June 20, 2013
Olympic hopes and cash
Argentine Olympic Committee chief Gerardo Werthein says that having the Olympic Games in Buenos Aires is not just a pipe dream. The next available date seems to be 2024 because it is unlikely they would be held in South America two times running. The enormous cost cannot be calculated, but Werthein seems to be good at finding the money.
Meanwhile, Buenos Aires is a candidate for the Junior Olympic Games in 2018 which are estimated today to cost around US$300 million, while San Luis is bidding to stage the 2019 Pan-American Games in 2019. Decisions are likely to be made this year when the Annual General Meeting of the International Olympic Committee is also be held in Buenos Aires.
But first come the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro for which, Werthein feels, results will be seen of the higher injection of money into local sport — helped by the 1 percent levy on all mobile phone bills which he introduced, but the general public pays, whether interested in sporting success or not. Yet the one percent is not going to make much difference to anybody.
But Brazil, which is better off financially, announces it will invest at least twice as much (US$500 million) on its athletes for the Games. For example, leading athletes with medal chances, are to get US$7,500 a month which does not compare very favourably with the 6,7000 pesos that Argentina's leading athletes receive monthly. Brazil wants to be among the top 10 medal winners in Olympic Games — it was 22nd in London last year — and in the top five in Pan-American Games.
It is interesting to know that a global survey of people found that Argentina is among the countries where there is least interest for the Olympic Games. Not entirely surprising in a soccer-mad country where soccer's World Cup is of far more interest.
San Luis says the Pan-American Games would cost them US$2,244 million, all to be provided by the province. In the end it will cost them more as Mar del Plata found out in 1995 when they budgeted US$40 million dollars and finally spent four times as much. No wonder they withdrew from the bidding this time. In San Luis, the Games will be held in La Punta, a new city with 17,500 inhabitants and practically all the installations, plus hotels, have to be built. Rosario has more installations and probably would have spent less.
But while money helps, throwing it at sport alone is not going to improve it. One needs the support of many quarters — for example, government authorities which held up imports, among them modern sports equipment, not produced in the country, for training for the Olympic Games. The equipment was eventually allowed to enter the country, but valuable time was lost. One stupid official told the Olympic people if they wanted to import something, they would have to export something. What?
Then there was the Argentine Football Association (AFA) which did not protest when the continental federation decided not to hold a proper Olympic qualifying tournament, but instead the South American U-20 tournament. Some Argentine clubs did not release their best players for this. The result was that Argentina, soccer gold medal winners in the two previous Olympic Games, did not even qualify to defend their title in London last year. Also, some local sports federations are not organized enough to gain the best results from their athletes. Werthein is a businessman and most know how to organize, but he has no power in the individual sports federations which are sometimes led by incapable people who got elected with political dealings and/or just want to feel important.
In the past — or is it still happening? — some athletes obtained benefits through friendship with officials or poor athletes obtained sponsors while good athletes could not. Furthermore, among other things, good coaches are needed from here or from abroad.
HOPES FOR 2013
Last week this column mentioned that something should be done to get rid of players agents and investors. Local tax authorities (AFIP) are finally attempting to do their bit and getting tough with local professional sport... and it is about time too! One sport in this country is to cheat the tax authorities and they have never really fought back — only now that the government is desperate for money. The latest tax demand — not new, but never taken into account — is that clubs must own 100% of their players' contracts and that investors cannot own them (not even in part). This is so that the club is completely responsible for paying taxes on his salary and transfer fee. The AFIP also wants to register all investors and players’ agents with details on what percentage they collect and which players they represent.
The AFIP is fixing a minimum of 10 percent so that investors or agents cannot register a lower amount to pay less taxes, as is often the case. Transfers are always registered at a lower sum for tax purposes, but the AFIP intends to establish likely transfer values in each case.
The problem of fixing books always remains and perhaps a special tax police is needed. Meanwhile, the AFA, which owes AFIP a lot of taxes, will be charged directly 6.5 percent of the money it receives from the government for TV fees in the "Soccer free for all" programme. That should be easier to do. Last August, the AFIP started investigating players and stopped some from playing until a court order (fabricated by investors and agents) stopped them. So far, it has not happened.
While soccer, with the biggest movement of cash, is the main culprit, it is not the only sport being investigated. In the last few days, foreign basketball players were being stopped from entering Argentina to play in the country's national professional league. Why? Because they come on tourist visas and as tourists would not pay taxes. Tourists are allowed to stay for three months, but lengthening your stay is the easiest thing. Go to Uruguay for the day and get another three months on your passport. Trouble is that immigration authorities are too easily misled. Some of the players have just walked in with no trouble.
The laws are not tough enough, nor properly carried out yet!