Relegation for a team can be a heart-breaking and tragic event for the fans and the staff of the club alike. When a giant falls though it becomes a massive point of interest for any neutral viewers. Remembering the Serie B season with Juventus after the Calciopoli scandal was an enjoyable footballing novelty. Many more may tune into the Segunda División to watch Deportivo de La Coruña in action next season, and the relegation of AS Monaco will make Ligue 2 a more interesting place too. Now if you thought that River Plate’s flight in the Argentinian Primera B Nacional this upcoming season would be well worth a watch, then you’re out of luck. There could well be a new league structure in place for 2012-2013 that ensures River a place in the top flight once again.
Many an FA gets stick from fans, and the Argentina Football Association have an excellent record in this department. Last year’s River Plate relegation seemed at the time to be a massive event in Argentinian football history and now the AFA has made it entirely worthless.
Only an absolutely baffling string of consequences would fail to promote River Plate next season – they’ve essentially done all the work already. They should thank the AFA. The season after next will bring about a new format in to Argentine football – a massive league system composed of both leagues.It was likely that River would have been promoted anyway with some of the quality in their squad but this new relegation makes the entire Nacional B next season almost utterly worthless. The only thing River Plate (and the rest of the league) has to do is to avoid being relegated.
Similarly those playing in the Primera División are now unsure as to whether or not relegation for them will have any sort consequence on them. For the likes of Tigre, Olimpo, Racing and the four new promoted clubs – next season is still a bit of a mystery.Yet next season is only a week away, the first batch of games for the 2011-2012 Apertura will begin on the 5th August and still what many of the clubs are playing for is entirely unknown.
As it stands the new format will have the country’s teams divided into two divisions – except neither will be above each other in terms of ranking. They will instead be zones, and the top 5 of that particular zone will advance to play the top 5 of the other zone to determine the overall champion (it may also see Boca and River in separate zones). The rest of the teams who do not advance to the championship stages will then fight it out to avoid relegation.
It’s understandable, from the clubs point of view, why this new system has passed through the voting between the clubs, there were 22 votes in favour, 4 abstentions and 1 absentee from the voting process. From the perspective of the current top tier teams it means the fears of relegation (that have been very real in recent years for the bigger clubs too like Boca Juniors, Racing, San Lorenzo and ultimately, River Plate). Those in the relegation places of the Primera División will breathe a huge sigh of relief, and those in division B will also welcome the freedom for next season to know they only have to avoid relegation and that they will be soon be a part of the top tier.
The biggest winner through all of this will probably be the president of the AFA, the ever-controversial Julio Grondona. Grondona has been in the job since 1978, an impressive run no doubt, and with elections once again on the horizon (taking place in October) it makes sense for the 79 year old to make as many friends as possible. This entire new league system ensures he was friends will virtually every club. The only real losers, as ever, are the fans.
Fans are overwhelmingly against this idea and it’s not surprising either. The new system entirely lowers the overall quality of the league, with all due to respect to the likes of Almirante Brown, Sportivo Desamparados and Aldosivi; their games hardly get the mouth watering to the average viewer.
It also makes the leagues far less competitive, the clubs from the Primera B will be of a much lower standard and will most likely be easily beaten by the likes of Vélez, Independiente, and Lanús.
Fortunately it seems that the implementation of this new system maybe not be an absolute certainty. Although initially announced as though the new structure was a definite fact, it seems some of the fans backlash may well have gotten through to Grondona and his men. The new line from Grondona is that there will be a new committee vote before the end of the year (perhaps to be scheduled for after his likely re-election) to decide finally whether or not there will be this change.
It still leaves the clubs of both divisions entirely out of the loop for the first half of the season to know what exactly it is they’re playing for but at least there is hope for the fans that the new structure may be avoided for the good of the game.
You can follow Richard on Twitter @filippoinzaghi.