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Sunderland, Brazilian Football, SAF and the Problem of Cartolism

Rodrigo Monteiro de Castro's picture
Published: 05/05/22 - Country: Brazil

The first – and perhaps the main – lesson that can be drawn from the series Sunderland 'Til I Die, available on the Netflix platform, consists in revealing the importance that the football team plays in relation to the population of the city that bears the same name. 

Located in the northeast of England, Sunderland has for decades maintained three main activities: mining, shipping and fishing. All showed, for different reasons, unmistakable signs of decay and left traces of disillusionment and unemployment – ​​one or the main of these reasons, according to local conviction, integration into the European Union, which is reflected in the massive vote in favor of Brexit.

It is in this environment that the series' motto is introduced: passion – which is nonetheless an escape valve for social and existential problems – for the team. In fact, it is stated in a certain passage (which must be contextualized) that the football team is the most important thing left to the local inhabitants; a kind of breath of hope for glorious days that met in the past. 

Before moving on to the main theme of this text – the relationship between people and sport – it is worth calling attention to the fact that, until the year before the chronological cut adopted by the series, Sunderland had played 10 consecutive seasons in the Premier League, but came from being relegated to the English "second division", called Championship. Currently, the team plays in League One, corresponding to the national third division. 

This does not mean that passion – although occasionally tumultuous – is cooled down (even if, in extreme moments, it is transfigured into anger).

Starting now from Brazil, the issue can be viewed from two angles. 

The first relates to the role that football could play as a relevant activity both economically and socially. The second involves confronting and solving the (almost) eternal relationship between the fan and the vehicle that holds the property of his passion – the club –, historically manipulated by an intermediate class: the cartolarial class.  

On the first point, one should, of course, avoid absolute comparisons. England and Brazil are not confused, just as the historical and economic conformations of (and of) Sunderland will not find a reliable parallel in local corners and the teams that represent them. Even in the face of differences, an element proliferates and interferes in the realities not only of cities in both countries, but also of thousands and thousands of others – without euphemism – spread across the planet: football. 

And that is where the sin committed against Brazil and Brazilians in general is revealed by successive rulers, who solemnly ignore the importance of activity - ignorance that is subverted, as a rule, only for the momentary use of selfish opportunities or political positions. 

In other words: football should not be treated at times as a mere expression of entertainment and, at other times, as an economic burden, given its billion-dollar stock of debts, which accumulates at the taxpayer's expense; that is, of the Brazilian worker. 

This is not at all: under an organizational form that approximates the dominant European models, but looking at and appropriating the essence and local realities - in a kind of anthropophagic process, under a popular and not an elitist approach. –, it could be raised to the rank of fundamental national activity, promoting social ascension and economic development. 

Football, for Brazil, cannot become what pau-brasil, diamonds, coffee or rubber, at other times, represented, under extractive regimes or overwhelming exploitation; on the contrary, there would be, in it, the possibility of building a sustainable, thriving and technological environment, even aiming at regional and global protagonism.

Under the second prism of analysis, the State and the people have always been in connivance with cartolism and with the appropriation of the popular thing by a few (few) people who, from a practical point of view, are only concerned with them and their private projects. . 

Of course, there are idealistic people committed to the greater good, but even in these special situations, the current structure swallowed ideals (and idealists), grinding and expelling, with rare exceptions – among them Athletico Paranaense –, more of the same.  

In any case, no ruler, nor any top hat, has the right to destroy a relationship – or a dream – that is offered to thousands of families or Brazilians who bet on football as an upward element. 

Hence the moral and ethical duty, in the face of the systemic failure of associativism, to promote a model evolution, capable of inserting the activity that, despite its importance, remained, until the SAF Law, in a kind of economic marginality. 

The resistance of cartolism, in this case, which began in a silent way and begins to express itself with more vigor, does not express an act of bravery, but of agreement with the delay and with the, in a certain way, negligence with the fans and the citizen. ordinary. 

In this sense, to the historical fallacies that supported the model - such as "football is ours", "the situation in Brazil is different" and what works in Europe will not work here, and "the fans will not accept the entry of investors" –, there is one that is already being rehearsed to justify the maintenance of cartolarial power: "the history and glories of the past have a subjective value, preventing the pricing of a monetary operation". 

But it is no use thinking that, in a globalized, competitive and capital-demanding environment, traditional teams in crisis – and almost all of them are, to a greater or lesser extent – ​​will be able to resume, only with the goodwill of selfless people (or with a platform supposedly based on honesty, ethics and work), past glories.

Or that the teams on the rise, which could subvert the axis of strength of national football, such as Fortaleza, will be able to repeat, on a recurring basis, feats like the one in 2021, in the Brazilian championship.

Do not go. 

The legal system, for the first time, offers clubs a way for the transition to the business model to take place in a regulated environment, in which the club itself can, as a result of the law, exercise the role of guardian of the team's traditions, in an unavoidable way. by any person or investor, regardless of their economic power. 

This is the reality: the SAF Law, authored by the President of the National Congress, Senator Rodrigo Pacheco, offers, in an unprecedented way since the introduction of football in the country, ways – and not just one – so that, taking into account taking into account the reality of each team, structure, if they wish, projects to rescue and affirm the economic and social, local, regional and national importance of football. 

Not wanting to have much more – if not just – to do with the support of private interests than with the cultural adherence of the fans. Because it's not for a political group or for a person, dressed as a savior, or even for an associative club, that you support – it's for the team, which, in fact, expresses a set of values ​​that only the respective fan knows how to capture.

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Rodrigo Monteiro de Castro's picture

Rodrigo Monteiro de Castro is specialized in corporate and business laws, corporate transactions (M&A), capital markets and contracts.

He holds a Master’s degree and a PhD degree in Commercial Law from PUC-SP. MBA from INSPER. Founder and Former Chairman of the Institute of Applied Corporate Law (“Instituto de Direito Societário Aplicado – IDSA”) (2004-2010). Chairman of the “Movimento de Defesa da Advocacia – MDA” and a member of the Organizing Committee of the Brazilian Congress of Commercial Law (“Congresso Brasileiro de Direito Comercial”). Chairman of the Monitoring Committee for the New Brazilian Commercial Code of the São Paulo Bar Association OAB/SP). Professor of Commercial Law at the Mackenzie Presbiterian University. Author of several books and papers and co-author of Bill No 4,303/12 (Sociedade Anônima Simplificada) and Bill No 5,082/16 (Soccer Corporation).