BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Argentina's government announced tough new rules to combat money laundering in football on Wednesday, requiring detailed reports on transactions involving many more people than just players and staff.
Argentina's Financial Information Unit published its regulations in response to pressure from the global Financial Action Task Force, which provides anti-money-laundering guidelines to governments worldwide and began targeting football in 2009.
The rules require the Argentine Football Association and every club in the top two divisions to file reports not only on everyone on the payroll who makes at least 60,000 pesos ($13,800) a year, but everyone they do business with as well.
That includes not just league officials, players, owners and staff, but also corporate sponsors, media figures, investors in players and team property, agents and government officials.
And the income they must report includes not just salaries, but outside bonuses and prizes, loans and deals for image rights, as well as in-kind payments such as housing, cars, and financial deals involving family members.
Those who fail to comply could be fined up to 100,000 pesos ($23,000) or 10 times the amount of money involved, whichever is greater.
Many Argentine clubs are deeply in debt despite the vast sums of money that flow through the country's football industry.
Gerardo Molina, chief executive of Euroamericas Sports Marketing, told The Associated Press last year that a study by his company showed Argentina has been the world's top exporter of players, with 2,204 sold or transferred to clubs abroad in 2010, topping Brazil's 1,674. Selling the rights to these Argentine players to clubs in Europe and around the world generated about $500 million that year, he said.
The Argentine watchdog agency says football is being challenged by organized crime like never before, citing a 2009 study by the global task force that declared football particularly vulnerable to money laundering, tax evasion, political corruption and other crimes, including even trafficking in human beings.
The agency's chief, Jose Sbattella, described football as a pit of temptations in a preface to the new rules, which were announced in the official government bulletin.
''The international organizations in question maintain that the sport today faces new threats and challenges that come along with commercial activity, exploitation of young players, doping, corruption, racism, illegal betting, violence, money laundering and other activities,'' Sbattella wrote.
Money laundering tricks range from basic to complex and sophisticated, the agency warned, including cash, international transfers, fiscal paradises, shell companies, and the illegal use of non-banking professionals to move money. In particular, selling rights to a player or team's image for undeclared amounts was being increasingly used to evade taxes, it said.
''The amounts of money invested in football have grown mainly as a consequence of the increase in television rights and corporate sponsorships, and at the same time, the labor market for professional football players has seen unequaled globalization, so that an ever-larger number of players are contracted by foreign teams, and the money being transferred around the world has reached surprising levels,'' the agency added.
Argentina's government has toughened all sorts of reporting rules in recent months in hopes of staying off the Financial Action Task Force's ''gray list'' of nations where financial transactions carry a high risk of criminal activity. The label can increase the overall cost of doing business in a country.
The controls on Argentine football had been expected since December, when AFA agreed to more government supervision and tax compliance in exchange for receiving more tax dollars for television rights. As a result, AFA gets about 900 million pesos (more than $200 million) a year to televise games for free through its ''Football for All'' program.
The watchdog agency noted that its new rules came after numerous consultations with AFA, the clubs and the players' union.
Follow Michael Warren on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mwarrenap