Skip to main content

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.

Is this the most glamorous location for a professional footballer? Is this the most glamorous location for a professional footballer?
Sun, sea -- and no tax
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
Moneybags Monaco Moneybags Monaco
A Newcastle fan shows his support for the club's French foreign legion at the club's home game against Southampton in February. A Newcastle fan shows his support for the club's French foreign legion at the club's home game against Southampton in February.
Allez le Toon
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
French football\'s foreign legion French football's foreign legion
Good business in the transfer market?

"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.

Exclusive: What makes Ibrahimovic tick?
Behind the scenes at Paris St Germain
French football club spends big

"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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
While many top European clubs are targeting the U.S. market, French football is setting its sights on expanding into Asia -- with China playing a key role.
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Major League Soccer has snared another big name from England with former Chelsea star Frank Lampard committing his future to New York City FC.
updated 12:56 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Europe's top clubs have booked a summer holiday to the U.S. -- but this is business not pleasure as they look to cash in on the World Cup afterglow.
updated 2:28 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Brazil's new coach Dunga won the World Cup as a player in 1994.
Former World Cup-winning captain Dunga is appointed coach of Brazil's national team for the second time, charged with restoring national pride.
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Colombia's World Cup star James Rodriguez continues Real Madrid's long tradition of signing "Galacticos."
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm has decided to go out at the top by announcing his retirement from international football.
The U.S. government recognizes Kosovo, as do most European states, but getting football's ruling bodies to play ball has proved harder.
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
National heroes don't always belong to one country. Ask France's World Cup hero Patrick Vieira, who is rediscovering his roots.
CNN's John Sinnott on the quiet Cambridge graduate behind Liverpool's resurgent campaign.
updated 11:19 AM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
They are the dispossessed -- stateless, and unrecognized by football's ruling body. But these teams will still play at their own World Cup.
Louis van Gaal will be a perfect fit for Manchester United the club, business and brand, says CNN's Patrick Snell.
updated 3:24 PM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
There's a new force in Spanish football -- and Atletico Madrid's ascendance is sharply contrasted by the fall from power of Barcelona.
ADVERTISEMENT