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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Chile in Newcastle
Newcastle and Chile midfielder Clarence Acuna
Football in Acuna's Chile is in turmoil
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

When Newcastle play Leeds on Wednesday Heraldo Munoz from the Chilean government will be watching from the stands.

St James' Park is an obvious port of call for any football lover from Chile.

International midfielder Clarence Acuna currently sports the the black and white shirt which decades ago was worn with such distinction by the Robledo brothers.

But Munoz is no mere tourist. Chilean football is in a mess.


The search is on for a more viable model for Chilean football
Tim Vickery

The national side finished bottom of the table in the last World Cup qualification campaign.

A players strike means that there has been no club football for the last two weekends.

Representatives from the players union, the FA and the government have been locked in meetings trying to find a solution to the problems of unpaid wages.

The search is on for a more viable model for Chilean football.

Hence the fact that Munoz has been sent on a fact-finding mission.

Two aspects of the Premier League are especially interesting from the Chilean point of view.

The first is the transformation of the clubs into public limited companies, with shares bought and sold on the stock market.

The second is the success in containing the problem of hooliganism.


in TV revenues, the likes of Flamengo receive something like $4 m per year. Manchester United receive $50 m
Name Here

In both cases it would seem that the English lesson can only be of limited use.

Chile is often touted as South America's success story. Even so, the fact that average annual income is little more than $5,000 speaks for itself.

Average crowds in the Chilean first division are about 4,000.

It all means that there is precious little money about to buy shares, or to invest in security equipment.

The corner stone of the English boom was the supporter-consumer, a species who had enough in his pocket to supply Manchester United last year with $75m in ticket sales, $35m in merchandising and $12m in catering receipts.

But starved by economic crisis, the supporter-consumer is a much harder beast to find in South America.

This makes the continent's clubs dangerously dependent on television.

Brazil's big teams have as many supporters as any club in the world.


Perhaps the continent should be looking to fill up its stadiums with cheap ticket prices
Tim Vickery

Flamengo, for example, boast some 20 million. But in television revenues, the likes of Flamengo receive something like $4m per year. Manchester United receive $50m.

And, whereas in the case of United this figure represents less than a quarter of total receipts, for many South American clubs revenue from television can constitute as much as 80% of their income.

As highly respected Brazilian journalist Josť Werneck points out, it is hardly suprising that so many South American players leave the continent.

Indeed, the wonder is that so many of them stay.

Without a background of economic prosperity, it is hard to see how Chile, or South America generally, can follow the English model.

Pushing prices up and improving the facilities is all very well as long as there are enough buyers for the new expensive product.

That is clearly not the case nowadays in South America.

Instead, perhaps the continent should be looking to fill up its stadiums with cheap ticket prices.

Then there is money to be made from selling drinks and snacks. But even here the administrators have to contend with problems far bigger than football - such as the poor condition of public transport and the general lack of safety in public spaces.

These are factors which keep potential supporters away from the stadium however low the admission charge.

There is much, then, for Senor Munoz to dwell on as he takes his seat at St James' Park.

With his head spinning with problems he could probably do with 90 minutes of escapism. I hope he enjoys the game.

BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery casts an eye over South American football's topical issues

South America in focus

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