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Why the elimination of a tax break could spell the end of glory days for Spanish club soccer.
But in a Telecinco TV interview, Jose Antonio Alonso, spokesperson for the governing center-left socialist party, PSOE, called a 600,000 euro salary a “brutal amount” and said the law change is “strictly a matter of equity, solidarity and fiscal fairness” in a time of economic crisis in which “everybody has to tighten their belt.” Regarding LFP’s threat to stop league play with a strike, Alonso snapped, “How can there be a strike so that those who have to pay taxes like everybody else don’t?”
The LFP held an special assembly Nov. 6, in which it unanimously agreed to not strike, at least for now, and to create a commission to maintain an “urgent and efficient” dialogue with the government and Parliament. In a press conference after the assembly, LFP’s president Jose Luis Astiazaran declined to elaborate on the terms of that negotiation and said the outcome will be announced in another assembly Nov. 19.
According to the LFP, 174 million people around the world watch the Spanish League on TV, making it the most widely seen competition in Europe and Latin America; 14 million people go to games in Spain.
The Spanish league contributes more than 9 billion euros to Spain’s economy and 85,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the LFP.
But in 20-percent-unemployment Spain, where the government has recently announced a tax hike for next year, the controversy is not inspiring citizens’ sympathy.
“I’d like to pay 43 percent in taxes. That would mean I had a big salary. Instead, I work 12 hours a day to barely get by,” said Abel, a taxi driver. “A strike? That’d be total lack of respect toward Spaniards. Players earn millions while people have to do wonders to be able to buy a ticket to see those guys play on the field.”
More than 80 percent of the 38,000 online readers voting in a survey published by the daily El Mundo said the strike was not a good idea. Reader “SJ Barcelona” commented on an article in El Periodico's digital edition: “My company doesn’t pay my taxes.”
If the number of dedicated followers is any indication, soccer is probably closer to a national religion in Spain than Catholicism these days. But in times of crisis, the LFP seems more than a little out of touch with its own flock when issuing a press statement in response to the legislative move that reads, “Soccer contributes to equality among citizens.”