mandag, mars 15, 2010

Bread and circus

Christina Kirchner's government has been beset by scandals, as is par for the course in Argentina. To drum up support, in 2009 the government made the populist move of announcing free football for everybody. Widely advertised as fútbol para todos, the formerly pay-per-view matches of the Argentinian league could now be seen by everyone. Argentinians being extremely passionate about their football, this would seem to be a brilliant strategy.

However, that thing about free lunches quickly reared its head. When signing off a big fat check to the AFA (Argentinian Football Association) for the broadcast rights on public TV, the wildly optimistic government announced it would not cost the treasury a single peso. In fact, it would reap profits, to be given to amateur sports, through ads and sales to international markets.

This business model turned out less than satisfying. Almost no ad time was bought by the private sector (representing a meagre 0,24% of income needed to balance the books), so the slot had to be filled by government ads like the striking, nation-building "Do we have what it takes to be a Great Country? The answer is, YES!". Even with government money paying for screen time, more than half the bill for "free football" was unaccounted for.

End result was that last week the government had to reroute 144 million pesos earmarked for the provinces, sustainable development and coordination of environmental policies. Fútbol pagan todos (football paid by everybody).