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Oct 25, 2013

French tax proposal 'scandalous'

Lille president Michel Seydoux has warned that clubs are not calling the government’s bluff by threatening the first strike action in French football since 1972.

A total of 43 clubs from France’s top divisions voted unanimously on Thursday not to carry out Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 fixtures on the weekend of Nov. 29.

The clubs are protesting plans to tax all earnings over one million euros per year at a rate of 75 percent.

French clubs have a combined deficit of 100 million euros and they fear the proposed tax -- which would be paid by employers, rather than employees -- could have a profound impact on football in the country.

“I understand that the public might be surprised by the players’ wages,” Seydoux told Le Parisien.

“But it’s their employers, the clubs, who will be taxed, not the players. If you’d said to me that we were going to be taxed on our profits, I would have accepted that.

“But you can’t tax us on our losses. It’s totally sinful and scandalous.”

Seydoux said that only Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco could cope with having such a tax imposed on them.

“In what country in the world do they make employers of loss-making companies pay the wages of their employees?,” he asked in L’Equipe.

“This tax will cost us another 4.8 to 7.2 million euros. In the last three years our expenses have already risen by 15 percent. We’re fed up. We’re once again going to be forced to sell our best players.”

Ahead of a meeting with French President Francois Hollande next Thursday, the president of the clubs' union, Jean-Pierre Louvel, said that the new measure would affect more than just highly paid players and big-spending clubs.

He said that, directly and indirectly, the sport generates 25,000 jobs in France.

“We’re not opposing this tax to protect some shareholders,” he told L’Equipe.  “It’s not a battle of the rich for the rich but one of people who are on the verge of misery.”

Owners are also unhappy at the proposal’s retroactive nature, which former France international Franck Leboeuf said could push clubs further into debt.

“They want to collect tax on the current year, something that the clubs couldn’t have envisaged when they were making their budgets at the start of the season,” he told RMC. “That’s a huge problem.”

A Tilder-LCI-Opinionway survey suggests club owners also have a problem with public opinion. Of those surveyed, 85 percent were in favour of the tax applying to professional football clubs, while 83 percent considered the strike unjustified.

But Louvel outlined that stadiums would be open on the day of any match that is cancelled, giving fans a chance to meet coaches and players.

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