In days gone by one of the few events to break the tedium of a long close season was the publishing of the fixture lists. Argentine Apertura fixtures were released this week with eyes predictably drawn towards the numerous clásicos and Superclásico. The fun is set to commence on the 14th August although Secretary of the Players Union Sergio Marchi has called for the start to delayed.
The problem is debt, specifically the debts owing to players by their clubs from unpaid wages and bonuses. Almost half of all clubs in Primera A are in debt to their players including Racing, River, Independiente, Huracán and the two Rosario teams. With problems such as these it's understandable that Argentine players move abroad to inferior leagues and teams. These transfers are as much about the security of a contract that will be honoured as they are trophies and career progression.
San Lorenzo have one of the most acute debt problems in the league at present. One of the famed Big Five (the only one not to have won the Copa Libertadores) have exacerbated their own woes by spending too much money on players, paying too much in wages (when they pay them) and performing too poorly where it matters. Last season's dismal Copa Libertadores exit did little to help balance the books. Goalkeeper Agustin Orión is one such employee who's owed money together with others such as defender Cristian Tula and forward Hernán Peirone. With Orión he's the property of the club and not owned by a third party if his debts aren't settled in the next day or so he'll become a free agent. Currently with this debt San Lorenzo are unable to sell the player despite interest from Racing. Coach Simeone needs to take a roll-call before every training session at the moment, it's anyone's guess who's not turning up as a result of non-payment.
AFA chief Julio Grondona has called on the State to intervene and has also proposed that the FA loan money to San Lorenzo to clear the player's debts and enable him to be sold, thus generating income. Another form of assistance could be increased revenues from the football pools, the much maligned TV deal needs modifying for a more even distribution of the cash, however the current contract runs until 2014. Surely the State has bigger concerns than propping-up poorly managed football teams? Direct State intervention in various guises aka handouts is nothing new, Racing's three successive championships between 1949 -51 were helped immensely by their ability to retain their best players - then Finance Minister Ramón Careijo was a Racing fanatic. Perhaps Nestor could have a quiet word with his wife?
Those owed wages must be paid. Short-term loans maybe the answer but club presidents, boards and administrators need to be brought to justice when contracts are breached.