ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Julio Grondona ends his umpteenth term as president of the Argentine football federation in 2015 and says that at 84 he will not stand again.
But before he goes, he says, he wants to clean up the house – mainly the economic and general situation of local soccer clubs. Frankly that is too late unless stringent laws are not only imposed but kept.
On the other hand, Grondona must not mix up silly ideas like a 40-club top division as one of the schemes to resolve the situation. That would not solve anything.
In July 2012 Grondona – or the AFA – said that clubs which owed salaries to their players would not be allowed to start the Initial 2012 Championship.
That idea was forgotten quietly because otherwise we would not have had a 2012 Initial Championship.
At a meeting of club captains recently at the weak Argentine players union, a players’ strike was proposed if players were not paid all they are owed before the next championship starts in February but it seems not all players were willing to carry it out.
Later Grondona’s threats, never carried out, were watered down. He said: “Any club owing money would not be able to sign new players.” Whether this means no local transfer market in January remains to be seen.
If Grondona had taken these (economic) decisions when he took over the AFA reins in 1979, he might have been successful in persuading a handful of clubs in a financial mess to mend their ways but right now his ban would cover all clubs and there would be no championship.
Now, on finding its monetary reserves flowing away, the government has finally opened its eyes to the fact that its Free TV football Football for all Programe is one of the holes to be plugged because the more it pays for transmission rights, the more clubs spend and waste and increase their debts.
Earlier this month, a meeting with new cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich decided that clubs must present a financial plan for 2014 by February 8 under which they must:
1, Outline their security plans;
2, Reform stadiums covering lighting, seats, etc. to guarantee international security standards;
3, Guarantee structural improvements in the club’s operations; and
4, To strengthen the social function of clubs (adding about selling international TV transmission rights.
Sounds like a lot of political jargon – the art of saying nothing in a lot of words – and does not implicitly mention fixing finances, nor the sanctions if all this is not complied with.
According to figures available, the government paid £64.8m a year when the TV agreement was signed towards the end of 2009 and four years later it is more than twice as much: £151m.
This was meant as a life belt for debt-riddled clubs, yet their debts increased accordingly. It is calculated that clubs debts have reached a combined total of £165.5m but it seems that calculations have fallen short.
Basically this has been caused by people fighting to get into club committees without having the capacity to manage a club which in itself is criminal – and worse still is the generalised corruption because even giving free tickets to hooligans and friends is robbing the club and everybody does it.
Do not blame people like former River Plate president Daniel Passarella or Independiente’s president Javier Cantero who surely tried to put the budget in order but found it an impossible task – although Pasarella did not attempt to get rid of hooligans, while Cantero tried but found it impossible as nobody would help him.
At River Plate, the budget restrictions resulted in relegation into the B Division for the first time and for that Passarella was hated more than any concerns about the economic problems which he also found impossible to fix.
River Plate were losing £800,000 a month and their deficit increased by £6m in the last year. Passarella made some incredible mistakes, such as signing coach Ramón Díaz to a further two-year contract, with increased financial benefits, ony weeks before his presidential term ended.
But fans failed to remember that previous presidents were responsible for the financial disaster, such as predecessor José Maria Aguilar agains twhom corruption charges have so far been unsuccessful.
When new president Rodolf D’Onofrio took over earlier this month, he said he found the situation worse than the last budget which showed a debt of £38.3m.
But then all new presidents make that excuse for being unable to fix things as they said they would in their election campaign.
All they can do now is to try and decrease the monthly deficit, he said, which does not look like it as it looks as if they do not even have the money to cover urgent expenditure.
All canddiates mentioned the important players they are trying to get to strengthen the team, but now it seems they will have to look for sponsors to get new players. That should mean that the players’ value would not belong to the club.
D’Onofrio admitted in a recent interview with the Buenos Aires Herald that the club has more than 60 professional players under contract. This is preposterous and one of the resasons for the monthly deficit in salaries. On the other hand, their good junior divisions are often overlooked and the situation is similar at other clubs.
Independiente’s case is even worse but that is another story.