Nicolás Miremont –
A month ago, on April 20, the leaders of the Big Five (the five biggest clubs in the country: Boca Juniors, River Plate, Racing Club, Independiente and San Lorenzo) and also representatives from Rosario Central and Estudiantes de La Plata, came to an agreement that is supposed to rescue Argentina’s football after several years of chaos, corruption and financial instability. The clubs believe that the creation of a new Argentinian Super League will create much needed revenue that can bring financial stability to Argentinian football.
Football has to often been used as a Political Tool
Only five months ago Argentina elected Mauricio Macri as the country’s new president. Macri ran on a platform of political reform, with a promise to make the country’s economy transparent again. Football was no exception, of course.
Football For Everyone—the project of former President Cristina Kirchner—a state financed platform that bought the television broadcasting rights for all the major national football tournaments with the objective of saving the league from bankruptcy, had been used for politics ever since it was founded in 2009. At the same time football in Argentina witnessed the decline of financial stability, not only at the club level, but also for the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) due to corruption.
The AFA is Sinking and “it can’t even reach June”
“The AFA ship is sinking and it can’t even reach June.” Those were the words of Luis Segura, the current president of the AFA. There is an unpleasant tension in the air, a current of fear, which highlights that the AFA is weak and falling apart. Lots of mistakes have been made and funds have disappeared, added to the many millions of pesos that the clubs already owe to the association. But change may be imminent, as Segura himself has been called to testify for alleged diversion of money.
It is no secret that the AFA wants to be separated from the government, and therefore also the Football for Everyone project. This, as expected, would cause havoc amongst the sectors of the population who can’t afford Pay Per View television. Yet many also believe that football should not be organized by the state, as the government was not elected to finance football with tax dollars. They say when you touch the bottom, there is no other way to go but up, but in Argentina we’re accustomed to touching the bottom every ten years.
What is the Argentinian Super League Project?
The proposed Argentinian Super League would emulate the competition format used in Europe’s biggest leagues such as the English Premier League, the Liga BBVA in Spain, and the Bundesliga in Germany, by removing the administration and funding of the Primera División (the First Division) and the B Nacional (Argentina’s second tier) from the AFA, by forming an independent league.
The biggest proponents of a new competition have already expressed their desire to end their dependence on the government once and for all, in order to potentially grow their revenue three-fold and improve the current state and reputation of Argentinian football. Needless to say the presidents of the country’s biggest clubs are supportive of the Super League, as these clubs were already in disagreement with the 30 team fixture format, and are now fed up with the outcome, which has been no improvement whatsoever in the level of the country’s football.
Rumours are that the league would include some very interesting features, including that:
- The season would start in August, and would end in June, as is the case in Europe.
- Both the First and the Second Division would have 20 teams. The relegation procedure is yet to be decided, although it has been confirmed that there would be no promedios (a system designed to avoid big clubs from getting relegated by using a five year point coefficient).
- The income would be used to improve Argentinian football (even non-league football). 80% of it would go to the First Division, 10% to the Second Division, and the remaining 10% would be destined to the AFA. For the 20 top tier clubs, 50% of the money would be given out in equal parts, while the other half would be divided using a formula which takes TV rating, merit and a number of different factors into account.
- Broadcasting would be tendered until 2030. Nevertheless, football would remain free to watch until Football for Everyone’s current contract expires in 2019, then it would go back to Pay Per View.
- 90% of the money gathered by the top flight teams would be used to pay the debt that the First Division has with the AFA.
- It would be compulsory for every club to spend 30% of their income on their team’s infrastructure.
- The AFA would still oversee some aspects, such as the discipline court, the designation of the referees for every match as well as the Copa Argentina (the domestic cup) and the minor divisions.
Is the Federalisation of Football in Danger?
Not everyone likes the idea of a Super League. The new format has been very controversial, especially amongst the smaller clubs that have been given the opportunity to play in the First Division after the 30-team format was established.
The 30-team league gave every part of the country a team, but it did very little to improve the actual financial situation of those smaller clubs in the province.
The reason why? Because Argentina is a vast country, and the current reality of our football determines that small teams cannot afford to travel 500 km every two weeks when they are matched against the remaining 20 teams who reside in or close to the capital. Richer teams can afford such trips, but they are not willing to when they cannot even take their fans with them. This situation ends up being an uphill challenge for the clubs from el Interior (the clubs that don’t reside in the capital or the main Province of Buenos Aires), although there are some exceptions.
Many sports journalists and club leaders have given their opinion about this issue. The presidents of the Big Five have already gathered for a special edition of the Argentinian show A Dos Voces where they expressed their thoughts about the new league format. Only Independiente’s President Hugo Moyano was cautious, declaring: “This has to be carefully planned. Let’s remember that the biggest problem here is the state of the smaller clubs, have we thought about them?” Soon after that, San Lorenzo’s President, Matías Lammens, spoke for all the other three clubs, noting that: “This will be a quality leap in terms of income. Every single small club would get even twice the money they earn nowadays. It would be a much more fair distribution protocol”.
The Argentinian Super League is Happening with or Withouth the AFA
In a recent press conference Boca Juniors’s President, Daniel Angelici, threatened that the project will happen even if the AFA doesn’t support it. “We need to make our league more competitive, get more resources and improve our football in general”. Angelici (Boca) joins the big majority who support this project: Lammens (San Lorenzo), Rodolfo D’Onofrio (River) and Víctor Blanco (Racing). But the other end of the rope is also pulling with Hugo Moyano (Independiente) alongside Claudio Tapia (current AFA vice-president and in line to become the next president).
On May 16, the club Presidents will be reunited at the Association’s headquarters in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires where Javier Tebas, the president of the Spanish LFP (Liga Profesional de Fútbol), will be presenting the La Liga model for consideration.
We don’t know what is going to happen, we can only guess what the future of Argentinian football will be. The AFA has been in shock for many weeks now. Some want to establish the new format before the election even takes place, while some would rather wait until it’s all back to normal. The only thing that is known for certain is that Argentinian football needs a change, a big one.
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