French clubs to strike over 75% tax row
Clubs in France's top two divisions have called a strike at the end of next month in protest against the government’s plan to introduce a 75 percent tax rate for players.
French President Francois Hollande said Friday he will stick to a government tax plan to impose a super-levy on soccer players' salaries despite the threat of the nation's pro clubs to scrap games one weekend next month. Hollande made a pre-election promise last year to bring in the new tax, which would be applied to earnings over one million euros.
The measure would implicate 115 players and raise an extra 44 million euros for the government, according to a study carried out by the French Football League (LFP).
"There will be a weekend without a game at the end of the month [of November]," UCPF president Jean-Pierre Louvel said.
The strike is expected to halt all fixtures in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2.
Nearly half of the revenue from the proposed tax hike would be collected from Paris Saint-Germain -- who boast highly paid stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva among their ranks -- but they are one of the only employers who could comfortably afford to adhere to the government’s request to foot the bill.
Clubs contend that the tax, if introduced, could have a damaging effect on French football, and they are due to consider strike action at the annual general meeting of their union (UCPF).
The prospect of them boycotting a round of Ligue 1 fixtures was thought to have decreased after Hollande agreed to meet club presidents next week, but they have pushed ahead with industrial action.
"We’ve been demanding this meeting for a long time," Louvel told Le Parisien before the AGM. "But for the moment it doesn’t guarantee anything.
"Until we meet him, our schedule and our position will remain unchanged."
The clubs began what could be a series of smaller protests on Wednesday by withdrawing from a government group working on competitiveness in French football.
"It’s too much. France cannot be the only country that taxes loss-making companies," Frederic Thiriez, the head of the LFP, said in a statement.
"This tax is unjust," Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas told Le Parisien. "It’s an anti-jobs tax."
The French Prime Minister's office said that the tax had been carefully designed so as not to impact too much on employers.
"Overhanging every fiscal measure is the principle of equality," a spokesperson told L'Equipe.
A first reading of the proposal, which is included in the 2014 Finance Bill, was passed by the French parliament last week. It will now be examined by the Senate ahead of a vote on the Finance Bill in late November or early December.