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Running a lax ship
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Argentina's football clubs have agreed to allow private investment and professional management as a means to spur the financially beleaguered Argentine league.

The executive committee of the Argentine football association made the announcement this week following a vote of 27 team representatives, with 16 voting in favour.

Several teams, including league champions River Plate and San Lorenzo, abstained.

In opening the teams to private investors, the plan stipulates that outside businesses can only manage one club in each division at a time.

It is unclear how much private investment would be allowed, under what terms and what regulations would apply to outside entities administering the clubs.

While the decision gave some clubs hope that an economic rescue was on the way, others decried it as a significant step towards chipping away at the sport's traditions.

Oscar Gimenez, president of the Argentine Juniors club, voted against the move.

He said he was worried management by private investors would reduce clubs to "anonymous associations" where members would have little input into the running of the club.

Other teams appeared anxious to take advantage of the ruling.

Officials with the second-division club Quilmes said they would begin finalising a deal reportedly worked out in recent months to turn the club over to Argentine investment firm the Exxel Group.

Daniel Razzetto, Quilmes president, said the final decision would be put to a vote by the club's associates at a March 30 meeting.

In Brazil, the so-called Pele Law is forcing teams to be operated as businesses.

Companies such as Swiss-based ISL Worldwide and US-based Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst purchased operating rights to clubs, allowing the teams to retain management of soccer operations while the international firms control functions such as ticketing, sponsorship and licensing.

Like Brazil's old system, Argentine clubs are operated as non-profit social clubs.

The teams mainly subsist on ticket sales, club membership dues, television revenue, and advertising.

Recently have they turned to merchandising to help boost revenues.

Critics say the current system unfairly favours the bigger clubs, which routinely dominate the league.

Mounting debts and poor management have left a majority of clubs struggling for survival.

Last year, Racing Club, one of Argentina's more popular teams, was declared bankrupt with debts upwards of $60m (£38m), although it was allowed to continue competing.

Collectively, Argentine clubs owe about $56 million to the Argentine football association.

That figure does not include other outstanding debts to players, business, referee syndicates, and coaches, estimated to be significantly more.
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