Brazilian senate backs key WC bill

SAO PAULO -- The Brazilian senate approved a bill Wednesday giving FIFA the guarantees needed to organize the 2014 World Cup.

The approval came just a day after the Brazilian government met with FIFA officials in Switzerland to discuss the country's preparations and resolve their differences.

The bill will go before Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is expected to sign it.

Congress' lower house passed the bill in March after several delays, especially over the sale of alcohol inside stadiums -- currently against the law in Brazil but a FIFA demand because Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor.

The approved legislation doesn't specifically authorize alcohol sales, but the government says other articles in the proposed law will allow Brazil to fulfill FIFA's requirement.

"Like the majority of the population, I was against allowing (the sale of alcohol inside stadiums)," Sen. Ana Amelia said. "We are just ratifying what was done by the executive branch."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter closed Tuesday's meeting at FIFA's headquarters asking the Brazilian senate to expedite voting on the bill, which establishes the financial and legal guarantees for the World Cup and next year's Confederations Cup.

"We shall look forward and not backwards," Blatter said. "I invite not only the executive in Brazil, but also the legislative, the senate, to look forward in solidarity and the benefit of this World Cup."

Without the text specifically authorizing the sale of alcohol, FIFA theoretically will have to negotiate with a few states which currently have legislation banning alcohol sales inside stadiums, but the government has said such deals likely will not be difficult to achieve. All states also signed commitments to FIFA.

"We are not against the World Cup, but we shouldn't bow to FIFA's demands," Sen. Cyro Miranda said. "We can't say something to the Brazilian people and then change our minds when FIFA comes here."

Sen. Anibal Diniz disagreed: "Brazil made commitments to FIFA in order to host the competition and we said we would fulfill all of them. We must do what we promised," he said.

In a meeting with Blatter in the nation's capital in March, the Brazilian government promised to have the bill passed so it could fulfill the commitments made to football's governing body when it accepted to host the tournament in 2007.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke had said he wanted the proposed law sanctioned by the end of March so World Cup preparations could be expedited.

The delay in approving the bill was part of the reason Valcke harshly criticized Brazil, angering many in the South American nation and prompting Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo to want to cut ties with the FIFA official. Valcke and Blatter had to apologize.

Critics say the bill gives too much power to FIFA. The legislation also sets rules on discounted tickets, trademark infringements, commercial and broadcast rights and liability for security problems, among other issues.

The alcohol sales inside stadiums will only be allowed during the World Cup and the Confederations Cup.