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FIFA on black market WC tickets alert Death, strike add to Brazil’s troubled World Cup buildup

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 15, (Agencies): Around 130 companies are being investigated for selling World Cup tickets on the black market with football’s governing body FIFA claiming that some are being offered with a staggering 300 percent mark-up. Match Services AG, which is the FIFA-sanctioned commercial outlet, confirmed reports in the Brazilian media that some 130 companies and operators are under investigation for offering unauthorised deals. Some of these already face judicial action in their own countries. Match Services AG indicated to AFP it was aware of companies offering packages on the black market at vastly marked up prices. The Estado de Sao Paulo daily quoted their legal counsel Imran Patel as saying “we are seeing a huge black market with prices of up to 300 percent above face value”.

Tickets for next year’s World Cup are available solely via the FIFA website. Match Services, which is offering VIP packages, many to companies, had indicated prior to last week’s World Cup draw that it believed around 100 firms were seeking to scalp punters. However, they claim they have since uncovered evidence of another 30 cases. According to Estado de Sao Paulo, authorities in Costa Rica have already fined four agencies in the country for claiming they could offer packages to fans wanting to follow the Central American team at the event. A dozen Mexican operators have been issued with warnings to stop while consumer protection authorities have launched legal action against six. Other unauthorized operators are at work in several other countries, including Australia and China, Estado reported. Patel said FIFA is aware which firms are involved and is ready to take legal action in Brazil where necessary.

Meanwhile, in Curitiba, Brazil’s troubled buildup to the 2014 World Cup continued on Saturday after a construction worker fell to his death from the roof of the Arena Amazonia in Manaus and officials moved to downplay a strike of 300 workers at the stadium. In another incident in Manaus, the death of a second worker, Jose Antonio da Silva Nascimento, was reported by Brazilian state television after his body was found in a convention centre close to the stadium. Earlier on Saturday, 22-year-old Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira became the third stadium worker to die since last month when two men were killed after a crane collapsed onto the roof of the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.

In all, five workers have died on stadiums being built for next year’s soccer showpiece while a sixth was killed working on the Palmeiras arena in Sao Paulo, which will not be used to host World Cup matches but could serve as an official training base. De Melo Ferreira died in hospital in the early hours of Saturday after a cable snapped and sent him falling 35 metres (115 feet) from the roof of the 605 million Brazilian reais ($262 million) Arena Amazonia, where work has been stepped up to 20 hours a day to ensure it does not slip any further behind schedule. It is due to be ready by Jan 15.

But this week in Curitiba, around a quarter of the 1,200-strong workforce went on strike, further delaying construction on the 265 million reais Arena da Baixada, which had been expected to be the last of the six remaining projects to be completed before the Sao Paulo crane collapse. Although the stadium is the cheapest of all 12, its construction has been among the most problematic with complications surrounding its three stakeholders — Atletico Paranaense, the Parana state and the city of Curitiba delaying its transformation into a modern 42,000 seater ground that will, like Manaus, stage four World Cup matches. More than 250 men went on strike on Tuesday demanding back pay from November and another 50 joined them in a demonstration on Friday, bringing the streets around the stadium to a standstill.

In related story, the public prosecutor’s office in Brazil’s northern state of Amazonia called for an “immediate” halt to construction at the World Cup stadium in Manaus where two workers have died, saying conditions are unacceptably dangerous. The latest tragedy barely six months from kick-off has heightened safety worries and risks further delaying completion of the required stadiums. But, in a 13-page critical assessment, the Manaus public prosecutor’s office reiterated its demand for an “urgent and immediate halt” to work on the venue, regardless of the looming World Cup start.

The prosecutor’s office identified a litany of problems to resolve before work could recommence, noting it had cited several violations of “health and safety worker protection norms” even before the March death of a 49-year-old worker at the venue. There remained “serious problems” at the venue regarding safety for those working high above the ground, it said. It pleaded for all “necessary measures to prevent serious and imminent risk” to worker safety, including ensuring scaffolding was properly fixed after identifying irregularities. “The public prosecutor’s office cannot allow the urgency of finishing a construction for the 2014 World Cup to be taken care of at the cost of the life and well-being of those working on it,” it said. Andrade Gutierrez now faces a daily fine of 100,000 reais ($45,000) if it does not fully comply with judicial safety regulations.

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