France’s highest-paid footballers are threatening to go on strike in protest at a controversial “supertax” of 75 per cent on all earnings above €1 million.
The planned tax hike has already triggered the flight of some of France’s richest citizens to countries such as Britain and Switzerland.
Now football clubs in France’s League One and Two divisions are considering paralysing the fixture list by refusing to play matches on the weekend of 26 and 27 October.
The French Union of Professional Football Clubs agreed last month to protest against the temporary tax – to be applied to earnings for 2013 and 2014 – which could see many of their top players fleeing to foreign clubs. It will decide whether to scrap a weekend of fixtures in a meeting on 24 October.
The tax would mean that players such as Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahamovic at Paris St Germain would be taxed almost £8m on his £11.4m annual earnings.
If clubs pay the tax on behalf of their players, France’s League One teams would be hit with an annual tax bill of around £40m to keep their 115 players on the same wages they are on now, French daily Le Parisien said.
Union spokesman Bernard Caiazzo said: “Everything is possible. Tensions are very high.”
But sports minister Valerie Fourneyron yesterday warned the footballers against such action: “At a time when all French people take part in the effort of recovery of country in the fight against unemployment and for the competitivity of our companies, they would not understand that the world of professional football, which is seen as privileged, would not take part in this collective effort.”
The planned supertax on annual earnings above £840,000 was ruled illegal by the country’s highest court earlier this year.
But French financial newspaper Les Echos quoted government sources as saying the tax would still be imposed, and would apply to all income made in 2013 and 2014 before being scrapped.
When the tax was first proposed as part of socialist president François Hollande’s May 2012 election manifesto, a number of French multi-millionaires announced they were leaving the country.
Optician chain tycoon Alain Afflelou – who has an estimated £190m fortune – said he was moving to London, while film star Gerard Depardieu bought a house just 800 yards from the French border in Belgium.
The new levy is expected to affect only a few thousand earners, and is being seen as a symbolic move to make the rich pay their share in tough economic times, rather than as a major revenue raiser.
Mr Hollande is said to be determined that this flagship election promise will be implemented and has asked finance chiefs to ensure it is watertight so he does not have to face the embarrassment of seeing it rejected for a second time.
Jean-Pierre Louvel, president of the Union of Professional Football Clubs yesterday defended the clubs’ position.
“When you’re on the edge of a cliff and being pushed into the void, what will you do to avoid falling? That is the question,” he said, calling the measure “a tax too far”.