A strike called by Argentine soccer players over unpaid wages overshadowed Friday’s meeting of the country’s Football Association (AFA), which was aimed at paving the way for the resumption of the league championships.
While AFA delegates debated constitutional issues, including the vetting of candidates for a presidential election which was set for March 29, players’ union (FAA) boss Sergio Marchi issued a statement saying members would strike over unpaid salaries.
The union’s announcement threw into doubt next month’s resumption of league matches, which have been on hold because of financial problems since Feb. 5 when Argentina’s summer break was originally due to end.
“The Argentine Footballers’ Union (FAA) considers conditions are not right to begin the second part of the tournaments organised by AFA and which had been scheduled for (March 3) in the case of the first division,” Marchi said in a statement.
“So we announce that the players will withhold their work and not take part in official matches … since they are owed salaries that in some cases go back four months.”
The AFA coffers were bare owing to protracted negotiations over a payout from the Argentine government, which wanted to rescind the contract the previous administration had signed with the AFA in 2009 to broadcast matches free under the Futbol para Todos (football for all) programme.
Friday’s meeting voted to accept the government’s offer of 390 million Argentine pesos ($25.21 million), which will be divided among the clubs.
The government payout will not be available immediately and would in any case only partially meet the clubs’ debts, but the AFA is on the verge of signing off broadcasting rights to a major international company.
The vote for which of three companies – Fox/Turner, ESPN and MediaPro – will be granted the rights to Argentine first division games from next season has been postponed for a week over technicalities.
The AFA has been run in a caretaker capacity since June by a so-called FIFA Normalisation Committee following a botched election at the end of 2015 called to find a successor to its late president Julio Grondona, who died in 2014 after 35 years at the helm.
Boca Juniors were top of the league standings at the halfway stage of the championship, which went into a summer recess before Christmas.
Teams have been playing friendlies against each other to maintain fitness and players at lower division clubs have done odd jobs to earn money.
($1 = 15.4700 Argentine pesos)