Andrew Warshaw: A tricky day for 2014 public relations, but the tickets are selling even if the security stories aren’t

Whoever is being economical with the truth about the reasons for the Soccerex global football convention in Rio being cancelled, the news was timed with a shambolic attempt at promoting Brazil’s World Cup. What started out as a good idea and looked like smart timing for a push to get people to travel to the 2014 party, rapidly went downhill.

When Thierry Weil, FIFA’s marketing director, and Ricardo Trade, head of the local organising committee, arrived at a media briefing in London on Tuesday – albeit 45 minutes late – they were eager to talk about tickets and the wonders of Brazil’s diverse culture.

The briefing was deliberately held at the same venue as the annual World Travel Market, the leading travel industry exhibition, in an effort to “sell” Brazil to both travel writers and the football press after all the country’s recent social unrest.

Trade was keen to focus on Brazil’s gleaming new stadiums and the warm welcome awaiting thousands of soccer fans. He even brought along Ronaldo for a stellar appearance while Weil was all geared up to promote the tournament in terms of the early take-up of tickets.

Let’s be fair. They did both manage to get their respective messages across with Weil announcing a record first allocation after overseeing a random distribution of almost 900,000 tickets to fans from 188 nations, with 71.5% going to Brazilians. Outside the host country, where 625,276 tickets were allocated, the highest number came from the United States (66,646), followed by England (22,257), Germany (18,019), Australia (15,401), Canada (13,507), France (11,628), Colombia (11,326), Switzerland (8,082), Japan (5,021) and Argentina (4,493).

In total, FIFA is making available 3.72 million tickets yet has already received around six million applications. But as well as talking up their respective agendas, both Weil and Trade ended up inevitably having to fend off questions about security.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Soccerex being called off – and there is a strong body of opinion that believes the convention itself has lost considerable credibility – the surprise move renewed media concerns about safety in Brazil (depending on how much you believe the Soccerex statement) on the back of the protests that marred last June’s Confederations Cup tournament.

“It’s not a problem for us,” said Trade who launched into defensive mode before waxing lyrical – not entirely convincingly – about the attributes of each of the World Cup venues. “The federal government gave a guarantee to FIFA to guarantee security around the stadiums.”

“What happened at the Confederations Cup was a surprise to all of us,” chipped in Weil. “But it was managed. The fans that bought these tickets, they knew what happened at the Confederations Cup. They trust the organizers.”

When one reporter who latched on to the issue of security like a stubborn puppy with a bone pushed Weil further, the FIFA man replied: “You have six million requests for tickets. Are you saying the world is afraid?”

One could only feel for Weil who beat a hasty retreat to catch his flight after half an hour’s questioning, leaving the field to Trade, Ronaldo and a Brazilian embassy official.

With dropped microphones, a series of self-congratulatory platitudes from the podium, a half-filled room and, to be fair, some bizarre questions from the floor (including one reporter going completely off piste and asking Ronaldo to delve into his glorious past) it had more than a touch of farce about it.

That wasn’t FIFA’s fault. The media officer in charge did her best to cover all bases with calm professionalism. The idea of providing an update on preparations was, in theory, full of good intent. But apart from Weil’s ticket revelations, we’d heard most of it before and at the end of the day, to use a footballing cliché, it was all rather academic and did little to enhance Brazil’s credentials.

But maybe it was just wrong place, wrong time….

Andrew Warshaw is chief correspondent of Insideworldfootball. Contact him at moc.l1713609528labto1713609528ofdlr1713609528owedi1713609528sni@w1713609528ahsra1713609528w.wer1713609528dna1713609528