The defending champions are Velez Sarsfield (Getty Images)

(WFI) The Argentine football season kicked off a day after the government struck a deal that allows all top-flight football matches to be shown on terrestrial television for free.

In the first fixtures of the new season, Newell’s Old Boys beat Independiente 1-0, and Godoy Cruz overcame Gimnasia 2-0 on Friday. Eight other matches kick off today and Sunday.

The agreement signed by Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez on Thursday eased the funding crisis that has delayed the opening of the football season by one week.

“Today is a historic day for football, for the AFA, for Argentines and for the possibility of living in a more just and democratic society,” Fernandez said. “It’s not good … that only those who can pay can watch football.”

Many heavily-indebted clubs had failed to reach an agreement with commercial channels. The top 20 clubs in the first division reportedly owe a combined $182 million to the league.

The new deal with the Argentine Football Association means the government will pay clubs $155 million for broadcasting rights, which is more than double the $70 million private companies were paying.

Argentine football’s funding crisis is blamed on poor financial management of clubs and the impact of the global economic downturn. Clubs who have traditionally relied on revenues from selling their top players to Europe have also been hit by the lack of transfer activity amid the recession and lower transfer prices.

Written by Mark

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