French football chiefs to meet Hollande over supertax

31st October 2013, Comments 0 comments

Chiefs of French football clubs are to meet President Francois Hollande Thursday in a bid to avoid a 75 percent super tax on millionaires after announcing a strike over the measure.

The tax, one of the Socialist leader's main electoral planks, is part of next year's budget but it has not yet been approved by parliament.

The proposed levy is temporary and will affect income earned this year and in 2014. It is aimed at helping the eurozone's second economy slash a huge budget deficit.

But Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said before the 1530 GMT meeting between the directors of the Ligue 1 and 2 football clubs and Hollande that the government would not cave into pressure.

"All the companies that are affected by this tax have to pay, that's the principle," he said on BFMTV. "They will be reminded of this principle this afternoon."

Hollande's proposal to tax the rich on individual incomes over one million euros annually was shot down as unconstitutional by the country's top court.

The modified proposal now makes companies liable to pay the 75 tax rate for the portion of employees' salaries above the million-euro ceiling.

Football clubs complain that the move will hit them hard and make it impossible to attract top-flight talent.

Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain, France's richest club, counts more than 10 players whose pay exceeds the one-million bracket. They include Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Clubs in Ligue 1 and 2 have said they will not take part in fixtures from November 29 to December 2 in what has been described as a "historic protest".

The last football strike in France took place in 1972.

Jean-Pierre Louvel, the head of the UCPF, or Union of Professional Clubs, which is leading the rebellion, said he hoped for some leeway from Hollande.

Lovel said he aimed to explore "the possibilities of adapting the tax for football, as football companies are different from others," as they sign up players on short-term contracts.

Football clubs argue that the measure will cost the Ligue 1 about 44 million euros, given the high salaries earned by about 120 players from 14 clubs.

But although the tax proposal has been criticised by the opposition, there has been an overwhelming sentiment across the political spectrum that high-earning footballers should not be let off the hook.

"I don't weep for them," said Dominique Bussereau, a former minister from ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party. "I have no particular sympathy for professional football."

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, added: "It's indecent to see football clubs who are paying goalkeepers 120,000 euros per month come and complain, while millions of French have fallen victim to austerity."

© 2013 AFP

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