The future of Argentina’s football clubs has been thrust onto the electoral agenda, prompting some of the local game’s most famous names to speak out against the potential privatisation of teams.
More than a dozen clubs from Argentina’s top flight, the Liga Profesional de Fútbol, simultaneously issued statements on Saturday declaring their opposition to any plan to privatise local sporting institutions. The sentiments were echoed by dozens of others from the lower divisions.
The declarations came after libertarian outsider Javier Milei, the leading candidate in next weekend’s November 19 presidential run-off, confirmed he would be in favour of changing rules and allowing clubs to be taken over as limited companies or “Sociedad Anónimas,” which use the suffix ‘S.A.’ (the equivalent of a PLC or public limited company in the United Kingdom; publicly traded company or incorporated in the United States).
Milei faces a showdown against ruling coalition candidate, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, on November 19, when Argentines will choose their next president.
“True to its origins, respectful for the clear principles defended for nearly 120 years, Boca Juniors confirms its status as a not-for-profit civil association and the premise that our club belongs to its people, the partners who make it bigger every day,” stated the world-famous club on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter.
Fellow giants River Plate also had something to say: “Following the spirit of our founders, we reject corporations in Argentine football. The River Plate Club is a not-for-profit Civil Association, and it will always belong to us partners who have supported it during these 122 years of greatness.”
Press releases of rejection were also issued by Independiente, Racing, San Lorenzo, Huracán, Banfield, Lanús, Barracas Central, Newell's and Argentinos Juniors, among others.
The statements were echoed by the Unión Nacional de Clubes de Barrio, which represents more than 700 sporting institutions nationwide.
The group called on voters to support Massa over Milei as the libertarian's proposals are "based on measures that would make thousands of neighbourhood clubs disappear, in a greater adjustment, in the removal of subsidies and in a hyperinflationary dollarisation and income liquefaction."
Milei in favour
The wave of condemnation came after an interviewer followed up on a radio interview Milei gave a year ago in which he stated he was in favour of sports corporations.
“The English model of corporations doesn’t do badly. The question is how to finance it. The clubs actually have corporations quoted on the stock market and everything,” the 53-year-old economist said in the footage, which went viral online.
In the same interview, consulted about whether Boca should be owned by foreign capital, Milei said he considered the question irrelevant.
“Who the hell cares who owns it if you beat River 5-0 and are world champions? Or would you rather stay in this misery we have, of an increasingly worse football? How do we do every time we leave Argentina?” he asked.
The privatisation of Argentina’s clubs and the creation of sports corporations is a longstanding wish of former right-wing president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019).
The former head of state encouraged the initiative when he was president of Boca Juniors (1995-2007), but his proposal was ultimately rejected by the rest of the clubs and the AFA Argentine Football Association.
In what he later described as "the worst defeat of his career," he lost the AFA executive committee vote by 38 to 1.
The former head of state announced last Wednesday that he run for the vice-presidency of Boca Juniors on an opposition list, challenging Xeneize legend and current post-holder Juan Román Riquelme, in the club’s upcoming December 2 elections.
On Monday, Milei offered his support for Macri's candidacy, saying it would help the La Boca-based side to recover "greatness."
"If Macri considers that I can be useful to recover the greatness and brilliance that Boca had during his administration, I have no problem in helping him," said the libertarian in an interview with Radio Continental.
"I don't know in what role," he added. "Hopefully none because I'm going to be president of the nation, but I would do my best to help Boca shine again."
Milei has previously described himself as a Boca fan, though he says that he fell out of love with the club when "populism" took control – a reference to former players such as Riquelme who now have non-sporting roles.