Football business world flying down to Rio

Pato of Brazil celebrates after scoring in the friendly match against Ukraine in October
Image caption Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup football tournament

The biggest names in the football industry are arriving in Rio for the annual gathering of the Soccerex football business congress.

There is added interest in the international event this year, as it is being hosted for the first time in Brazil, host to both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Brazil is only the third country, after West Germany in the early 1970s and the US in the mid-1990s, to host both events in succession.

"I'm excited about our move to the spiritual home of football and above all the vast commercial opportunities we can open up for our international array of delegates and exhibitors," says Soccerex chief executive Duncan Revie.

"With the Olympic Games and World Cup coming to Brazil, the country will be the focal point for the global sports industry and Soccerex will be at its very heart in Rio de Janeiro," adds Mr Revie, son of former Leeds United manager Don Revie.

Thousands of delegates from football businesses, federations, clubs, and governments from around the world will descend on the Forte Copacabana.

Inside the historic building, positioned at the junction of the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, football businesses will look to sell and promote their products and services.

The event is set to be opened by the governor of Rio state, Sergio Cabral, who will be accompanied by a wealth of city, state, and national officials.

'Natural fit'

This year's event includes a two-day football festival and a conference and exhibition lasting two-and-a-half days to bring together industry executives for "networking, socialising and learning".

Soccerex feels that its global brand has been strengthened by holding the past three events in South Africa in the run-up to the World Cup there this summer.

And despite the global economic downturn, Soccerex says Brazil had to fend off opposition from other parts of the world to secure the football industry event.

The convention will be held in Rio de Janeiro from 2010 to 2013, with Mr Revie calling it "a natural fit for our strategic objectives".

And the president of the Brazilian football association agrees that the convention will be a fruitful partnership in the years leading up to his country's hosting of the two major events.

Image caption The city is one of the best-known in the southern hemisphere

"Brazil provides the perfect scenario for an event of Soccerex's magnitude," says Ricardo Teixeira.

"In the coming years, it will bring with it the most relevant football industry matters and present the world with the beauty of this wonderful sport that transcends global boundaries."

Mr Teixeira, who is charged with delivering the next World Cup in 2014, will be joined by Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 event, who will be giving an overview of South Africa's hosting of the event this summer.

Mr Jordaan will be giving a debrief about how South Africa staged its successful World Cup.

'Business opportunities'

Brazil has been fortunate in that its economy has escaped the worst of the global economic downturn.

And much of its GDP growth over the coming years will be boosted by sports infrastructure projects.

Image caption Football-mad Brazil will host Soccerex for the next three years

So it will welcome the thousands of delegates from the worldwide football fraternity, as well as the hundreds of exhibitors, from across the globe, gathering in Rio.

The conference will see experts from football and business tackle the global issues and focused topics currently affecting the industry in a series of panels, one-to-one interviews, keynote addresses, presentations and workshops.

Firms exhibiting at Soccerex cover all aspects of the football industry - from commerce, training, design and event management to logistics, marketing, manufacturing and construction.

"Attendees will be representing internationally-renowned brands and football clubs, all of them are looking to use Soccerex as an opportunity to do business," says Mr Revie.

One of the firms attending is London-based sports architecture firm Populous, which designed the 2010 World Cup stadium in Johannesburg, Soccer City.

It is also the official architectural and overlay design service provider for the London 2012 Olympics.

The firm's UK office said it was attending Soccerex as "the conference represents a unique opportunity to participate in a global sports business event where we can promote our unique design services for sporting venues and events".

The event is also becoming popular with former players looking to make an impression in the world of business, or in football administration.

And many former members of the Brazil 1970 World Cup winning team are expected to attend the annual Soccerex awards ceremony.

'Key markets'

As well as organising its first Soccerex, Brazil hopes that the World Cup and Olympics will be a catalyst for the nation's economy, as the sport, tourism, transport, telecoms and construction sectors all receive a boost.

Image caption Global sports events will be a catalyst for the future of Brazilian tourism

According to Brazilian official figures, more than 30 million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty in recent years.

It is estimated that about 25 million of them have risen to the social C class, which accounts for about half of Brazil's population - around 90 million people.

In 2010, Brazilian GDP is expected to grow by 7.5%, with global infrastructure investments estimated to increase by more than 20%, reaching 49bn euros (£41.5bn; $67bn).

And that will be of interest to sports business firms around the world looking to get a foothold in Brazil.

"Soccerex facilitates the expansion of thousands of international organisations into key football markets such as Brazil," says Mr Revie.

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