BUENOS AIRES Aug 18 The Argentine soccer
federation approved a deal with the government on Tuesday to
broadcast games free on television, a week after it tore up a
contract with a private cable TV provider.
The start of the country's soccer season has been delayed
due to a financial crisis that drove the Argentine Football
Association (AFA) to scrap its previous multimillion dollar
deal because the broadcaster refused to pay more for the
However, AFA said in a statement that its executive
committee had approved a plan "for games to be broadcast free
on non-cable television." It said the details had yet to be
defined, but that the season would begin at the weekend.
The agreement marks the latest in a string of government
moves to increase state control of various economic sectors.
Media speculation of a deal between the AFA and President
Cristina Fernandez in recent days has drawn criticism from the
opposition, which says her foray into football smacks of
populism and is politically motivated.
The previous broadcast contract was held by the TSC media
group -- a partnership between TyC sports broadcaster media
conglomerate Clarin (CLA.BA), whose daily newspaper has been
increasingly critical of her government.
Argentina's soccer season had been due to start on Aug. 14
but AFA chiefs halted it after the union representing
footballers said clubs owed players about $8 million.
The global financial crisis has forced Argentine clubs to
sell players to Europe for a fraction of years past, although
fans accuse some clubs of bad management.
AFA spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo said the first games of
the season would now take place on Friday.
"The channels that will broadcast the games and the times
that this will happen will be decided at a meeting tomorrow
(Wednesday)," he told reporters.
Local media had reported the government would have to spend
around $150 million to screen the games on state television,
but Cherquis Bialo said the state would not have to put up any
(Reporting by Luis Ampuero; Writing by Helen Popper, editing
by N.Ananthanarayanan; To query or comment on this story email