Argentines play season opening Super Cup under cloud of financial uncertainty

By Samindra Kunti

February 3 – This weekend Lanus and River Plate will play in the Argentine Super Cup, but the start of the domestic season has been overshadowed by financial turmoil in the country that is ranked number one in the world by FIFA. 

Last autumn FIFA and the South American confederation CONMEBOL imposed a ‘normalisation committee’ on the Argentine Football Association (AFA). “This committee will administer AFA’s daily activities, check its statutes to adapt them to the latest version of FIFA’s Model Statutes and organize elections by June 30, 2017 at the latest,” FIFA said in a statement on its website.

Today’s government of current president Mauricio Macri has long been opposed to the Futbol Para Todos programme that was implemented by the previous ruling party of Cristina Kirchner. In the programme the state paid a notional market rate for free-to-air broadcasting of domestic league football. In return, the clubs promised to reduce their debts and resolve the perennial hooliganism problem in the game.

The deal had been set up by Julio Grondona, the long-time president of the AFA and former senior FIFA vice-president who died in the summer of 2014. But the money was unaccounted for, the clubs sank ever deeper into debt and the AFA descended into chaos.

“I have said this before and I will say it again: Football is in a terminal crisis, perhaps worse than any our country has ever seen,” said Macri last month.

“All I see is that the sport’s leaders, instead of facing up to the issues on the table, are trying to find an easy way out. They are not taking things seriously.

“As I believe the people of Argentina have demonstrated, the state will not participate any more in the Futbol Para Todos programme with AFA,” continued Macri.

“We made this clear six months ago so I trust this was enough time for them to plan how they will manage from February because we are not going to be involved any more.”

Turner-Fox, ESPN and Consor are bidding for this season’s TV rights. The clubs have vowed to carefully study the best proposal. The new presidential elections at the AFA are scheduled at the end of April, as demanded by FIFA and overseen by its normalisation committee.

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