A controversial agreement which saw the Argentinean government pay football clubs to show games live on public channels has ended, after generating a storm of controversy.
On Wednesday, the government announced that it would allow football clubs to negotiate new broadcasting contracts with private media groups. The only condition is that whatever channels win the right of broadcasting, Argentinean football must do so for free until 2019, a clause which may make many think twice due to the millions channels could hope to collect under the new contract.
In 2009, Julio Grondona, the former president of the Argentinean Football Association (AFA), signed a contract with the government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, giving the state the right to all television rights for the top Argentinean division.
This led to a legal fight between the government and the country’s largest media group, Grupo Clarin, which had held those broadcast rights since 1991.
The “Football for All” program was intended to allow all Argentineans to enjoy football matches for free on public television. However, this was seen as a massive burden for the government, given its precarious finances.
An investigation then found that much of the money involved was embezzled, leading to the arrest of three senior government officials and a number of AFA leaders, including Luis Segura, Grondona’s successor.
In total, between 2009 and 2015, the Argentinean government paid out around 8 billion pesos (533 million U.S. dollars) for those rights.
When the new government of President Mauricio Macri came to power in December 2015, it began a process to end this contract, as pledged by Macri during his campaign.
A few days ago, a number of clubs demanded that the current contract, which was valid until 2019, be rescinded, after they had received “a concrete offer” by an international channel concerning broadcasting rights.
Three companies have confirmed their interest so far, including Grupo Clarin, the American Turner Broadcasting and Qatar’s Al-Jazeera.