Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Argentina Targets Soccer Mafias

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The Argentine government announced tough new regulations on Wednesday to crack down on corruption in the country’s soccer league. The rules published by Argentina’s Financial Information Unit require the Argentine Football Association and every club in the top two divisions to file annual reports on everyone on the payroll who make at least 60,000 pesos ($13,800) a year.

The regulations take aim at the barra bravasmafia-like networks that wield considerable power in soccer stands and among fans. Barras, which are endemic to Argentine soccer, make their money through ticket resale and parking rackets, controlling the sale of club merchandise. In order to keep order among their fans and peace with their corresponding barra, clubs have allegedly paid these networks portions of multimillion dollar player transfer fees and even paychecks.

To curb this trend, the new rules require clubs to report all financial compensation earned by league officials, players, owners, club staff, corporate sponsors, investors, government officials, and any entity that conducts business with the federation of clubs. The income information requested in the rules go far beyond just salaries to include outside bonuses, prizes, loans and gifts such as housing and cars. But the statute causing the most ire is the fine for violators, set at 100,000 peso ($23,000) or 10 times the money involved in the illegal transaction-whichever amount is higher.

The Argentine government’s tougher stance on illegal activity in sports and elsewhere come in response to increased pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body that develops government policies to combat money laundering. If Argentina had not passed these regulations, it could have been  penalized by being added to the FATF’s list of countries where financial transactions carry a high risk of criminal activity. The Argentine Football Association agreed to the tougher rules in exchange for the government paying $200 million a year in tax dollars to televise games for free through the “Football for All” program.

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