On Monday we finally heard when the 2017-18 top flight season in Argentina will kick off, under the auspices of the new Superliga. The first weekend of the championship will be the weekend of Sunday, 20th August, according to Olé, and initially the organisation will ‘borrow’ various services from the AFA, including the disciplinary tribunal and the infrastructure for doping tests.
Superliga CEO Mariano Elizondo (no relation to former referee Horacio) says that the plan is for the fixtures for the season to be laid out in advance so that ‘every club will know when it’s their turn to play,’ according to Olé (the words quoted are the paper’s, not Elizondo’s own). Whether that means the tried-and-tested AFA practice of telling us which games will be played on which weekend well in advance but only giving exact days and kick off times much later, or actually laying out every kick off time at the start of the season, English Premier League-style, we shall have to wait and see. It certainly seems to imply the latter, but this is Argentina, so don’t hold your breath.
Note, if you clicked that Olé link above but don’t quite trust your Spanish, that the word transición does not refer there to another Torneo de Transición (transitional championship, to take us back to a February-December season), but to a state of transition administratively as the new organisation takes the reins from the AFA. This will be a season-long championship. Rumours suggest that there will be a transitional championship in the second half of 2018, to (re-)align the Argentine season with the new South American calendar now the two Copas have been made year-round competitions, but that’s a long way from being confirmed yet.
The championship will consist of 28 clubs, and like the season just gone four will be relegated when it ends (in May next year, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup) and only two will come up from the B Nacional. The aim remains to bring the top flight down to 22 teams in the long run. The structure will be the same as the season just gone, just with fewer teams: everyone will play everyone else once, and there’ll be an extra round of clásicos consisting of the reverse fixture for the big rivalries (teams without a rival in the Primera will be drawn against one another at random, or possibly with an eye on travel times).
The league will take a summer break from the 11th December until the 28th January, and fixtures won’t clash with international weeks, while there will also be consideration made for when clubs are in continental action (which would seem to go against the implication mentioned above that kick off times will all be decided at the start of the season, given the Copa Libertadores group stages won’t start until the second half of the campaign).
Interestingly, La Nación report that the AFA are retiring Article 225 from their statute as of right now. Article 225 is a decades-old rule which states that if a player is suspended, but his club have a player either away on international duty, or out due to an injury picked up while playing with his country, then the suspension can be postponed until the international player returns. This rule has also applied when clubs have players called up to youth national sides, leading to the ridiculous situation where a team can have two key players red carded, yet continue to use them for a month due to a couple of barely used squad players who happen to be away at, say, the Under-20 World Cup. During the season just gone we complained once or twice about Article 225 on Hand Of Pod (I forget which episode, sorry), and talked about how nice it would be for it to be withdrawn, so it comes as a pleasant surprise to find it has been. Maybe the AFA really are taking steps in the right direction.