Rio denies protests a factor as football forum nixed

The Soccerex global football convention in Rio de Janeiro was canceled Tuesday as authorities denied the move was linked to a fresh round of public unrest.

Brazil has been hit by repeated waves of street protests that began in June during the Confederations Cup, the dry run for next June's World Cup, sparking worries about the country's ability to ensure security.

But a Rio state government spokesman said the decision to withdraw support for Soccerex was not linked to the ongoing social turmoil -- flatly contradicting organizers.

The decision "has nothing to do with the demonstrations," the spokesman said, instead blaming organizers for not raising sufficient funds to stage the event.

The convention's cancelation scuppered a meeting of more than 4,000 of the sport's top decision-makers -- and organizers were furious.

"It is with great disappointment that we must confirm that the final Soccerex Global Convention in Brazil will now not be taking place," they said in a statement.

"With the ongoing civil unrest, the Rio de Janeiro State sports secretariat took the political decision to withdraw their support from the Soccerex Global Convention."

The organizers added they would seek compensation for the scrapping of the November 30-December 5 event at Rio's Maracana Stadium, which will host the World Cup final.

"To be summarily canceled in such a cavalier fashion, having hosted 33 events over five continents, is extremely frustrating," the statement said.

"Nevertheless it has happened and is in contravention of all of the contractual obligations of the Rio state government, which has been notified of our intention to instigate legal proceedings for substantial compensation."

The Rio state government strongly denied any link to the social unrest.

"Organizers were not able to raise the funds as anticipated. It (the cancellation) has nothing to do with the protests," said Everton Lima, press attache for Rio's sports affairs department.

"The state has all the means at its disposal to host and guarantee security during any event in Rio de Janeiro," according to the state government.

It added it was up to Soccerex to raise cash to stage the event without recourse to state funding.

"On behalf of all at Soccerex, I would like to apologize to every business, football club, league, federation and media organization affected by this news," said Soccerex chief executive Duncan Revie.

Manchester will host the event for the coming four years starting next September.

The cancelation came amid fresh protests across Brazil, which was rocked by massive demonstrations in June over poor social services, endemic corruption and the high cost of staging the World Cup and the 2016 Rio summer Olympics.

Protesters say the money should have been spent on health, education and social programs.

Many of the fresh protests ended in violence in recent weeks as anarchists have joined the fray, clashing with police and perpetrating urban vandalism.

Late Tuesday, protest groups marched in several major cities, including Rio and Sao Paulo, to denounce corruption and commemorate Guy Fawkes day on the anniversary of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot in London -- Guy Fawkes masks having become a symbol of protest movements in Brazil and beyond.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has repeatedly condemned the violence as "anti-democratic" and barbaric.

bur/cw-ga/vlk