April 23, 2014
Club debts impossible to pay
By Eric Weil
Don't always blame club presidents
Javier Cantero is unlikely to be reelected as Independiente's president, firstly because during his term the club's soccer team was relegated to the National B Division and secondly because he did not keep his election promises of putting the club's finances in order and getting rid of its hooligan gangs. Impossible tasks and he should have instead promised that he would try. But for the majority of fans (who are not very bright) definite promises are better vote-catchers than just saying he would try.
With no money, Cantero could not strengthen the team to avoid relegation (which was also due to previous season's poor performances). Nor could he possibly put the club's finances in order as debtors took the opportunity to claim debts accrued during the previous administration under Julio Comparada (who would not give debtors any dice). These claims were received almost on a weekly basis. The monthly deficit also continued for various reasons as bad administration practices could not be easily changed in a short time. Also, when Cantero took over, he found the club employed almost 60 professional soccer players for no earthly reason. Most never saw first team action, were owed money and were difficult to get rid of as they were not up to first team standard.
Cantero could not possibly get rid of the hooligans because he got no help from anybody — Argentine FA (AFA), police, government, courts, etc. — and other clubs, who love their hooligans, were even against him. Even some Independiente committee members resigned. It is usual for rats to leave a sinking ship. Independiente posted a debt of 392,697,119 pesos — an increase of 62,885,243 pesos in the period of June 2012 to June 2013. Independiente is bankrupt, but proper bankruptcy laws do not exist in this country. Otherwise, Independiente would be no more. They are also in danger of losing points by order of FIFA, the international body, for a debt for a player bought from a foreign club which would spoil their promotion prospects.
Sure, Cantero made mistakes. Club presidents usually do because, as mentioned before, authorities taking over clubs do not have the required capacity to administrate them properly. One of his mistakes was that he could not properly handle accusations in court against former president Comparada for fraudulent administration of the club.
River Plate has the second highest debt (as mentioned in last Friday's column), but another serious case is Santa Fe’s Colón. The club says it owes 120 million pesos, which does not seem so much in comparison with other clubs, but they have no means of paying it. They cannot pay their players (which resulted in their not turning up to play Atlético Rafaela recently) nor their employees, nor other clubs when they buy players of them. This resulted in FIFA ordering the AFA to take six points off them for a debt of US$802,000 to Mexico’s Atlante. Colón is bankrupt, although its officials are said to be rich.
Colón's president, Germán Lerche, who has now been forced to resign, must take some blame for unclear dealings. At the AFA he was in charge of the national teams. Recently he was charged with not paying taxes and was also known to try to get a hooligan on the run to be freed from going to jail. Lerche was a possible candidate to take over from Julio Grondona as chief of the AFA in 2015. Perhaps that is the kind of people the AFA wants!
Racing Club’s debt for the fiscal year ending October 2013 is 133 million pesos. They say that in comparison with debts of other local clubs they should be satisfied, which seems a lame excuse. England's Chelsea declared a debt of 490 million pesos at the official rate (which its rich owner who could cover any time), but what has that got to do with it? A club should not spend more than it earns.
San Lorenzo declared a debt of 240 million pesos and finally included the 33 million pesos which its former president (Abdo) said he lent the club (it does not yet mean they will pay it because papers are missing to show how this money was spent). Even Vélez Sarsfield, always considered a model club, also financially, admitted it has a debt of 171 million pesos and a loss of almost 43 million pesos in the last fiscal year.
So who makes a profit? No clubs do officially, but soccer player agents — clubs should arrange player transfers between clubs and not with agents as used to be done in the old days — some club directors, investors which should not be allowed, hooligans and other hangers-on. Who is to blame? Inefficient club administrators, as mentioned before, and the AFA for not taking proper steps and laws (not complied with) from the start.
Diego Maradona's dream has always been to be a coach. His first job was with Deportivo Mandiyú who was relegated and now play in the provincial league. The players said they had a great time with him, but did not do so well on the field. His second job was with Racing Club where he hardly ever turned up and let his assistant coach do the work. Later, he signed with Almagro, but did not turn up at all. Yet he became national team coach and paid the usual penalty for not winning the World Cup and later in Dubai where he had limited success.
Now, every time a club is looking for a coach, his name turns up, apparently planted by his agent in the media. The latest was with Tottenham Hotspur and even the English papers had the “news”. But once again it was Tottenham Hotspur who denied that they had ever been in touch with Maradona.