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Argentina’s Crazy Relegation System Could Relegate Top 2 Teams

If you looked at Colón three months ago in Argentina’s top league, they were dead in the water. Many had gone as far as already putting them in the second division after they were docked six points after the Falcón ordeal with Mexican side Atlante. They were a squad that had very little to offer back then and have even less now.

Club Godoy Cruz were also in quite the crux after Martín Palermo left at the end of last semester. They found themselves in relegation spots coming into this semester, but former Xolos coach Jorge Almirón righted the ship and they now find themselves sharing the top spot in Argentine football after four rounds.

This sounds like a tremendous turnaround story for both teams. Colón’s example seems like a tremendous underdog story since they were not allowed to acquire players during the off-season due to the Atlante ordeal.  Yet, this is what makes this topic so intriguing and confusing at the same time.

Here’s the current top 4 standings in the league:

1. Godoy Cruz
2. Colón
3. San Lorenzo
4. Estudiantes

However, here’s the list of teams that are facing possible relegation:


15. All Boys               1.222
16. Colón                   1.222
17. Godoy Cruz         1.212
18. Olimpo                1.174
19. Quilmes               1.164
20. Argentinos Jrs.  1.162

In Argentina, relegation is calculated based on the total number of points accumulated during the last three years divided by the total number of matches played during that time frame, to determine an average.

This story is yet another chapter begin written in the absolute dislike for the relegation format that is in place in Argentina as well as in many other countries in Latin America.  The format consists of dividing the sum of points in all the short tournaments of the past three years by the amount of matches played. This format places an excruciating amount of pressure on newly promoted sides should they begin their top flight campaign on the wrong foot. The inverse is also true. Relegation races in countries such as Argentina favor the recently promoted side as well just because of numbers alone.

If a newly promoted side strings together multiple matches where they accumulate points, their average improves drastically compared to a club that has generated points across all three years, with the points being counted towards their average.

AFA president Julio Grondona brought the average back in 1995 in order to bring about more parity to the league. That might have been true, but many in Argentina concluded that this system was brought for one thing only, to help out the big clubs.

Two years ago, Tigre were going into the final round of the Argentine league with a chance to win their first-ever top flight tournament. At the same time, Tigre found themselves fighting on another front but not at the international level. Tigre also came in to that final round knowing that a series of results were also going to see them go down to the Nacional B.

The system that was made to make big squads relegation-proof never took into account the fact that the league would go down in quality the way it has in the past decade.  So the law of averages made the league very topsy-turvy.

That is just the way things roll in Argentine football based on the system that is in place. It’s just nonsensical to think about how the system of averages works. To think that this system was implemented back in 1981 in order to favor the big teams in the Argentine league to not have to worry ab0ut relegation.  The ironic part is that 30 years later, River Plate would be heading to the Nacional B. Two years later, Independiente would suffer the same fate as they, too, after they were relegated for the first time in their history.

History Lesson

In 1981, Grondona decided to implement a concept that was used 20 years before in an experimental mode but was then trashed in 1963. That year, the victim of the unfair system was San Lorenzo. Two years later River Plate were mired in the worst campaign in their history. If you would have looked at the table based on the long tournament format that was in place, River as well as Racing Córdoba should have gone down in 1983 based on how they were doing that year. Instead it was Racing Club that was victimized that year.

If you were to go to the lower levels, go no further than 1989 in the Nacional B.  Argentino de Rosario ended up in second place in that tournament, yet instead of going to the top flight of Argentine football, their demons of the past had them drop to the Metropolitano B (Argentina’s third division).

In 2004, Talleres de Córdoba ended up third in the Clausura tournament; sixth overall in the annual table. Yet their troubled past saw them face Argentinos Juniors in the promotion playoffs where they ended up losing their spot in the first division.

The format allows teams to get out of a rut with a series of good campaigns and yet the opposite is true for several teams.

Is there a solution? Well there is, but that solution is mired in the interests of the creator of a 40-team tournament and no relegations just a few short years ago.  Yes, the same source that blamed the media on Tuesday for the out of control growth of its biggest plague – barrabrava violence – after the president of Los Andes had his house shot at and the club’s board stepped down.

Yes, the media is the one to blame solely and not his lack of vision.  That same lack of vision that refuses to see what FA Stadium Security Head Chris Whalley presented to him on Tuesday in Buenos Aires on how to solve the violence problem in Argentina.

So let’s be honest, if Grondona can’t (or doesn’t want to) see what serious problems are in front of him, does it look like he will be able to change or fix something as simple as a broken promotion-relegation system? Unfortunately not.

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