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SPORTS | 23-04-2021 23:37

European Super League flop a familiar sight for South Americans

South America has seen several attempts by clubs to take organisational matters into their own hands.

As a group of powerful European clubs announced a breakaway Super League for the rich, only to see the project crumble within 48 hours, thousands of miles away in South America the reaction was one of déjà vu.

The "dirty dozen" led by Real Madrid and Juventus faced an immediate backlash in Europe before their erstwhile collaborators launched a race to quit the European Super League – branded the super greed league – long before it could ever contemplate organising matches.

And yet it felt reassuringly familiar for many in South America where several attempts by clubs to take organisational matters into their own hands have met a similar fate, even if some lasted a touch longer.

South American League of Clubs

The most wide-ranging revolt by clubs attempting to appropriate control of football's massive incomes came in January 2016 when teams from Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Ecuador launched the South American League of Clubs.

Led by regional giants such as Argentina's Boca Juniors, they demanded a greater share of prize money and television rights from the continent's organising body CONMEBOL.

They also wanted a place on CONMEBOL's executive committee and "greater transparency" in the management of resources at a time when world football's governing body was engulfed in an embarrassing corruption scandal.

Clubs from Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela soon joined, swelling the ranks to almost 40 teams including Corinthians, Flamengo, River Plate and Penarol.

Officially, the clubs never actually discussed creating their own competition, nor making it a closed shop, but the rumors were that they wanted to take over the organization of existing competitions, the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana.

"We never wanted to compete with CONMEBOL for the capacity to organize competitions," then Boca Juniors president Daniel Angelici told Uruguayan Sport Radio 890.

"That's why I said we made a mistake with the name of the South American League: it was an association of clubs."

CONMEBOL was quick to act, substantially boosting prize money in its tournaments, while political strife at some clubs and the renunciation of others left the project in tatters.

Angelici soon found himself in a similar position to Real's Florentino Perez does now: increasingly isolated.

Week-long Colombian revolt

It's not just on a continental level that clubs have tried to take control of football. In Colombia in July 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic raged, the country's most decorated teams – Atlético Nacional, Millonarios and América – led a group of 16 rebels aiming to create their own competition.

Promoted as the "New League," and including some second division clubs, they claimed theirs was an "act of reform" that would give greater control to the big clubs, especially when it came to the distribution of television rights – which are equally shared.

The 16 teams intended to invite four more to form a 20-team league, local media said.

But one of the major clubs, Independiente Santa Fe, remained on the outside as the rebels sought support from Colombia's football federation.

"Colombian football needs to modernize, it needs to reform, it needs to be at the same level as ... developed countries that have promoted football as a great spectacle," Millonarios president Enrique Camacho told El Tiempo newspaper.

The revolt lasted one week.

'Club of 13'

In Brazil, clubs had their hands forced in 1987 after the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said it didn't have enough money to organise the league.

A group of 12 clubs including some of the biggest – Flamengo, Palmeiras, Cruzeiro, Corinthians and Santos – organised the Union Cup.

They decided to include the impoverished northeastern region so invited Bahia to take part and formed the "Club of 13."

"The idea, really, was to organise matches between ourselves and then create mechanisms, over time, for promotion and relegation," said Carlos Miguel Aidar, then president of São Paulo.

Seeing the Union Cup taking shape, the CBF suddenly got its act together and organised a competition for the remaining 15 teams.

Sport Recife won the official title while Flamengo claimed the Union Cup.

The CBF proposed a quadrangular tournament involving each league's finalists to decide the overall champions but Flamengo refused to take part.

Since then, both Sport and Flamengo claimed to be Brazilian champions in 1987 but in 2017 the Supreme Court decided in favour of the minnows from Recife.

The next season the 'Club' handed over organisational tasks to the CBF but retained control of advertising contracts and television rights.

In 2000, the 'Club' took over organisation of the Brazilian championship as the CBF was struggling with legal complications.

The Club lasted another 11 years before it dissolved over political and economic disputes.

by Rodrigo Almonacid, AFP

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