psyche.

No, I don’t think it’s fear of Hampden.  Or the food.  Or Largs beach.  Have the game in London and you can attract some of the hundred-thousand-odd Brazilians in the city, not to mention the resident Scots, and you’ll still get thousands, maybe tens of thousands, making the trip down the road.  And because it’s London, you can jack the ticket prices through the roof.  (Didn’t Arsenal just announce the first £100 match ticket?)

Against Argentina a few years back, the most expensive brief was £35 and Gordon Smith – then chief executive of the SFA – said he expected a 40,000 crowd.  That would bring in a total ticket take around £1 million, allowing for the average price being lower.

The cheapest adult tickets for an Arsenal game are over £35, and they can be double that even for their less-glamorous “category B” games.  Ireland-Brazil at the Emirates saw a 40,000 crowd, so using those numbers for an estimate, you’re looking at twice as much ticket revenue.

I have two problems with this.

Where does the ticket money come from?  The pocket of the supporter, of course.  So this is just a creative way to take more money from fans – many of whom have just spent hundreds of pounds to travel to Dublin for a silly wee tournament.

Where does the money go?  Obviously Brazil will get a fee, which is fair enough for deigning to play us.  The SFA will take a cut – fine, they need the cash to implement the McLeish Report, don’t they?  But then the Emirates will get rent, not to mention the food & beverage income, while Hampden sits empty.  When Scotland’s economy is in the tank, do we need to be sending yet more cash to a rich Premiership club?

And of course there is a middleman involved. The sports marketing and event management firm Kentaro has set up the match – they manage the “Brazil World Tour”, the brand enhancement given to international friendlies played by the Seleçao.  I’d be interested to know how much cash they’re squeezing out of this “event”.

Kentaro are, unsurprisingly, Swiss-based.  Their home base is in the German-speaking town of Wil, three hours up the road from FIFA’s headquarters in Nyon.  Close enough to be sniffing around the trough, yet far enough away to maintain that Swiss level of propriety while doing so.

It makes me pine for the relative sanity of the Carling Nations Cup.

Billy

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