KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
— Spanish club football is proposing to pay off its cumulative debt to the tax authorities by 2020. Whether this will suit UEFA is another matter. Certainly the figures justify UEFA president Michel Platini’s concerns about the survival of professional football.
One of the strictures of the European federation’s Financial Fair Play system, which comes into effect this year, is that all clubs competing in European competition should have transfers fees, wages and tax bills paid up-to-date.
The good news for Spanish clubs is that this rule applies to clubs individually not to the league overall. However the admission may tempt UEFA regulators to ensure they take a particularly close look at Spanish clubs’ competitive licenses before Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co set foot on the Champions League pitch in years to come.
The size of the tax debt is disputed but the Consejo Superior de Deportes and the Liga de Fútbol Profesional have devised a plan to wipe the slate clean, whatever the eventual liability agreed.
Government data has estimated the clubs’ total debt at €752.2m while the league believes it is ‘only’ E670m because “between €50m and €70m is owed by teams in the third division who are not league members but come under the ambit of the Real Federación Española de Fútbol.”
A statement from the sports council explained: “We are working with the league to provide a response which will satisfy the national accounts agency and guarantee that the 2020-21 season will start with no outstanding tax debts.”
The guarantee being offered is the certainty of the league’s ongoing income from television rights with the proviso of an end to a rule enforcing the free-to-air transmission of one match per weekend, freedom to ‘sell’ highlights rights and, most controversially, charge radio stations.
The next broadcasting contract is due to take effect in 2014 and the clubs expect, by these means, to raise revenues from €640m per season to €900m per season – similar to the equivalent sum in Italy. The clubs also want the CSD to increase pools revenue from the current 10pc and calculate a further sum to acknowledge internet betting.
Unofficial estimates claim that half of the €489m tax debt in the Primera Division is owed by just two clubs: Atlético de Madrid and Deportivo de La Coruna. The second division debt adds up to €184.1m with the lower divisions being liable for E78.1m.
The league points out that its clubs already contribute more than €1,000m to the Spanish exchequer and that the debts “although it exists is covered by substantial guarantees.”
In 1990 the clubs – then carrying a €99m tax debt – resolved the issue in complex negotiations which ended with all but four (Real and Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao) being converted into limited companies.
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