Clubs and AFA begin process to disband Superliga after just three seasons
By Jonathan Rest
The Argentine Superliga, the country's top soccer league set up in 2017 to much fanfare, faces the threat of disbandment at the end of this season amid an ongoing power struggle with the clubs and the AFA, the national governing body.
The Superliga is understood to have lost the support of a vast majority of the 24 Superliga clubs, which weighed with the 24 AFA votes, could result in the dissolution of the top flight at an ordinary assembly, to be replaced by a Professional League.
Three-quarters of the electorate must be in favour for change to be enacted.
The new entity would be autonomous and manage its own commercial rights, like the Superliga, but with closer links to the AFA.
According to reports in Argentina, there would be no financial fallout from such a move, as "the beneficiaries would be its [Superliga] members."
However, it is unknown what impact it would have on the domestic Superliga rights deal with Fox and Turner, which are mid-way through a five-year, 17.5-billion-pesos (then $532-million) agreement.
The Professional League would have an executive body, which would comprise AFA president Claudio Tapia, and an executive president, who would be a president or vice-president of a current Superliga club.
Marcelo Tinelli, Nicolás Russo and Cristian Malaspina, presidents of San Lorenzo, Lanús and Argentinos respectively, are said to be the early frontrunners.
In contrast to Superliga president Mariano Elizondo, the executive president of the Professional League would not receive a salary.
The move to scrap the Superliga has been prompted by clubs that feel they have not benefitted financially, as had been promised, from the launch of the competition in 2017, in place of the Primera División, and meant control of the top flight switched from the AFA to the league, and by the AFA, which believes the interests of the national team have not been served by the league.
Last month, 15 Superliga clubs voted to delay the resumption of the season in light of losing players to the Argentina under-23 team, which was playing in the Conmebol Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualifying competition in Colombia.
However, because it fell one short of the required two-thirds majority, matches took place as planned.
Tapia had accused Elizondo and the Superliga of showing the AFA a lack of respect, but the league hit back, saying all 24 clubs had committed to a 33-week schedule back in August, with Fifa's competition windows taken into account at the time, and that dates for fixtures in 2020 were “approved in a timely manner” with the involvement of national association officials.
The Superliga is presently in the process of selling its international media rights, albeit it has extended the deadline for bids following complaints from broadcasters.
The league launched its invitation to tender for the cycle beginning 2020-21 in late December with opening bids due in January, but the deadline has now been pushed back to 31 March, with Mediapro, the Spanish media rights and production agency, and US cable sports broadcaster ESPN among those to have written to the league complaining of "short deadlines" and "many questionable aspects."
Interested parties are said to be angered by the emergence of a 'starter bidder' for the Superliga rights in Argentine Sports Rights Management LLC.
The consortium has been formed by Matias and Raul Rivera, co-founders of Fanatiz, the Miami-based over-the-top streaming platform showing Latin American soccer, David Belmar, president of 1190 Sport, a South American commercial sports agency, and Hernan Donari, who stepped down as a senior executive at Fox Sports Latin America last year.
According to reports in Argentina, if the consortium does not land the rights, the winning entity would have to pay it $500,000 in compensation.
Torneos, the Argentine sports rights agency, holds international rights to the Superliga and the SAF Cup in a deal that was agreed back in 2013 and runs until the end of the 2019-20 season. It is worth around $6 million per season.
The league is said to be seeking around $15 million per year.