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After FIFA threat, Brazilian host city Recife scrambling to guarantee fanfest during World Cup

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SAO PAULO - The World Cup host city of Recife is scrambling to find private partners to organize the FIFA-required fanfest during the tournament.

Earlier this month, the city made a surprise announcement saying the event could be cancelled if FIFA or other sponsors didn't step in financially. That prompted football's governing body to threaten to sue for possible breach of contract.

All 12 host cities promised to organize the event, which allows fans without tickets to watch matches for free on large screens in public areas. FIFA says the fanfests are a crucial part of the World Cup.

"The Secretariat for Sports and the World Cup is studying alternatives to guarantee the event can happen using private resources," the city said Thursday in a statement sent to The Associated Press. "We will make an announcement at the appropriate moment."

Details on the city's search for private partners were not immediately disclosed.

The city said it wasn't forced into action by the threat from FIFA, and said that it was looking to find additional sponsors from the beginning.

"We found out about the comments from FIFA's marketing director through the media," the statement said.

FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said during a recent visit to Brazil that the governing body would "not negotiate" with Recife for additional financial support, but said it was willing to sit down and discuss options to make sure the event happens. He said that if it doesn't, FIFA would then analyze possible legal action against the city.

Weil said the city would have to contact FIFA if officials want to discuss alternatives. He said FIFA is open to scaling down the event and reduce requirements and costs, which some cities have already done because of security concerns ahead of planned protests. FIFA already pays for part of the fanfests, including the large screens used in the event.

Recife officials said they are also "open for dialogue," but said no recent contact has been made with FIFA.

Other host cities have also been turning to private partners to reduce the costs of the fanfests, including Rio de Janeiro, which will host the final on July 13. Recife said the initial fanfest cost was estimated at about $8.5 million, but it could be done with about $4.5 million.

Fanfests first became part of the official FIFA program in Germany in 2006, following the huge success of unofficial public viewing events in South Korea in 2002. FIFA considers the fanfests as "the second-best place" to be other than inside the stadiums, especially because not all ticket requests for the World Cup will be fulfilled.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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