France

Hollande stands up to French football clubs over wealth supertax

French professional clubs' union (UCPF) president Jean-Pierre Louvel (L), and professional football league (LFP) president Frédéric Thiriez hold a press conference
French professional clubs' union (UCPF) president Jean-Pierre Louvel (L), and professional football league (LFP) president Frédéric Thiriez hold a press conference Reuters/Tribouillard

French President François Hollande has refused to give in to football clubs' demands not to impose a 75 per cent tax on high earners. The clubs say they will go ahead with a plan not to stage matches for one weekend later this month.

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Hollande's refusal to back down has won him applause - and plenty of football-related puns - in the French press for a rare show of political determination, perhaps fuelled by an opinion poll showing over 80 per cent of respondents felt the "strike" was not justified.

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The clubs say the move will hit them especially hard because they sign players on short-term contracts and will make it impossible to attract top-flight talent

Taxing incomes over one million euros at 75 per cent was one the Socialist leader’s main electoral promises during his successful 2012 presidential campaign and Hollande has stuck to his guns.

When the Constitutional Council ruled that the tax could not be imposed on individuals, the government slapped it on companies paying huge salaries.

Meeting presidents of some of France’s most prestigious clubs yesterday, Hollande said the need to balance public accounts fully justified asking companies that choose to pay very high salaries to contribute to the budgetary effort.

While the proposed 75 per cent levy is temporary and will affect income earned this year and in 2014, representatives of France’s first and second division professional football teams say the move will endanger the future of many clubs that are already heavily indebted.

It would also, they say, make it impossible to attract star players to be able to compete with other clubs in Europe.

In protest the clubs say they will not take part in fixtures in the last weekend of November.

Speaking during a visit to Russia yesterday, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that French people would not understand why companies running football clubs should be exonerated from the tax.

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