Uruguayan football is no stranger to Barra brava violence.
It has been a problem for years now and Nacional’s Copa Libertadores match against Newell’s Old Boys was the immediate catalyst to what ended up developing – the Uruguay FA’s resignation.
Several police officers were injured after fans of both sides were involved in massive rumble that spread throughout the stadium and onto the streets. The incidents led to the Uruguayan government having to intervene and deny security at the Gran Parque Central and the Estadio Centenario.
After speculation of FIFA possibly removing Uruguay from the World Cup due to government interference, Sepp Blatter calmed the nerves and confirmed that no such move would take place and that Uruguay’s place was safe.
Earlier, Sebastian Bauza – Uruguay FA president – had said goodbye to workers and local media following his resignation. He left the FA along with four of the five board members and members of various committees that resigned en masse, leading to 72 hours of chaos.
It marked the end of an era with an 82% approval rating, according to a survey done by Uruguayan daily El País. The era was marked with successes like the 2010 World Cup performance and winning the Copa América in 2011. Under Bauzá, Uruguay qualified to consecutive World Cups for the first time since 1986.
|Bauza (R) and his FA had an 82% approval rating, according to a survey done by Uruguayan daily El País [GALLO/GETTY]|
There was also unprecedented success at youth level – Uruguay played in the 2011 U17 World Cup and at the U20 last year.
Bauzá established a positive working relationship with national team coach Oscar Washington Tabárez as well as with all the national team players, on the squad; something that was not instilled by any president or board member prior to him.
Currently, there is no set legislation in Uruguayan football on fan behaviour. Last month, Bauzá attempted to make one final push for the establishment of the penal code, calling for an extraordinary meeting. This was an urgent matter because FIFA handed down a mandate for a penal code in the league three years ago.
Pedro Damiani and Eduardo Ache, presidents of Peñarol and Nacional respectively, were the only presidents not present. This was a fatal blow for Bauzá as their refusal to appear symbolised their lack of support for him.
The implementation of a bidding process for the 2018 World Cup television rights was seen as a chance to bolster AUF coffers.
This move left Bauzá on bad terms with Uruguay network Tenfield and it would open up another political battlefront for him with the most powerful man in Uruguayan football – media mogul and owner of Tenfield, Paco Casal.
In addition to retaining World Cup rights, Casal also launched a bid in 2013 to obtain the Copa Libertadores rights from the present rights holders in South America. According to reports from Latin America, Casal’s group offered up to five times more than the current holders and was still snubbed. The backlash of this would that set off this entire political power struggle.
Bauzá failed to respond when asked to by the clubs. This confrontation led to a strain in relations between the two sides as Bauzá was also a CONMEBOL executive committee member. Eventually Peñarol and seven other clubs took legal measures on their own, trying to indict CONMEBOL and president Francisco Figueredo in a Uruguayan court after $150m disappeared from the confederation’s coffers.
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There was also bickering regarding the distribution of moneys from the national team matches. According to VTV pundit and Sport 890 host Martín Charquero, the money the AUF gave to clubs was miniscule compared to the national team.
For many, like Charquero, it is part of the reason hindering the progress of the Uruguayan league.
“When Uruguayan clubs need money, they don’t go to AUF, they go to Tenfield,” said Charquero. If Tenfield wanted to boycott Bauza, the first thing they would have done is to tell the clubs that they don’t have money and the league would have been stopped immediately. The league would die.”
After Bauzá’s resignation was accepted, Rentistas vice-president Wilmar Valdez became the new interim boss at the AUF. This came after Danubio president Oscar Curuchet changed his mind about the post. His change of heart was based on CONMEBOL provisionally suspending the AUF during their executive board meeting in Santiago, Chile earlier in the day.
This led to hours of debates and a violent exchange between Peñarol president Pedro Damiani and Nacional representative Javier Gomensoro.
An apocalyptic status quo was established with the forced departure of Bauzá. The league resumes play as scheduled, the disciplinary code was finally passed without any opposition and the solutions to some problems were found.
Now the big question is if Valdez and the new board elected in July will be able to match what their predecessors accomplished the last few years. The bar has been set high, the standard that they must match at the very least.