Argentina’s Superliga replaced with Professional Soccer League as Tapia re-elected

River Plate takes on Patronato in Superliga Argentina (Photo by Amilcar Orfali/Getty Images)

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) has announced the creation of a new Professional Soccer League (LPF) to replace the existing Superliga after Claudio Tapia was re-elected as the president of the organisation.

The new league will be chaired by popular Argentine television presenter Marcelo Tinelli and current president of Argentine side San Lorenzo. Tinelli will lead the organization of the competition and take its media and merchandising rights to market.

Argentine club football has endured a turbulent history in recent years and its league competitions have undergone repeated format changes as political leaders have sought to make political capital from the game.

Populist president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner effectively tried to nationalise Argentine club football through her Fútbol para todos (football for the people) programme between 2009 and 2017, consolidating the Argentine Primera División and Primera B Nacional into one league and showing matches on state television.

The new competition was criticised for featuring too many teams and for being confusing, while the state television coverage was likened to a propaganda tool for the populist government.

Kirchner’s successor, Mauricio Macri, sought to separate the league from government control during his tenure as president from 2015 to 2019, creating the smaller Superliga competition which ran as a standalone entity and controlled the league’s rights separately.

However, this body came in for criticism earlier this year when it was forced to extend the bid deadline in the tender process for its international broadcast rights, with ESPN complaining of the short deadlines and ‘questionable aspects’ of the process.

The latest move to disband the Superliga and bring it back under the auspices of the AFA comes after Macri’s defeat in the most recent presidential elections to Kirchner ally, Alberto Fernández, and could signal a return to arm’s-length government involvement in its affairs. Tapia is seen as the establishment candidate for AFA president and has formed a political alliance with the new LPF chair, Tinelli, which could have a bearing on the way the new league is run.

“I am proud and very happy to be the President of this brand new Professional Soccer League. Thank you to all my colleagues, and to the president of @afa, @tapiachiqui [Claudio Tapia], for the absolute support at all times. Together is better,” said Tinelli on his official Twitter account.

The statutes for the new league give the LPF the power to exploit the commercial rights for the competition, including “competition sponsors, statistics, official data, archive material from the First Division, brand activation, official ball, esports “, while disciplinary and sports matters will be handled by an AFA disciplinary tribunal.

18 per cent of the league’s income will be transferred to the AFA for the support of its structure, with the league retaining the remaining 82 per cent.

Under the new leadership, the competition will once again increase in size. The AFA has announced that there will be no relegation from the new Professional Soccer League until 2022, although promotion to the league from the Primera B Nacional will still be possible. This will take the number of teams in the top division to 28 by 2022.

Tapia assumed the AFA presidency in 2017 and his new mandate runs until October 2025. AFA confirmed he will have six vice-presidents: Jorge Ameal (Boca Juniors), Rodolfo D’Onofrio (River Plate), Marcelo Tinelli (San Lorenzo), Hugo Moyano (Independiente), Marcelo Achile (Defensores) and Guillermo Raed (Mitre).