Over the past weeks, we haven’t know whether the Argentine football tournament would be coming back on time because the representatives of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) couldn’t reach an agreement on two very important conflicts: One with the Government over money the AFA requested in order to terminate the Fútbol Para Todos (FPT) contract, the state run program that broadcast Argentine football. The other point of contention is the decision of which bidding company should get the rights to broadcast the tournaments (that used to be shown on FPT).
Two weeks ago they managed to solve the first issue, after the Government agreed to pay AFA AR $530 million to terminate the contract — AR $350 million of which will go to the football clubs. As for the second issue, three companies interested in buying the TV rights made formal offers to acquire them. It seemed like after the endless institutional tailspin, AFA was finally starting to get its act together.
Today was the day that football was supposed to go back to stadiums and onto TVs, but, like many things in life, this just wasn’t going to go as planned. This week the football players union, led by Sergio Marchi, announced that they won’t go onto the field because they are not getting paid. AFA representatives said they will give part of the AR $350 million the State gave to the clubs so they can pay the debt with their players, but since the money is not enough to cancel it entirely, the union is refusing to play.
As a result, AFA representatives decided to fight fire with fire; they warned in a release that they will take points from teams that don’t play this weekend. They didn’t rule out economic sanctions either.
Member of the AFA normalizing committee, Javier Medín, said the money is already available and shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to play: “We reached an agreement and all clubs committed to canceling their debts by next week; fans are fed up and want to watch football. We have to go back to playing,” he told press.
However, in a last attempt to reach an agreement, the committee and Marchi are meeting today in the Labor Ministry. The union leader said he will stand his ground and let if be known officially that there are even some clubs — especially from the lower, less wealthy divisions — that owe their players up to four months’ salary.
Even though first division club representatives decided to let the lower ones’ get more money to cancel most of their debt, players stood their ground: they said that until it’s entirely canceled, there won’t be football.
Considering AFA’s warning about taking points and possibly imposing economic sanctions, several club representatives are analyzing the possibility of presenting players from their academies who are not part of the union.
The Labor Ministry, led by Jorge Triaca, yesterday ordered the players’ union to play for at least two weeks while the negotiations continue, but the union refused. Nonetheless, all of the team captains will meet with AFA representatives at 1 PM today at the institution’s headquarters. Then they will decide whether to obey the labor ministry’s order or not.
Today there should be two games: Rosario Central-Godoy Cruz at 7 PM and San Lorenzo-Belgrano at 9:20 PM. According to AFA, they’re going to happen. Players say otherwise. Ah, and there’s still no TV contract. The take away? Don’t cancel plans to watch football tonight.