AFA threatens to fine Argentina clubs who do not play in Friday league restart
The Argentina Football Federation (AFA) announced on Thursday that the league season would restart on Friday and has reportedly threatened fines and repercussions for teams and players who do not play.
The general secretary of the Argentina Players' Union, Sergio Marchi, had said he would delay the restart, adding that he did not think there was enough time to prepare and hitting out at the "debt-ridden club owners who have provoked this catastrophe."
On Thursday, Argentina's government stepped in to approve an emergency $22.7 million payment to the AFA, paving the way for the restart of the season which had been postponed since Feb. 5 because of financial problems.
The union said players and personnel at most of the clubs, from the first division to the fifth, had not been paid for the past four months and stressed that the emergency payment would not cover all the debt.
On Thursday, Argentina President Mauricio Macri confirmed that the funds had been transferred to the AFA to be distributed among the clubs. Macri is the former president of Boca Juniors club.
The league's television rights are currently under negotiation and it is without a TV deal at the moment.
Earlier this week, the AFA moved to allow the government to rescind its contract with the country's football association to broadcast games under the "Futbol para Todos" (Football for All) programme, launched by the previous administration in 2009.
The AFA is currently studying offers from private companies to broadcast Argentina's top flight matches from the 2017-18 campaign onwards.
The teams most affected by the debt are in the lower divisions, and powerful clubs such as Boca Juniors and River Plate observed the strike in solidarity. The leagues last played on Dec. 19 before the holiday break.
It's not clear how much players are owed in Argentina's top league, and the four below it. Some contracts were illegal and set up to avoid taxes. The unpaid wages are owed mostly to players at the country's smaller clubs. However, large clubs like Newell's Old Boys, Quilmes, and others have acknowledged they owe salaries.
AFA is being overseen by a so-called "normalization committee" set up eight months ago by FIFA. This followed the ouster of President Luis Segura, who was removed on charges of "aggravated fraud" in negotiation of TV broadcast rights.
AFA was run for 35 years by the late Julio Grondona, who also served as a FIFA senior vice president under Sepp Blatter and was in charge of finances. His death in 2014 opened up investigations into corruption.
An election to succeed Grondona ended in a 38-38 tie between candidates Segura and Marcelo Tinelli, although only 75 delegates were authorized to vote. The election was postponed to a later date with Segura, who took over after Grondona's death, remaining in charge.
Marchi said he would prefer the season not to restart until all the debt had been repaid. In order not to affect Copa Sudamericana play, some matches have been held.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.