French clubs go on strike in protest over tax

French football teams have unanimously agreed to go on strike for one weekend at the end of November as a protest against government tax rises.

France’s professional clubs held an extraordinary general meeting on Thursday to decide the next steps in their campaign against the government’s plan to implement a temporary 75 percent marginal tax on employers for paying salaries above a million euros a year.

The proposed strike will take place on the weekend of November 29-December 2.

”It’s a historic moment for French football. The whole of football has taken a very important decision,” Jean-Pierre Louvel, president of the Union of Professional Football Clubs, said. ”We’re talking about the death of French football. That’s why we are fighting and we will continue to fight.”

Representatives of the clubs will meet with French President Francois Hollande next week to further discuss a solution to the situation.

The last time games were boycotted in the French league was in 1972, but that was at the initiative of the players, the clubs’ union said.

The tax, which is only supposed to be enforced for two years, was a campaign pledge from Hollande. The government expects it to bring in £360 million. It would cost clubs £37 million over that period.

Ironically, the club with the biggest wage bill, Paris Saint-Germain, backed by wealthy Qatari investors, won’t be too inconvenienced by the measure. While big spending Monaco, as a tax exempt principality, will not be affected at all.

But it would hit about a dozen clubs in the next financial tier with the likes of Saint-Etienne, Lyon and Marseille in peril, particularly if they fail to qualify for the  Champions League.

”Most of the clubs don’t make money, they lose money, so how is it possible for the clubs to pay taxes when they don’t have money left?” Saint-Etienne president Bernard Caizzo told The Associated Press. ”This is the big point, instead of players paying tax, they want the clubs to pay the tax.”

Many clubs operate at a loss and Lyon have ploughed in millions into its new stadium.

”When a (company) is losing money you try and help, not try and give a big kick on the head,” Caizzo said.

”French football is the most (taxed) in Europe, when we get 100 euros, we pay 70 euros to the state. Not in England, not in Germany, not in Italy, not in Spain,” Caizzo said. ”Many clubs won’t be able to afford this and could disappear.”

Whatever happens here, this looks like a situation where those hit hardest are not only the clubs least able to afford it, but also, the least culpable.