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French soccer clubs to strike in protest at Francois Hollande's 'rich tax'

updated 2:39 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
French club Paris Saint-Germain may have to pay hefty taxes on the salaries of star players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic (center).
French club Paris Saint-Germain may have to pay hefty taxes on the salaries of star players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic (center).
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • French football clubs to go on strike next month for the first time since 1972
  • They are protesting next year's planned introduction of a 75% tax for high earners
  • Clubs say they are already losing money and tax will make them less competitive
  • Strike will halt France's top two divisions between November 29 to December 2

(CNN) -- France's controversial 75% tax for high earners drove award-winning actor Gerard Depardieu to take Russian citizenship.

Now, French football clubs are going on strike to protest the legislation's planned implementation next year, claiming it will make them less competitive against European rivals and cause further financial hardship.

The Professional Union of Football Clubs (UCPF) announced Thursday that they will boycott all matches in the top two divisions scheduled between November 29-December 2.

It will be the first such strike in France since 1972, when players protested about their salaries, and will be the first in a major European league since the start of the 2010-11 Italian season was disrupted.

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"This unprecedented day must be the occasion for the silent majority of French football to express its opposition," UCPF president Jean-Pierre Louvel said in a statement Thursday.

Read: Monaco presents taxing problem for French football

The 75% tax will apply to players who earn more than €1 million ($1.38 million) a year. Under the law's initial wording the earners themselves would have had to pay it, but after protests Francois Hollande's Socialist Party government moved the responsibility to their employers.

However, the UCPF claims this is unfair as its clubs are losing money anyway -- racking up a combined deficit of €108 million ($149 million) at the end of the 2011-12 season. Their total debt for the last three season amounts to €303 million ($418 million).

"This tax, unfair and discriminatory, is estimated by the professional football industry at €44m ($60m) per year," the UCPF said.

"The economic crisis has not spared these clubs, who have seen their income from ticketing and TV rights decreased for the last three years in a row."

Read: French football's talent exodus

The UCPF claims the tax will make French clubs less competitive against European rivals in countries which have lower taxes.

"In a context of a deregulated European competition where players have the ability to go and play everywhere they want, the French clubs -- if they want to stay competitive -- cannot massively decrease their remunerations," it said.

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"For similar salaries, a player in France is costing the clubs 33% more than a player would in Germany, England, Spain or Italy."

The UCPF, which says it pays €130 million ($179.5 million) to amateur sports each year as an act of "solidarity," claims the tax will cost jobs in the French football industry -- which employs 25,000 people.

'We wish to open all the stadiums to all the fans, football lovers, those people who make French football on a daily basis," Louvel said of the strike.

"The supporters, amateur players, associations, volunteers, coaches, agents and employees. All of those who will suffer from the consequences of this unfair tax. The social role of football will be impacted by the consequences of this measure."

The tax will hit clubs to varying degrees. Big-spending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which has invested more than €200 million ($276 million) in players since being bought by a Qatari consortium in 2011, may have to pay just under half the clubs' €44 million bill according to reports estimating its salary bills.

Monaco, backed by a Russian billionaire, would next season be exempt as it does not fall under French tax laws -- and the principality club says it will fight the league's plans to change its status in future.

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