Between last Monday and Tuesday The teams that compete in the Women’s League, as well as Dimayor and the Colombian Football Federation (FCF), received a visit from investigators from the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC), who carried out investigations into the hiring of soccer players, in search of a possible ‘salary cartelization’ with players under 20 years of age.
Just before the ordinary assembly last Wednesday, and on the eve of the commemoration of Women’s Day, between 3 and 4 officials -including in some cases one connected virtually- arrived at the headquarters of the teams and entities local soccer rectors to request documents, check computers and cell phones, which were the objects of forensic analysis.
They also interrogated several leaders under oath, including the president of Dimayor, Fernando Jaramillo, who gave testimony for 3 hours. Last Friday, after EL TIEMPO revealed the object of the investigation, Jaramillo said he did not know the scope of it.
“The SIC has the legal power to make a forensic copy to devices such as cell phones or computers, respecting privacy, and seeing what elements there can help make a decision about an investigation. I was not notified exactly what the object of the investigation is,” Jaramillo said.
«They got into our ranch,» said another leader consulted by this newspaper, who reported that in his case the diligence lasted two days. «They asked us for salaries, hiring methods, distribution of profits, but everything focused on the Women’s League.»
The president of La Equidad, Carlos Mario Zuluaga, assured that in his case it was a “visit to learn about the industry. No timely investigation. Requesting a lot of documentation. Some leaders state that they possibly used an inquiry to see what resources soccer has to hold an annual women’s league and not 5 months.
The underlying issue in the SIC investigation
However, EL TIEMPO revealed that the underlying reason for the SIC’s investigation is to identify a possible «cartelization in the salaries of U-20 soccer players.» That is, a possible ‘pact’ of the team leaders to pay players under 20 years of age only the current legal minimum wage ($1,160,000 and transportation assistance of $140,606).
This agreement would leave these footballers at a salary disadvantage, since their remuneration would not correspond to the freedom of the labor market. Unofficially it is assumed that this modality of payments to players under 20 years of age could also be operating in men’s teams.
What would be the sanctions to the clubs?
For now it is a preliminary investigation that is not yet configured as a preliminary investigation. The lawyer Alexis Perea, an expert in competition matters, analyzes the hypothetical case.
«If this is proven, it would classify what is known in competition law as a salary fixing agreement and that is anti-competitive,» he says.
He explains that if a soccer player under the age of 20 plays in a team and can only receive a minimum salary, «this means that other clubs that want to present more cannot do so or compete for their soccer services.»
The lawyer indicates that if this practice is verified, the teams are exposed to serious sanctions. «The law says that if this behavior is corroborated, it could lead to fines of 100,000 minimum wages or up to 20 percent of the clubs’ assets,» he says.
Some presidents and owners of the teams said that they have made an effort to compete in the Women’s League, and argue that «it is not easy to obtain resources» and that «the players are paid salaries, aid, hotels…». One of them said that they are considering not continuing in that League in the future.
EL TIEMPO has repeatedly pressed the Superintendent of Industry and Commerce, María del Socorro Pimienta, but has not received a response. It is not the first time that the SIC has set its sights on soccer, it did so with the FCF in the case of ticket resale for the 2018 World Cup qualifying round in Russia and to investigate the complaints from the Association of Professional Soccer Players (Acolfutpro ) for alleged bans and player blacklists.
The SIC again suspects improper practices in Colombian soccer and makes it tremble again.
Editor of EL TIEMPO