The Sweeper: Is Argentina’s Club Football Crisis a Bellwether for Europe?
It’s that “crisis” word again. Following the Sweeper’s report last Friday on the SPL’s growing financial troubles, the Argentinian Football Association has announced it is canceling the league season’s August 14th season opener across all divisions due to unpaid club debts totaling USD$182 million. The culprit seems to be irresponsible spending and bad accounting on behalf of Argentina’s club directors, hardly a new development in South American let alone European club football. What is interesting is the AFA’s strategy to save the league season: seeking to end its current $69 million television rights contract with Torneos y Competencias (TyC) so it can get a $154 million dollar deal with government-run Canal 7.
As in Europe, securing a generous TV rights package can mean the difference between success and insolvency in South America. However in Argentina there is a hefty political element as well: TyC is owned by the same group that publishes the Clarin newspaper, which has been critical of the Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez. TyC is unsurprisingly opposed to the AFA’s desire to kibosh a deal it won in good faith simply to pay for the expensive whims of Argentina’s club directors. Needless to say, the dispute means it is unlikely that the AFA’s debt crisis will end any time soon.
While measures of the sort the AFA is imposing aren’t yet a realistic possibility in Europe, Argentina does provide a revealing worst-case scenario of what can happen when clubs spend without a care for spiralling debts. Europe’s footballing leadership should take careful note.
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