With French Prime Minister Francois Hollande steadfast in his plan to apply the 75% income tax levy to footballers’ wages, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 are set for their first strikes for over 40 years. The imposition of the levy will add circa €44m to the tax bill of French clubs, which they will of course pass on directly to fans. The burden of course will be skewed to the biggest clubs with the biggest contracts, so not all clubs will be impacted equally. Efforts to exempt existing player contracts and apply it solely to new contracts failed in negotiations this week. And so the likely course of action now is an all-out strike on the weekend of the 29th November.
It is difficult to understand what the strike will achieve. The fixtures will just have to be replayed another time, fans will have to change expensive travel plans, and Hollande just isn’t bothered. Even if he was, the French public, whom one suspects the strike is aimed at, voted for this tax at the last election and it is a policy that remains broadly popular. Frédéric Thiriez, LFP’s Chief Executive claimed in interviews this week that “very survival of French football is at stake”. If that is indeed the case, then Mr. Thiriez needs to find more compelling arguments that resonate with politicians and the public.
While austerity was driving the conversation in the week’s early news, financial extravagance was the focus of attention later in the week. PSG announced a staggering sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority, which will be worth up to €200m a season. The deal will probably be one of the biggest examinations of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, not only because of its scale, but also because the deal will be made retrospective to the 2012/13 season. It will be seen by many as a flagrant attempt to outmanoeuvre all of PSG’s obstacles to world football domination, including Hollande, Platini and the global brands that have been established by the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munuch. PSG’s future annual budget of €600m will be the biggest in world football, and one wonders what other financial or commercial tricks the Parisians have up their sleeves.
Frustrated with their beloved game spiralling out of financial control, fans of Ligue 1 are becoming more and more militant. As is common in England, elevated prices for away fans are a frequent bone of contention. The big difference is that in Ligue 1, the average cost of a ticket is about €15, whereas in England it is about £40. But the discrimination against away fans, common in both games, has become too much for a group of Lorient fans, who were asked to pay €35 for their upcoming visit to Parc des Princes. They released a statement outlining their decision to boycott the game entirely, claiming that PSG was “too much business and not enough football”. But the pricing only seems to be one reason that Lorient fans are boycotting the game – PSG’s attempt to reign in its ultras hasn’t gone down will with the ultras in other clubs, and Lorient’s fans boycott is also a display of solidarity with their fellow ultras.
No trip to Parc des Princes is easy, but Lorient will be feeling confident after beating Sochaux at home and after seeing PSG struggle to a last minute draw away to Saint Etienne. That result on Sunday allowed AS Monaco to join PSG at the summit of Ligue 1, with almost identical records of seven wins and four draws in 11 games. Right on their heels are Lille, who host Monaco in the game of the weekend on Sunday evening (8pm, BT Sport). Remarkably, Lille could go top with a win. Manager Rene Girard, who brought the Ligue 1 title to Montpellier, has put together a side that has conceded only two goals at home, and two on the road. While they don’t boast a pedigree goal scorer, their discipline and tactical awareness more than compensates.
OM badly need to get back to winning ways, after losing five games on the bounce, including a poor 3-2 reverse at home to Reims. But a win is far from a foregone conclusion, as hosts Rennes beat Toulose 5-0 away last weekend. Lyon, without a win in six Ligue 1 games, have in-form Guincamp visiting the Stad Municipal de Gerland on Saturday – an unenviable task.