Yesterday saw Argentine football Association (AFA) officials put aside their differences and relish in a pre-Valentine’s love-in of their own — meeting for talks at Casa Rosada in an effort to resolve the crisis that has cast so much shame and embarrassment on the sport in recent months.
Getting club representatives back round a table with members of AFA’s vilified Normalising Committee – Armando Pérez, Javier Medín and Carolina Cristinziano – was an achievement in itself, and the smiles that spread around the room as the meeting ended suggested that this drawn-out game of tug-and-war could soon be coming to an end.
Of course, the question everyone still wants the answer to is: when will the Primera División season get going again? The answer is still uncertain, but much less than it was a few days ago. In order to get the ball rolling again, AFA representatives need to solve two problems that go hand in hand: terminate the government-sponsored program Fútbol Para Todos (Football for All), and sell the tournament’s TV rights to an interested broadcaster. Yesterday, they solved the first one.
Both parties reached an agreement after the government offered AFA representatives AR $530 million as compensation for terminating the FPT early, which was supposed to end in 2019. The number is made up by the AR $350 million that formed the initial number the government proposed — and AFA rejected — back in December; AR $140 million from RTA (Radio and Television Argentina) and 40 million from tournament sponsor, Axion Energy. For now, the government will reimburse clubs with AR $180 million pesos, before paying another AR $350 million in March.
The second half of the issue is close to being solved as well: Yesterday, government officials in charge of dealing with the FPT mess, Fernando De Andreis and Guillermo Marín (who recently acknowledged that FPT had been used as a political platform) heard the news they have been waiting for some time: AFA will finally go ahead with the sale of ‘audiovisual’ rights to broadcast Primera División starting next season, with Consor, ESPN and Fox-Turner as current frontrunners to take them on. Until AFA and the chosen broadcaster sign the deal, however, the current system, which broadcasts games on cable channels El Trece and Telefé, will remain in place.
“We understand that a complete agreement was reached. It was a very good meeting, with a very good outlook from both sides,” said Lanús president Russo. “February 24th is going to be when the FPT contract is terminated.”
Originally set for the 10th of February, the dates for Round 15 fixtures were pegged back to the 19th – this coming weekend. However, that date is now impossible with so much still to be settled. Next Friday, February 24th, was touted as the preferred date for clubs, whose representatives yesterday numbered sparsely. Boca’s Daniel Angelici, who has laid low ever since audios of him pressuring football officials to lower a sanction Carlos Tevez had received leaked, was a no show.
However, there are many details that need to be resolved. While clubs are eager to kick off, having organised additional friendlies in order to bridge the gap between pre-season and the delayed matches, it is however crucial that an agreement is not hastily put together to satisfy each party temporarily. It’s therefore unlikely that the 10 days between now and the 24th will be sufficient for everything to be finalized. As such, the first weekend of March seems the most realistic suggestion.
It’s expected Primera División clubs will hold another meeting today, while tomorrow will probably see talks among the lower divisions. After that, a solution of sorts should arrive. But as always when it comes to dealings with AFA and the government, don’t hold your breath.