Players’ strike halts the progress of the Argentine football season, as increasing complaints of unpaid wages over the past four months have went unheard, and opening games were postponed (despite government payout).
Argentinian footballers pushed ahead with their strike over unpaid wages, consequently suspending the first league games of this year. This is despite having received a payout of 350 million pesos ($22m) from the government. The official statement from the AFA is that this is not nearly enough money to cover all the players’ salaries.
Also suspended were Friday evening’s fixtures: Rosario Central vs Godoy Cruz & San Lorenzo vs Belgrano. The AFA (Argentine Football Association) reports earlier warnings that payouts from the government will not resolve disputes. “Tomorrow [Friday], there will be no football. I maintain that the situation today is worse than yesterday,” said Sergio Marchi, spokesman.
Furthermore, things look so bad that it turns out FIFA imposed a ‘Normalisation Committee’, which will have the goal of keeping the reins of running the country’s football, while waiting for new administrative elections to come about. Expulsions were also involved in the form of threats. Unions say that there are players who haven’t been paid for over four months, because the state fails to re-distribute properly to each club the broadcasting revenue that they’re due.
Since the death of Julio Grondona (in July 2014), the AFA has had no permanent president. In the wake of this chaos, statements of strike threats went ignored, and the AFA assembly held last Friday only confirmed match days and kick off times for the weekend. In other words, the statements were simply not taken seriously.
This players’ strike is only the latest in a series of hardships that have befallen the Argentine Football Association. Presently, the Association is being managed by the group installed by FIFA. Julio Grondona is suspected by U.S. authorities to be at the centre of the huge scandal that rocked the football world in 2015. Since Grondona was also vice-president of FIFA, it goes without saying that he is suspected to be the trigger for this entire crisis. Many are of the opinion that his absence will give way for a necessary clean-up of the entire system.
Grondona was the de facto leader of Argentine football, for almost 40 years of activity. The depth of the unfolding chaos in the country’s football federation was recognized even during the election that succeeded him.
Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina, is also believed to have influenced this critical situation. He took a decision to dismiss the signed agreement made by his predecessor – this agreement, signed in 2009, involves state funds of over 11 billion pesos ($700m) paid in order to ensure rights to air football games over the next seven years. Unions have not been easy on Mauricio Macri, with complaints about high inflation and a struggling economy.
Next Tuesday (March 7), it is expected that many of Argentina’s unions will march in down-town Buenos Aires. It has the potential to become the largest uproar of discontent faced by Macri since his election in 2015.
Macri announced a final payment of 350m pesos ($23m), still deemed not enough by the football clubs. The Argentine tax agency in October asked the police to investigate nine soccer clubs that it claims owe more than $9 million in unpaid taxes. Special concessions to clubs haven resulted in a gap of 1.3 billion pesos ($85.7 million) in social security contributions for its employees since 2003.