BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s judiciary will send inspectors inside the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) as part of an investigation into whether public funds handed to the soccer body for television rights were misused, a court document showed.
This comes amid increased scrutiny globally into financial flows inside the world of soccer, but is not part of a widening U.S. probe into corruption inside FIFA and its confederations.
The Argentine government in 2009 took over the rights to televise national and top tier soccer matches from a local pay-TV cable channel and established a government-subsidized broadcast, dubbed Futbol Para Todos (Football for Everyone), that was free to view.
President Cristina Fernandez said earlier this year the government paid 1.6 billion pesos ($176 million) for the programing.
Last year, Argentine lawmaker Graciela Ocana accused the AFA of favoring government-linked companies, of failing to account for where money went and for failing to ensure money destined to reach soccer clubs did so. Ocana began her investigation in 2011.
A 24-page statement issued by the federal court said the inspectors would work for a period of six months, “having the right to attend AFA board meetings and demand all necessary information to complete their work.”
An AFA spokesman declined to comment and said a statement would be issued later.
Fernandez’s move to bring soccer matches into the households of soccer-obsessed Argentines for free was widely considered a political masterstroke and emblematic of her populist policymaking during her eight years in power.
Advertisements typically stream across screens during games hailing government achievements.
“We want to know how these funds are used,” Ocana, an opposition lawmaker, told television station TN.
“It’s great football can be viewed for free. But we also have to realize it’s not free, we pay for it in taxes, yet it has been a phenomenal propaganda coup for the government.”
The company which lost the pay-TV rights in 2009 was TyC Sports, part of the Buenos Aires-based sports media and promotions firm Torneos y Competencias, whose president at the time was Alejandro Burzaco.
Burzaco is one of 14 defendants facing possible extradition to the United States on corruption charges involving bribes, racketeering and money laundering that have rocked world soccer. Burzaco is under house arrest in Italy after surrendering himself to police.
Editing by Phil Berlowitz