The financial stand-off which last week forced the AFA to announce that Argentina’s first division championship wouldn’t be able to start this coming weekend has taken a step towards concluding on Tuesday, with the news that the clubs are to break away from the TV deal signed with TyC Sports. A new financial package has been put on the table by the Argentine government, which will see Argentina’s top flight becoming the only one in South America to be screened on a public TV network. The football will start on the 21st of August… or that’s what’s being claimed for now.
At a meeting with club directors in Ezeiza, Julio Grondona convinced the clubs’ representatives that the way round the crisis was to unilaterally tear up the contract with TyC Sports – which was set to run until 2014 – by which the broadcaster had exclusive rights to live matches in the Primera División. Suddenly, the exact motivation behind all Grondona’s talks with members of government – including Argentine President Cristian Fernández de Kirchner – are revealed.
Previously, the two sides had made ambiguous noises about some sort of state aid to the clubs. Now it’s a little clearer, though: the state will pay the AFA one hundred million Argentine pesos (a little over US$26,000,000) on signing the contract, and a further five hundred million (US$130.7 million, give or take) over the duration of the contract. TyC Sports are unlikely to be overly happy with this – the official announcement isn’t going to be made until Tuesday evening, partly to allow the clubs to steel themselves for the fallout – but the fact that government intervention is involved is likely to smooth the passage through the courts of the decision on the AFA’s part to tear up the contract.
Grondona has promised the clubs that the AFA will bear the brunt of any anger and legal actions on the part of the broadcaster, which given his connections will also help things. The precise channel on which matches will be screened hasn’t yet been decided on, and will depend in no small part on how quickly the infrastructure and technology required can be updated, but the weekend of Friday, 21st August has been stated as a provisional deadline on which to work, and is expected to be met. Canal 7 is the most likely broadcaster, with Telefé already ruled out as a possibility.
There will be football, then. Julio Grondona has decreed it. What will happen if another financial crisis looms with the new broadcasters in a couple of years, who knows? The TV people might think Argentine football was their game, but they’re wrong. For all Monday night’s sloganeering about ‘football for the people’, this league belongs to Don Julio.