Nicolás Miremont –
Some weeks ago on FutebolCidade, we covered the most important aspects of a project promoted by the major football institutions in Argentina, a project called the Super League which, it is hoped, will be the solution to the seemingly never ending national scandal of funds deviation and corruption.
Yesterday, on July 12, one of the two problems that affected football up to that moment, probably came to an end. The Super League project was finally approved by an extraordinary assembly of the Argentinian Football Association (AFA), which was formed by some of the most influential members of Argentinian football (you can read more about that here). The new system is now a reality, although it is not completely outside the AFA and is without a new TV deal.
Featuring an exceptional quorum compared to the previous assemblies, the ambitious proposal got 70 votes for, and only 1 against. This difference was made possible after the government agreed to give an extra 700 million pesos, which were previously destined for the FPT (Football For Everyone) program. The decision won over the second division clubs that were initially against the project. In total, football would receive 2.5 billion Pesos.
What Does the Super League Bring with its Arrival?
The focus of the meeting, held at the headquarters of the Lorry Drivers’ Union, was on the income of most of the representatives. Now, the clubs from the second tier will get the amount of money they had requested, which is up to $1.589.000 per month for every team playing in that division.
This upgrade, however, will be paid with percentages and set amounts taken from the first division (12% of the FPT money, 0.36% of the TyC Sports broadcasting contract and a trust donation from every first division team of $200.000). Moreover, the second division will get 25% of the seats available in the AFA assembly (10 seats from the 20 available), and half of the 12 seats in the Super League Executive Committee.
Second tier competitions are vital in Argentina, as many talented young players are brought from its teams. When their demands were met, there was no hesitation when the time to vote came.
“Although we still have differences, we have reached an agreement with them [The promoters of the Super League]. My main priority is to guarantee that the smaller teams don’t end up at a disadvantage,” stated Hugo Moyano, Independiente President.
As for the first division, an agreement has been reached (after some controversy) over the amount of money the big five will be earning annually, with Boca and River sitting comfortably at the top:
- Group 1: Boca Juniors and River Plate (97.6 million Pesos)
- Group 2: Independiente, Racing, San Lorenzo and Vélez Sársfield (74.61 million)
- Group 3: the other 24 teams, including historic teams like Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central (55.59 million)
In our previous article, we explained how the Super League was supposed to reward the teams that performed well throughout the season, regardless of their category. We shall see if this rule will apply once the system is installed.
It is worth mentioning that, although the new championship will be under the control of the AFA, the funds will not be. This is a vast improvement. The Super League council will be in charge of administering the FPT broadcasting funds and it is hoped that the money will be used for business matters only, which should help the league grow and attract more television companies, once the current deal expires in 2019.
Now that we are done with the financial information, let’s get to the rest of the new Super League’s features:
- The new league will operate within the AFA but with independent decision making powers. This project’s main objectives are: to obtain more income, and also to make football more professional and transparent.
- The new league will have a council made up of representatives from the first and second divisions (75 and 25 percent, respectively). This council will have a President. Marcelo Tinelli has (informally) submitted his candidacy, but the rest of the leaders would prefer a paid marketing professional.
- The championship will remain the same as last year: 30 teams, from August to May. The relegation system will be the same, although the number of teams will be reduced slowly to twenty by relegating double the number of teams compared to number promoted. The goal is to have 20 teams by 2020.
- The AFA will retain the control of the discipline tribunal, the national team, the lower categories, and the representation before international organizations like CONMEBOL or FIFA.
The Super League and its Political Meaning
Football is one of the most important facets of Argentine life, therefore, the previous government saw an opportunity for enhancing their political campaign, and decided to acquire the rights for broadcasting back in 2009 under the name of the Futbol Para Todos program. Since then, football has been a state affair.
The AFA has been in crisis for quite a long time—only a few months after President Mauricio Macri decided to put a stop to the AFA’s unlimited access to football funds, the Association declared bankruptcy and every branch of the sport has been suffering the consequences.
What seemed and felt like an ongoing fairy tale ended in the only way that it could end. Those who had been delighted by the idea of “free” football realized that not only it had been sustained by their taxes all these years, but they also found out that all the money the government supposedly used to produce the free content had been stolen.
Incredibly, few in this country worried about the depth of the hole the clubs were falling into or even cared about such affairs. Bad performances, outdated stadiums with fatal outcomes for some athletes, groups of barra bravas (ultras) that behaved like mafias, and a negative image of the sport were largely ignored.
This is the way it had always been. People were taught for a decade to believe that football was a basic human right, and that to charge for it was wrong.
The new Super League is supposed to be a step in the right direction for Argentine football, yet things won’t change a lot since the Association itself is still lacking a proper body to direct it (and has also run out of funds). The government has stated that the money will not be allocated until this situation is corrected. The Normalizing Committee ought to solve this problem but nothing has been done so far.
Is This New Stage Any Different?
The ideal setting for the Super League would have been outside the boundaries of the AFA. This means, ideally, that they should have their own league system with a new TV broadcasting deal and that they would not require funding from the government. We shall see what happens in 2019 when the FPT deal expires. This will probably mean a change of the league format for the 2020 season, and we will get to evaluate the improvements that an executive committee formed by First and Second division teams’ presidents will or will not have made by then.
Boca Juniors President, Daniel Angelici, spoke to Fox Sports moments before the match between Boca and Independiente del Valle for the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, and expressed his worries about the state of the AFA:
“You see, football is currently stuck. Nobody understands what is happening or even who the authority is, because there is no such thing at the moment. We cannot go on like this anymore. There are over 175 leagues [like the Super League] and each one of them runs independantly. ‘It is not dangerous for anybody’, is just an excuse and a fantasy. This project [the Super League] presents the only way for ordering things and gaining more resources.” – Daniel Angelici
If all the money is invested wisely (and does not vanish), then yesterday might have been a very important day for all of us who are devastated every time football is linked to a corruption scandal, especially with scandals of such colossal magnitude. The new authorities now have the opportunity to prove that they really are desperate for equality and transparency. If that is true, yes, the situation will change.
There is still a long way to go for Argentine football. The news has not improved compared to the news we got two months ago; everything will remain static, at least for a couple of years. Yet, there is a first step that is always required, and Argentine football has just taken that step.
Nicolás Miremont is a born and raised Boca Juniors fan, but his heart has a special place for Manchester United, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Dynamo Kiev. Miremont loves to support the underdogs. Miremont enjoys watching smaller competitions especially those from Eastern Europe, but also his native Argentina. Follow him on Twitter @Miremont_Nico