May 19, 2013
AFA-Plus ticket system... hmm!
Earlier this month, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) presented its “new” match ticket system for the umpteenth time and said it thinks it will be ready for use at the end of next year, although shortly earlier it was going to be ready for the 2013/14 season. The question is clear: when will it be ready?
AFA-Plus, first announced in 2007, was going to be used originally for the 2008/9 season. In a further presentation in 2010, AFA chief Julio Grondona then announced it would be ready for use in six months. It has continually been published and promoted in the monthly AFA Revista magazine. It reminds one of some sects continually announcing the coming of the promised land.
AFA-Plus would do away with hooligans inside stadiums and the free tickets for them, people getting into stadiums without paying and recurring problems with ticket sales — look at River v Boca this week for example — false tickets, black market prices, letting more people into stadiums than the capacity allows, etc.
As mentioned, the promised land. But it will come up against the same old problem — club officials, most of whom are hooligan gang supporters, or hooligans themselves.
How does it work?
To be able to go to matches, everybody (club members, officials, journalists, tradesmen, even players and training staff) will have to register at clubs with their name, address, DNI, photo and fingerprints to get a card similar to a credit card (which would today cost them 65 pesos). Other fans will be able to do this at 40 centres all round the country not yet established. Tickets can then be bought at cash machines or on the Internet, giving details of the bank accounts from which the money is to be taken. At the stadium one inserts the card (there are no tickets) and presents their fingerprints at the turnstiles, which will not let you through if the details do not match (if using somebody else’s card for example) or if one is listed as having no right of entry. Jumping over turnstiles, as hooligans do, is no use because there is a door which will not open.
It is a complicated system, worked on by Universidad Tecnológica Nacional and Telecom, and there could be flaws. But the biggest flaw is that the cards will be obtained via clubs who may well give them out to undesirable “friends.” So far it has been up to clubs to present lists of undesirables (hooligans) and many have not done so, while others did not name those who are part of what they call their “official gang”.
At first the system will only be used for international matches and at the 20 clubs of the National A Division, yet it seems only 14 of these clubs have started work on the elaborate entry system. It has been mentioned in this column previously that hooligans do not like the system and that their powerful influence is perhaps holding up its completion... which sounds preposterous.
LOSING MONEY. Some clubs have said they will lose money with AFA-Plus, even disregarding the building costs. One reason could be that they will not be able to sell tickets on the black market at higher prices, nor hand out free tickets to “valuable” friends. It has also not been explained how club members will get tickets at the usual cheaper prices, nor how the system works when clubs increase their prices for certain matches.
The government’s INDEC price index of around 1% monthly inflation — which should really only be published once a year on December 28 (the Day of the Innocence), like April 1 in Britain — has certainly not gone through to the clubs who have offered tickets at very high prices lately. River Plate are charging members 350 pesos to see them play Boca Juniors on Sunday and 600 pesos for non-members, but tickets were already for sale on the black market at higher prices before the official sale began. River Plate have given Boca Juniors 4,500 tickets, but only 3,000 are being sold. You can imagine where and at what price you can get most of the others. Vélez Sársfield, in another classic against Racing Club, are selling seats at 350 pesos.
MEANWHILE. Another of those important announcements made by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in August was the introduction of fingerprinting for people entering soccer stadiums, which will suppposedly keep out hooligans. With Julio Grondona and Minister Florencio Randazzo present, it was a good photo opportunity, but while it was announced by the government, it did not actually have the government’s practical backing.
The system has been used at several matches and has kept some hooligans out, but it fails to complete its objective for the same reason stated above. The system depends on clubs supplying lists of the undesirables for a database and few clubs actually do this. Notorious non-compilers are River Plate and Boca Juniors. There is no law obliging them to do this, but there should be for the system to work. So we come to the same conclusion, again. If club officials do not help, no system will work and if the government does not take a firm hand, it will not either!
INTERNATIONALS. Another international soccer friendly has just been announced for next year. Argentina will face Russia on August 14. Just a few days ago, it was also announced that Argentina will play against Sweden on February 6. It will be good for Argentina’s attack trio to try its strength against European defences (as mentioned in this column previously, I believe this is necessary). But it should work as all the forward players — Messi, Higuaín, Agüero and Di Maria — score goals with their European clubs.
August 14 however is one of the dates for internationals which European clubs want abolished as it interferes with their pre-season training. FIFA, soccer’s international body, agrees with clubs who are angry at already having to give up their players for so many World Cup qualifying games. The change in the international calendar may however not come into effect until 2015.