Spanish league warns of strike over end to tax breaks

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The Spanish Football Federation will meet on Friday and decide if they should launch an immediate 24-hour strike.

Madrid – The Spanish Football Federation warned Wednesday it may call a strike to protest a government plan to end the so-called "Beckham law" under which foreign footballers receive tax breaks.

Spain's ruling Socialist Party said on Tuesday it had reached an agreement with three smaller parties in parliament to remove the law, which has been credited with drawing top players to La Liga.

The Spanish Football Federation (LFP) has called an extraordinary general meeting for Friday morning "which could decide on an immediate 24-hour strike," said its vice president, Javier Tebas. "The vast majority of clubs we have spoken to are in agreement."

The law, introduced in 2005 as a means to lure foreign executives to Spain, allows foreign players who earn more than EUR 600,000 a year to reduce their tax rate to 24 percent instead of the 43 percent applied to Spaniards in the same income bracket.

It became known as the "Beckham law" because it was back-dated to 1 July 2003, the day after David Beckham moved to Real Madrid from Manchester United.

The new law will not apply to recent big-name signings like that of Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo by Real Madrid or Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic by Barcelona because it will not be applied retroactively and will only relate to contracts signed from 1 January 2010.

The tax break has come under renewed attack at a time when Spain is facing its worst recession in over 50 years which has caused the unemployment rate to soar to almost 18 percent, the highest in the European Union.

"Everyone has to tighten their belts, including footballers," said Socialist Party spokesman Jose Antonio Alonso.

A Catalan nationalist party, the ERC, estimated the change would bring in an extra EUR 100 million a year to state coffers.

But the president of Barcelona, Joan Laporta, said the move was decided "without any consultation" with "the world of football", which "accounts for a lot of Spain's gross domestic product".

The president of the Spanish Football Federation, Jose Luis Astiazaran, warned on Tuesday his organisation would take steps to oppose the change in the law and would even consider stopping matches from going ahead as a form of protest.

"If this tax break is eliminated, it will affect football by making the league less interesting, there would be less viewers of matches on pay TV, less interest on the part of sponsors, less crowds in the stadiums and the state would earn less tax income," he said.

AFP / Expatica

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