Argentine sports minister hopeful of FTA coverage for new league
Matias Lammens, Argentina's sports and tourism minister, has suggested that the country's revamped top soccer league could get some free-to-air television coverage in the wake of the Argentine Football Association cancelling the broadcasting rights agreement with pay-TV operator Fox Sports.
Fox and another US-backed company Turner have shared rights to the Superliga in a five-year, 17.5 billion pesos ($226 million) agreement that came into effect in 2017-18, but the competition is being replaced by the new Liga Profesional de Futbol (LPF) when soccer resumes in Argentina on 30 October, after a seven-month break caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
AFA took its decision a week ago on the grounds that Fox had not provided sufficient notice of its absorption by Walt Disney-owned ESPN.
The CNDC, the Argentine competition authority, had earlier recommended that the country’s trade ministry reject the merger on antitrust grounds.
Walt Disney has been taking over Fox Sports operations in Latin America under the terms of its $71 billion acquisition of assets of 21st Century Fox concluded in March 2019, but has faced competition issues in some countries, including Brazil and Mexico.
Turner is the favourite to take on the league rights previously held by Fox in an enhanced contract, but an element of FTA coverage is desired by the government.
Lammens said in a statement: "We want to work so that there are soccer games on public TV. We would like to work with the owners of the rights so that Argentines have some games on that screen. We would like to have negotiation to have a game and the chance exists."
However, the former chairman of San Lorenzo insisted a return of the state-funded 'Fútbol para Todos’ (‘Football for All’) programme, under which all top-flight fixtures were shown live on free-to-air state channels, was not being considered.
Lammens continued: "At the time FpT was a successful measure but it is not for the current moment. The AFA's decision with TV corresponds to the leaders of the clubs. We are not going to get involved with the issue of televising games."
FpT was the legacy of the populist decision taken in 2009 by Cristina Fernández's government to 'nationalise' the rights to Argentinian soccer, but had become a financial burden, costing round 1.8 billion pesos in 2016, and was wound up in March 2017 with a payment of 350 million pesos to the Argentine Football Association, allowing the deal with Fox and Turner to be struck.