AFA recent accusations to Conmebol could change the conditions of how the tournament, for now with two venues, is organized
LatinAmerican Post | Jorge Ovalle
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When Colombia and Argentina's candidacy for the South American tournament in 2020 was announced for the first time, the reactions were immediate. A candidacy from two countries is not something that is new in the world of soccer since it was already seen in previous editions like the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. However, this is the first time it has been tested in the Copa América and that's why the opinions for and against were very divided during the first part of 2019.
Leer en español: Las nuevas dificultades de la Copa América 2020
Why is this alternative used?
According to El Comercio, about 54% of tickets for this year's Copa América had already been sold. Alejandro Dominguez, Conmebol's president, said that the number of tickets sold throughout the tournament was over 800,000 of the million tickets available. However, the real picture seemed different: stadiums with empty seats, little attendance, and bad scenery.
In spite of all this, Hugo Figueredo, director of Conmebol competitions, assured that this Copa América edition laid the foundations for the future of the tournament and that it could become the best in history in terms of organization and planning. Its profits rounded up 170 million reais (about 45 million dollars), according to the figures given by Conmebol regarding the earnings for assistance.
The repercussions even exceeded Brazil's limits as, according to Blanca Chávez, president of the Peruvian Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Allied (Ahora), the profits in the Peruvian establishments increased nearly 30% due to the surprising good performance of the Peruvian national team and its arrival at the end of the tournament.
Growing distrust between the parties
The Argentinian Soccer Association (AFA) is not in good terms with Conmebol and has clearly stated it in recent days. The controversy that broke out in the Brazil-Argentina semifinal, which grew in the Argentina-Chile match for third place, made the already expected protests of a match and the common fights between the players affect the future itself of the competition.
Days after the incidents, the AFA published on its website two press releases directed to Conmebol, one in relation to two specific moves of the semifinal and another in relation to possible interventions and malfunctions in the VAR and the communication between the referees. Behind these, according to the AFA, was the intelligence service of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Of course, some statements of this level, added to the corruption within the Conmebol denounced by Lionel Messi have challenged not only the current edition of the tournament, but also the ability of the parties to do business.
The Argentinian sports journalist, Martin Liberman, speaking in Fox Sports, said that it would not make sense for Argentina and for the AFA to continue hosting a tournament where their highest institution is, according to them, responsible for corruption. According to Liberman, Conmebol's position is to wait for Argentina to withdraw and leave Colombia as the sole venue for the tournament. If we rely on the latest determinations, this decision may not be so far from reality.
How much does a tournament with two venues cost?
At first, it is necessary to bear in mind that the development and logistics of the Copa América 2020 would be more expensive for the group in the southern zone —which includes Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina and one of the two special guests— than for the north zone. Another reason that tilts the balance in favor of Colombia. However, the economic implications for Colombia can be very strong and escape its control.
First of all, four cities have been presented as venues: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla, the latter as the venue for the final. Are these cities ready to host, not only the volume of fans that would attend but also the entire tournament? And if they are not, what other Colombian cities are able to join the list of venues?
Moreover, is Colombia in the capacity to host the entire tournament that is increasingly considered more ambitious? The benefits of shared venues had already been commented, in spite of the opinions against it, such as the transportation difficulty or a drop in the ticket office. International cooperation and joint investment, instead of an individual investment that leaves more debts than profits, were seen as more beneficial prospects taking into account the size of the tournaments that we want to make nowadays.
New technologies, the new challenge for the sports economy
The last factor with which the Copa América 2020 must fight, and with which it must be very careful, is the inclusion of sports streaming platforms to the tournament and that, without a doubt, will lower the profits for TV channels. Facebook Watch came this year to an agreement with Conmebol, with which it increases, as the federation said on its website, the possibilities of reaching more viewers in more places in the world. DAZN, the 'Netflix of sports' as it is known, could also play an important role.
Therefore, the role that both the tournament organizer and allied, local and foreign channels play is fundamental for the federations and the tournament to be economically benefited for transmitting matches to thousands of other people around the world, instead of creating a war between the companies, as it has been so far.
For now, the only thing left to do is wait, as Ramón Jesurún, president of the Colombian Soccer Federation, said, since the tournament is still divided into two venues and is still an experiment for the future.