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Text by Ségolène ALLEMANDOU , FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-08-11

Argentinean football fans will not be filing into a packed stadium for the kick-off of the country’s football season on August 14. National clubs have decided to postpone the Primera division to give themselves time to settle their debts.

Argentina is once again in crisis and Argentinean football, the country’s favourite sport, is following suit.  


At a meeting on August 4, club directors unanimously agreed to postpone the football season - scheduled to begin on August 14 - to allow clubs time to settle their debts.


"The executive committee of the AFA resolved unanimously tonight (Tuesday) that the championships in all categories should not start on the scheduled dates," according to a statement posted on the website of Argentina's Football Association AFA.


Clubs still owe their players about 7.3 million euros and millions of euros to the taxman. According to Argentinean sport media, first division clubs owe a total of 128 million euros to their players, the federation and tax authorities. Worst hit are clubs like San Lorenzo, Newell’s Old Boys, Rosario Central, Huracan, with both Independiente of Avellaneda and River Plate hit particularly hard.


Some have declared they are ready to pay off some 55 million euros, according to tax bureau official Ricardo Echegary. But no details about payments have been disclosed so far.


"The premiership has become a premier transit zone"


During the August 4 meeting, club directors searched for solutions to pump cash back into their coffers, including selling players. “Clubs can’t sell all their players,” lamented AFA president Julio Grondona. The 2009-2010 season is marked by mass arrivials of Argentinean players in European clubs, particularly in the Serie A, La Liga, Premier League and even in Ligue 1.


Huracan trainer Angel Cappa also shares Grondona’s frustrations. “We supply the whole planet. We are a victim of our own success and today, there aren't any stars left in great clubs,” he said in an interview with French magazine So Foot. “The premiership has become a premier transit zone, especially since the global crisis hit us.”


Cash-strapped clubs were also thinking about appealing for help from the government who, weakened by the global crisis, rejected the idea outright.


In the end, club directors and the AFA's director are turning to TV channels for cash injections. Fees for television rights to matches for the 2009-2010 season were set to increase from 43 to 55 million euros, a raise Grondona deemed insufficient.


"For me the solution is for the AFA to receive more money from the revenue of the television (rights)," he told reporters. He is demanding an extra 104 million euros.


“Without football there would be no cable subscriptions”


Grondona also said mounting debt could be settled if TV channels deducted 12 pesos (about two euros) from each cable subscription, without increasing its rate, and redistributed it to clubs.


Trainer Cappa also defended this idea in an interview with So Foot magazine. “TV channels give three percent of their earnings to clubs. They are raking in money thanks to clubs and impose excessive clauses. Television rules Argentinean football. We have become its slaves.”


The company that manages football TV rights, Torneos y Competencia, holds a monopoly and sets its own prices. In Spain, clubs have cut a better deal with TV companies and get 25% of revenue from television rights. The British premiership is the most generous, with clubs getting 34% of TV revenue.


AFA and Torneos y Competencias are currently negotiating fees. “Television might suggest a new agreement to resolve the problem,” says Grondona. “But we would like an agreement that reflects the profits generated by football,” he said before adding that “without football there would be no cable subscriptions.”


Local media reported that TV companies were considering a counter-proposal that included a contract extension with the AFA from the present 2014 expiry date to 2020 and advance payments to clubs to cover their current debts.

Date created : 2009-08-06