CONMEBOL gets tough over government interference

PEDRO SERVIN Associated Press Published:

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) -- South American football officials on Saturday said they strengthened rules to keep their regional governing bodies free of government interference.

The extraordinary congress of CONMEBOL drew up the tougher rules with FIFA President Joseph Blatter in attendance.

CONMEBOL represents 10 South American football associations.

Jose Luis Meisner, secretary general of CONMEBOL, said South American governing bodies will run the risk of expulsion if there is government interference.

"This means football officials should be elected under football rules, and their sovereignty should be respected," Meisner said.

Some have questioned if FIFA enforces its own rules about government interference.

In an example often cited, the Chinese Football Association is an organ of the State General Administration for Sport, a government body that runs sports in the authoritarian country.

Manuel Burga, president of the Peruvian Football Federation, said China was in compliance.

"Although it is part of the state structure, it (Chinese Football Association) has autonomy in its internal workings, including in the selection of its leadership," Burga said.

Meisner defended the fact that the Argentine government bought the television rights several years ago to the Argentine league, and shows all the first-division matches on free-to-air television. Advertising time during the matches is often used to promote the accomplishments of the government of President Cristina Fernandez, who was recently re-elected.

The Argentine federation "negotiated freely without pressure or political interference," Meisner told The Associated Press.

To help cash-strapped clubs, the Argentine Football Association in 2009 tore up contracts with its TV rights holders and transferred the multimillion dollar package to state-run television.

The Argentine federation is headed by Julio Grondona, who is also the senior vice president of FIFA, the No. 2 position behind Blatter.