Feckless Veracruz owner has put Liga MX season at risk

The Tiburones of Veracruz have become an embarrassment to the Liga MX. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
The Tiburones of Veracruz have become an embarrassment to the Liga MX. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Fidel Kuri has not paid Tiburones players in weeks and the team is threatening a walkout.

The two-week FIFA break could be extended another week or more if Liga MX officials don’t take measures to forestall a league-wide player walkout.

Once again, Veracruz Tiburones owner Fidel Kuri is the culprit as some of his players have not been paid in two months. Complaints were made to the Players Association (historically, a weak union) and president Álvaro Ortiz made the situation public while working toward a plan of action.

Veracruz issue threatens Liga MX
Veracruz owner Fidel Kuri (center) has put the Liga MX season at risk with his failure to pay wages in a timely manner. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Thus far, Liga MX officials have been silent on the issue and the result could be a complete boycott of the Matchday 14 schedule due to start on Friday, Oct. 18.

This past weekend, Veracruz players told management they would not play their Oct. 18 home game against the Tigres if back wages were not paid. Ortiz then spoke to players on teams across the league and the union now says teams will support the Veracruz players by refusing to play this coming weekend.

As of Tuesday morning, Veracruz players said they would practice Tuesday but would not show up for practice on Wednesday if they were not paid.

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Fidel Kuri has been a thorn in the side of Liga MX since taking over the Veracruz franchise in 2013. Back then, the team was based in La Piedad, Michoacán, when it won promotion to Liga MX. Kuri purchased the team and promised to keep it in Michoacán. In a matter of weeks, Kuri moved the team to his home state of Veracruz.

Kuri was close friends with then-Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte (currently in prison on a variety of corruption charges) and in 2015 he was awarded a contract to reap all the benefits from the state-owned soccer stadium. A year later, he threatened to move the team from Veracruz if voters did not back his candidate for governor. Though his candidate lost, he did not move the team.

At the same time, Kuri was serving a one-year suspension for punching the Liga MX Referees Association president who was attending a Tiburones game at the Veracruz stadium. The suspension was extended when he violated the terms of the suspension. Although Liga MX regulations would have allowed the league to force Kuri to sell the team, but officials and other team owners decided to look the other way.

Inaction by Liga MX officials inexcusable

Veracruz has Liga MX season at risk
Veracruz has not won a Liga MX match since Aug. 25, 2018. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Last year, Guillermo Vázquez resigned as Veracruz coach claiming that he had not been paid in weeks. At the same time, the Tiburones started an historic winless streak that has made them the laughing stock of world soccer. Veracruz has not won a league match since August 2018 and has gone 39 games without a victory.

As the Clausura 2019 season progressed, Veracruz was hit with another lawsuit over failure to reimburse training fees to a Uruguayan club. FIFA stepped in and issued a hefty fine while also ordering the Tiburones be stripped of 6 points.

Veracruz threatens Liga MX season
The Tiburones finished the Clausura 2019 season with 0 points after suffering a point reduction because Kuri refused to pay a FIFA-sanctioned reimbursement. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The Tiburones suffered demotion at the end of the Clausura 2019 season, finishing with 0 points, but Liga MX officials allowed Kuri to pay the $120 million-dollar buy-in fee to remain in first division. After saving the team’s spot in Liga MX, Kuri agreed to start making up back wages. The league was not obligated to allow that, but evidently they determined the money outweighed the headaches that Kuri constantly causes.

In August, a former player won a lawsuit against Veracruz and Kuri for failure to pay wages and the owner had to fork over $1.5 million dollars. Again, Liga MX took no action. Coach Enrique Meza quit as the winless streak reached 33 games (it is now at 39 games).

In late September, Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla claimed he could do nothing about Kuri’s failure to pay players’ and team officials’ salaries unless a formal complaint came before him. This despite the fact that Kuri’s flagrant violation of league rules related to paying wages had been an issue since at least 2018.

On Oct. 11, El Universal reported that team owners were going to “read the riot act” to Kuri over his constant failure to pay his employees, worried that the Liga MX was getting a bad reputation. But they were going to wait until the next Liga MX Owners Assembly to do so.

Now, league officials will be forced to address the situation – and quickly – or they could have a real disaster on their hands.