ASUNCION - Colombia's successful war on
drugs may have contributed to the dire financial positions of
some domestic clubs by paradoxically starving them of a source
of funding, a top football official has said.
Ramon Jesurun, president of the league's governing body
Dimayor, said that club finances had plummeted since the country
had largely managed to eradicate drugs money from the sport.
"In Colombia, drug trafficking spread into all economic,
social, religious activities, into journalism, everything,
including football," Jesurun told Reuters in an interview.
"Today, fortunately, that's been almost totally eradicated
in Colombia, in football, too," he said on a visit to Paraguay
for the South American Football Confederation's congress.
"That might explain the poverty of the clubs today. If the
clubs didn't have the effects of the narcotics traffickers, we
wouldn't have the structural weakness from the economic point of
view that we have today and are trying to fix."
Clubs in the two professional divisions are often behind
with players' wages and social security contributions, sparking
industrial action and the threat of government-imposed bans in
Top-flight club Deportes Quindio's players refused to travel
to a match in Bogota last month over unpaid wages, sending a
youth team that were hammered 5-0 by Millonarios.
The government's sports regulator Coldeportes has looked to
impose suspensions on clubs over unpaid wages, but Jesurun said
the government needed to do more to help those that were
operating under a vulnerable business structure.
"Most stadiums in Colombia belong to the state and the
infrastructure and logistics of staging a match is handled by
the government of each city at very high tax costs that make for
very big investment (by clubs) to organise a match," Jesurun
"We want to be seen as an economic sector like any other and
the other economic sectors get help when they enter into crisis.
"We are asking for the same thing, we're as important as
them and perhaps even more so because we're the ones who
generate the most important recreation and entertainment for a
country that today has nearly 50 million inhabitants."
Colombia's soccer chiefs and government officials will hold
a summit on Thursday in an attempt to begin curing the many ills
afflicting the domestic game, including hooligan violence which
has soared in and around stadiums in recent years.
Jesurun said a draft Sports Law aimed at improving financial
matters and combatting violence had made its way through
parliament and was awaiting presidential passage, which could
also come on Thursday.
"There has been a big increase in (football-related) violence
in Colombia," the 58-year-old Jesurun said.
"We believe the hard-core fan groups are no longer
supporters but delinquents disguised in team colours which is
quite different, but we're trying from a legislative point of
view to control it so those delinquents are given severe and
"Minors are strongly protected in Colombia as in the
majority of countries and generally the so-called leaders of the
gangs use minors because they know they have immunity, but
that's where we're trying with the government and our
legislators to radically change that."
Jesurun said he believed that, for now, Colombia had not
overstepped FIFA's guidelines against governments meddling in football affairs.
"It's a delicate issue but I'd think that as things are
today, it's still our internal matter and we can resolve it,"
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