Dates set for inaugural Liga Sul-Minas-Rio
Dates have been set for the inaugural Liga Sul-Minas-Rio in 2016. The controversial competition is seen as a breakaway from Brazil’s biggest clubs, who are rebelling against the anarchic structure of the current state championships, played at the start of the domestic season in Brazil. The estudais are in desperate need of overhaul, according to many of Brazil’s biggest clubs, but the egalitarian political structure of Brazilian football has seen the situation remain.
The CBF initially suggested that they would support the Liga Sul-Minas-Rio, so long as the participants did not openly disrespect the state championships. Such a prospect seems unlikely as the competitions overlap and the allied clubs would surely prioritise their own competition over one they would rather not be party to. The CBF sounded a note of caution this week, producing a statement,
“All efforts to seek the reconciliation of clubs have been and are being carried out by CBF, understanding the legitimate search for new financial income. However, this suggestion cannot operate at all costs, in defiance of the law, or result in the disarray of a stable national calendar, consolidated and recognized by the fans, that is shown to be economically efficient and profitable for broadcasters, sponsors and clubs.”
Nevertheless, the breakaway clubs, led by ex Atlético Mineiro president Alexandre Kalil, are pressing ahead with plans. There will be three groups of four teams, with the top sides and the best runner-up advancing to the semi-final knockout stage. Group A consists of Flamengo, Atlético-MG, América-MG and Figueirense. Group B will have Gremio, Internacional, Coritiba and Avaí. Finally, Group C has Cruzeiro, Fluminense, Atlético-PR and Criciuma.
Clubs that qualify for the Copa Libertadores, which starts in February, will have to adapt to the calendar and, should they qualify, will play their semi-finals a week later than the other teams. The Liga Sul-Minas-Rio will open on January 27th with Flamengo taking on Atlético Mineiro in Belo Horizonte on January 27th. The final will take place on 31st March. The Football Federation of São Paulo will vote against the tournament, in solidarity with the CBF, so no teams from São Paulo will take part.