The Possible France Football Work Stoppage Over Taxes

The United States and North America are not the only areas where sports labor struggles take place. The next sports work stoppage could occur in France next week and it may have nothing to do with owners and players bickering over money.

It is pretty quiet right now in North America after the National Football League owners shut down operations after the 2010 season and locked out the players in the off season because of a labor dispute. Both sides agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement during the summer of 2011 and no games were missed. The National Basketball Association owners did lock out the employees, the players, in 2011 and eventually both sides agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement which did see games canceled. The National Hockey League owners locked out the employees in 2012, the players, but both sides agreed to a new deal after a chunk of the 2012-13 schedule was canceled. All of those disputes dealt with money being shared between the owners and players.

But there is a significant difference in those three labor negotiations and the potentially brewing work stoppage of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 soccer groupings in France. The owners are upset that they may have to pay more tax on their investments–the players–and that is not sitting well with them.

France’s President François Hollande has decided raising taxable income is one way to get the country out of financial debt.  Hollande has proposed that all French citizens making more than one million Euros annually would have to pay 75 percent income tax.  That includes football players and that has been a bone of contention for more than six months. Hollande wants everyone to contribute and help the country out of a financial struggle and upping the income tax rate is Hollande’s solution.

Back in April, the government shot down a claim by French Football Federation President Noël Le Graët that the football clubs and players would be exempted from being placed in a higher income tax bracket.  France’s football leagues are generally not thought to be on par with those in England, Spain and Italy and getting players to sign with France’s teams is difficult.  David Beckham is the best known player in Ligue 1 after signing a one year agreement with Paris Saint Germain, a team owned by Qatar interests.

Ligue 1 owners are worried as are the players. Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 put out a statement condemning the Hollande tax proposal.

“This new tax will cost Ligue 1 clubs €82 million meaning a brutal 30% increase in charges when they’re already in financial difficulty. With these insane labor costs France will lose its best players, our clubs will see their competitiveness in Europe plunge, and the state will lose its best taxpayers.”

The Hollande proposal is just that, a proposal but the 2014 budget has to be in place soon. The Union of Professional Football Clubs will meet on October 24 to decide what action to take as the budget battle unfolds in France’s Parliament. The clubs could decide to just cancel games on October 26 and 27th as a form of protest.

There are many who think sports is not a political platform and that the mixing of sports and politics is misguided and has no place in the sports world. But sports is all about politics no matter what country hosts games. In France, it’s about the government wanting to tax football players’ salaries and the owners not wanting to have to pay that tax.

The Le Parisien, a Paris newspaper, did a breakdown of the proposed tax and came up with some possible answers to why the Ligue 1 and 2 owners are very upset. The newspaper claimed the tax of the 14 French Ligue 1 would result in the teams paying 44 million extra Euros in taxes on the million-euro salaries of 115 players and eight managers.

The costs would vary from 50,000 euro for Ajaccio and Guingamp, who have just one million-euro employee each paying 50,000 Euros to 20 million Euros for Paris Saint-Germain, whose payroll includes 21 people making more than a million Euros. France’s sports minister Valerie Fourneyron is pretty confident that the country would not support a football work stoppage and the minister is probably right since most people are not hardened sports fans. But the hard core sports addict is going to be very upset if the games are not played. After all sports fans in France and everywhere else don’t want anything to interrupt their entertainment.

Evan Weiner can be reached at [email protected]. His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available ( and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, (,  From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA (  and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports ( are available.