BY THURSDAY of last week, Liga MX was fyling high. On the field, the 5 teams that had Cup ties all won: Cruz Azul, Xolos, and Toluca all advanced to the CCL semi finals while Leon and Santos all but assured themselves of a berth in the Copa Libertadores knockout round.
By the weekend, though, some of the very ugly sides of Liga MX took center stage. A lot of the same stuff that league officials were hoping to eradicate when they rebranded the league.
They have that new logo and pretty new song, but so far it's looking more like "meet the new boss! Same as the old boss."
When Liga MX was launched, the suits were talking as if they were on the cusp of of something truly special. A true departure from the way the spectacle and business of soccer was done in Mexico.
The glory of the mid-week results were quickly deflated with the news that Queretaro owner, Amado Yañez, who was under investigation for money laundering and fraud, had been detained. The new Liga MX bylaws explicitly stated that if any owners were implicated in any malfeasance, then the team would be disaffiliated.
Has not happened yet. Probably won't. If did, however, then Atlante, one of the oldest clubs in the league, could be spared relegation. We'll see.
Puebla, another club that has an owner who has a less than reputable image has had problems meeting the payroll. But that did not stop him from firing the head coach, Ruben Omar Romano, over the weekend.
Another club who misses meeting the payroll so often that you can set your watch to it was Atlas, who was recently purchased by TV Azteca. Imagine the delicious irony, then, when some of the former owners were complaining that they had yet to receive payment from the media giants. The Guadalajara club had its derby over the weekend with Chivas at the Estadio Jalisco. The game ended 1-1, but it won't be remembered for what happened on the pitch.
As the game was coming to a close, some members of Chivas' "Barras" clashed with police, and it got very ugly very quickly. A few policemen got beaten even after losing consciousness. When it was all said and done, there were scores injured, arrests made, the stadium was temporarliy shuttered, and a couple of cops were fighting for their lives in hospitals.
Plenty of blame to go around, of course. Atlas, the home club, should have certainly had security measures rachetted up, especially for the Clasico Tapatio. The fans in question were never there to enjoy a game of soccer, but to find someone, anyone to beat up. The police have a history of antagonizing fans. Moving forward, that has to stop. TV broadcasters don't make things better by showing the chaos, and they cut back to the melee over and over again. And finally, FMF has to levy some severe sanctions, both economic and competitive, to prevent scenes like that from happening again.
Instead, FMF released a tepid statement that made no promises to stop anything. In a sharp contrast, Chivas stated that they vow to indentify all parties of "pseudo-fans" involved and ban them from ever attending a game in Mexican stadium ever again. In addition, effective immediately the club will not allow any of the barras into their stadium. The super clasico is next Sunday.
For all of Chivas' faults (and there are many), one has to applaud the stern stance the club has taken in an attempt to curb the violence.
If I were the FMF czar....
I would ban fans from attending Atlas games for the rest of the season. Yes, it was Chivas fans who started this mess, but it happened at Atlas' home stadium. It was their security that failed.
I would impose a sanctions for Chivas traveling fans. They would lose their away ticket allotment for the rest of the season and any liguilla matches.
Television will not be allowed to show any kind of fighting in the stands. All it does is encourage more of it in other stadiums. Continued sensationalizing of fan violence could lead to an automatic rights fees increase or termination of contract.
Once all of the assailants have been identified, they would all be banned for life from all stadiums and all competitions.
A ban on alcohol sales at said stadium for a calendar year.
And of course, there would be some serious financial restitution from both teams.
The Liga MX front office has announced the sanctions. Atlas is banned from playing at the Jalisco for 1 game and fined $27,000 US. Chivas' Barras are banned from attending any game in any stadium indefinitely.
City of Guadalajara officials were not as linient. It will cost Atlas approx $175,000 US to re-open the stadium.