The Argentinian government has announced that all matches involving the men’s national soccer team will be broadcast free-to-air (FTA) in 2023 amid a rights dispute with Torneos y Competencias (TyC), the country’s leading pay-television operator and rightsholder to national team matches.

The decree, announced today (March 20), comes ahead of the team’s first matches since winning the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in December. Both matches – against Panama (March 23) and Curacao (March 28) – are being played in Argentina.

Under Resolution 228/2023, signed by the government’s chief of staff Agustin Rossi, matches involving the team this year will air on the TV Publica national television channel, which has 240 relay stations and an alliance with 24 public television stations spanning the country.

The decision comes after TyC caused uproar after refusing to sell rights to the two friendlies to TV Publica, leaving coverage only available “through the private cable signal TyC Sports of which [Argentinian media giant] Grupo Clarin is one of its majority shareholders.”

Taking to Twitter, Rossi said attempts had been made by TV Publica in the run-up to the friendlies to acquire rights from TyC, as it had done for matches involving the team during the World Cup, but was met with “resistance, rejection, and excuses.”

He added: “Three months ago we saw and felt the emotion of a world champion people. This week, more than 1.5 million people tried to buy a ticket to see the national team at home again. It is not necessary to elaborate on the significance of these parties for our people.

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“For these reasons, we have decided to establish that all the matches of the national team are declared ‘sporting events of relevant interest’, within the framework of the powers that the Audiovisual Communication Services Laws confers on the Head of Cabinets.

“This decision guarantees the right of universal access to the contents of the matches. If the company does not comply, the penalties determined by the actions may be applied which may go as far as its exclusion from the registry as service provider companies.”

The two international matches are set to feature all 26 world champions, including Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-German), Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Angel Di Maria (Juventus Turin), Paulo Dybala (AS Roma), and Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan).

Meanwhile, Sportdigital Fussball, the German subscription-based television and internet broadcaster, has secured live rights to the two games in a deal struck with the Argentine Football Association (AFA).

Argentina’s match against Panama will be played at Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, the largest venue in the country with a capacity for 83,000 spectators, while its clash against Curacao will be played in the 30,000-capacity Santiago del Estero.

Last week, tickets for the Panama match sold out in under two hours after more than 1.5 million fans flocked to secure tickets by joining a virtual queue on Deportik, the online vendor. Tickets ranged from ARS12,000 ($59) to ARS49,000 ($241).

The AFA confirmed the match had also generated the “highest media demand in history” with over 131,000 accreditation requests from local and international press.

Sportdigital Fussball provides 24-hour soccer coverage, with rights to show around 800 lives matches per season from 21 international leagues.

The broadcaster’s portfolio includes A-League (Australia), AFC Cup and AFC Asia Cup 2024 (Asia), Championship and Carabao Cup (England), Eredivisie and KNVB Beker (the Netherlands), Primeira Liga (Portugal), Copa del Rey and Supercopa (Spain), Ekstraklasa (Poland), Fortuna Liga (Czech Republic), CAF Africa Cup and CAF World Cup qualifiers (Africa), CONCACAF Champions League and CONCACAF Gold Cup (North/Central America), Liga Profesional and Copa de la Liga Profesional (Argentina), Copa América (South America), Serie A and Copa do Brasil (Brazil), CONMEBOL U20 Championship 2023 (South America), Saudi Pro League (Saudi Arabia) and J.League (Japan). 

Image: Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images