Player strike threatens belated start to Argentina league’s season

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The Argentine government has authorized millions for back payments to players at the country's top soccer clubs. But union officials say the amount is insufficient to break a strike that threatens the start of the season on Friday.

The Argentina Footballers Union did not react immediately to the offer on Thursday. However, secretary general Sergio Marchi, who was aware of the offer on Wednesday, said the amount was insufficient to pay off the debts that clubs have with their players.

The offer was published in the state's official bulletin. It said Argentine President Mauricio Macri authorized $22.7 million to compensate the clubs for the termination of a TV contract, which was held by the government.

Macri is the former president of Boca Juniors club.

It's not clear how much players are owed in Argentina's top league, and the four below it. Some contracts were illegal and set up to avoid taxes.

The unpaid wages are owed mostly to players at the country's smaller clubs. However, large clubs like Newell's Old Boys, Quilmes, and others have acknowledged they owe salaries.

Argentina's top division ended in December, and was to restart a month ago but has been repeatedly delayed by financial problems plaguing the clubs and the Argentine Football Association.

AFA is being overseen by a so-called “normalization committee” set up eight months ago by FIFA. This followed the ouster of President Luis Segura, who was removed on charges of “aggravated fraud” in negotiation of TV broadcast rights.

AFA was run for 35 years by Julio Grondona, who also served as a FIFA senior vice president under Sepp Blatter and was in charge of finances. His death in 2014 opened up investigations into corruption.

An election to succeed Grondona ended in a 38-38 tie between candidates Segura and Marcelo Tinelli, although only 75 delegates were authorized to vote.

The election was postponed to a later date with Segura, who took over after Grondona's death, remaining in charge.

The league will also be without a TV contract when play eventually begins.

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