The Argentina Primera Division has seen the start of its season delayed by a league-wide strike, as players from every club protest over unpaid wages. Despite a lump sum payment by the Argentinian government to help cover the salaries, ESPN is reporting that the $22.7 million put up by President Mauricio Macri’s administration is not enough to cover the loss of income.
The strike comes as a result of the loss of the league’s TV contract, which was previously controlled by the government itself. Even if the league were to start back up this week, they would be without a new TV deal, as negotiations continue to stall between the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and private companies.
The Primera Division was originally supposed to begin again in February, but due to the strike, there is no set deadline for terms that would allow the country’s most popular sports league to restart play. The AFA has already threatened to fine clubs that do not participate in league games as scheduled.
It’s not just the first division that is affected, either; the Argentina Players’ Union is claiming that players from the first all the way down to the fifth division have not been paid in four months. Although smaller clubs are in more debt (especially in the lower divisions), international powerhouses Boca Juniors and River Plate have both agreed to strike in cooperation with the other clubs. The general secretary of the Argentina Players’ Union, Sergio Marchi, has come out and said that the league will not restart until all of the debt is paid.
However, clubs in international competitions will continue to play while the domestic situation is resolved. On March 1st, Racing Club picked up a 1-0 win in the Copa Sudamericana, while San Lorenzo, Atlético Tucumán, Godoy Cruz and Lanús will all participate in Copa Libertadores group stage matches this week.
While the exact amount of money owed by all teams isn’t being reported publicly, what is clear is that play will not restart until the AFA are able to negotiate a large cash inflow, whether from a new TV deal or more government aid. Complicating matters is the fact that certain player contracts throughout Argentina are actually illegal, as they were signed by owners looking to avoid taxes.