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.

Napoli chief calls for European Super League

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis says he wants to develop a new European competition featuring only the biggest teams from Europe’s top five leagues, and claims that some Premier League and Bundesliga clubs are interested in the idea.

De Laurentiis, 64, told L’Equipe that clubs from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain could be making a lot more money from the Champions League by embracing his “revolution” for the continental game.

“I want to reduce the league to 16 teams and to create a large European Cup that would bring together the five biggest teams from the five best European leagues,” he said.

“One week would be devoted to the national championship, the other to the European championship with teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern, Milan.

“It would be crazy, the end of the world! This competition could generate five billion euros – a revolution.”

“Everyone seems happy to earn 40 million euros per season in the Champions League. I’m not. I want to earn 150 million or even 200 million euros.

So long as it’s all about such noble principles, who could possibly object.

It’s a good time for De Laurentiis to propose such a league. When he took over at Napoli in 2004 they were languishing in the third tier of Italian football. Any suggestion then, that they be considered part of the European elite would have been drowned out by laughter.

Germany to bid for Euro 2024

The German Football Association (DFB) has confirmed that it will be bidding for Euro 2024.

The 2006 World Cup hosts will be seeking to be the sole host of the tournament. Four years earlier, the finals will spread around the continent with no one country hosting more than three matches.

“18 years after the magnificent 2006 World Cup, the time is ripe for another summer fairytale in Germany,” said DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach, who has already informed UEFA president Michel Platini of Germany’s intended bid.

“Germany last staged a European Championship in 1988 and we fancy our chances because the DFB have always made good impressions to FIFA and UEFA when staging major events in the past.”

The bid is in its preliminary stage, having been agreed upon only on Wednesday at a DFB board meeting in Nuremberg.

It will be interesting to see how Germany’s bid is received by Platini. It was he who introduced the concept of the continent-wide finals for Euro 2020, claiming that a single country in austerity-riven Europe could no longer afford to host a multi team tournament. It sounded baloney at the time and now that Germany – admittedly a country that has done quite well out of European austerity – has thrown their hat in the ring, a return to the traditional final format looks assured.

CSKA Moscow deny fans racially abused Yaya Toure

CSKA Moscow have claimed Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure was not racially abused by their fans during Wednesday night’s Champions League match – despite referee Ovidiu Hategan including the chants in his report to UEFA and the club and player launching a complaint.

The Ivory Coast midfielder appeared to be the target of chants from some sections of the home crowd during the 2-1 victory at the Arena Khimki on Wednesday.

Afterwards he told Sky Sports: “It’s unbelievable. I think UEFA needs to do something strong.”

Toure appealed to UEFA to impose stringent sanctions on the club.

“I told the ref, I think it was unbelievable and very sad. We want to stop that. UEFA need to do something.

“Maybe close the stadium for a couple of games,” he said. “As an African player, it is always sad when you hear something like that.”

City boss Manuel Pellegrini also called for UEFA to act if they find that his player was subjected to abuse: “It’s a pity and I hope UEFA have the right measures,” he said.

However, the Russian club’s deputy media manager Michael Sanadze told Sky Sports News: “There is no subject to discuss. Nothing special happened.

“There was a lot of noise in the stadium. Nobody else, other than Yaya Toure, heard anything. The only trouble that has come about was because Yaya Toure heard something.”

CSKA striker Seydou Doumbia is quoted in Russian newspaper Sport Express saying: “I didn’t hear anything like that from the CSKA fans…yes, they’re always noisy in supporting the team, and try to put as much pressure as possible on our opponents but they wouldn’t ever allow themselves to come out with racist chants.

“So my Ivory Coast colleague is clearly exaggerating.”

Although UEFA has threatened to come down hard on those clubs whose supporters racially abuse players, there remains the suspicion that it is treating offenders far too leniently.

The ball is now in their court, as we wait to hear from their official observers at the game, Stevie Wonder and Marlee Matlin.

Silvio Berlusconi responsible for Milan performance

Silvio Berlusconi’s tactics were the integral to Milan holding Barcelona in the Champions League, according to the daughter of the former Italian prime minister.

The Serie A team held the Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro on Tuesday night.

And Barbara Berlusconi, who is a Milan director, said her father and the club’s owner had offered his advice to the players.

She said: “He’s [Silvio] satisfied, also because some of the tactical suggestions he had given to the coach were adhered to.

“It was a decent performance, showing above all heart and character.”

Not sure what advice the septuagenerian Berlusconi could have offered his players; steer clear of underage prostitutes if they wish to stay out of trouble, perhaps?

Goal of the Day

Following his inspired piece of improvisation at the weekend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic wins his second Goal of the Day award within the space of a week with this piledriver against Anderlecht.

The strike, timed at 73 mph, brought up his hat-trick, and the Swede went on to score a 4th goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s 5-0 win.

Dive of the Day

Juventus’ Arturo Vidal will blush when he looks back on this incident against Real Madrid. If we’re being charitable, we’ll assume that when he appeals for a penalty, he genuinely thought he had been brought down.

Watch the clip a few times – it never ceases to amuse.

Quote of the Day

“At the moment, Franck is probably the best player in the world. If he carries on like this, he is heading in the right direction to have a very good chance in the running for the FIFA World Player of the Year award in January.”

The campaign to get Franck Ribery elected FIFA Ballon d’Or winner, cranks up another gear, as Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggests he is currently the world’s best player.