Socialists slam ‘indecent’ Ibrahimovic wages

Football superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic's record-breaking salary at his new Paris club has sparked a fierce backlash from French politicians denouncing it as "indecent" at a time of financial hardship.

Socialists slam 'indecent' Ibrahimovic wages
Photo: Jean-Francois Beausejour

The 30-year-old Swedish striker's transfer to Paris Saint-Germain from AC Milan was hailed by fans with hundreds chanting "Ibra! Ibra!" as he was presented to them on Wednesday at a ceremony in front of the Eiffel Tower.

He has been hired on a reported annual net salary of about €14 million ($17 million) — the most ever paid to a player in France.

But with France struggling to avoid recession and unemployment on the rise, Socialist politicians have reacted angrily to the figure, denouncing it as a sign of rampant excess.

Even one former sports minister from the right-wing UMP party has denounced the salary.

France's new Socialist government is insisting that Ibrahimovic will have no choice but to pay the 75-percent tax rate it intends to impose on annual salaries in excess of one million euros from next year.

"These numbers are not impressive, they are indecent," Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac told Europe 1 radio Thursday when asked about Ibrahimovic's salary.

"They are indecent at a time when everyone in the entire world is making efforts and knows the terrible consequences of a crisis," he said.

Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron attacked the salary as "astronomical and unreasonable" while government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the sum "shocked a lot of people".

Vallaud-Belkacem said there was no way Ibrahimovic would "escape" from paying the 75-percent tax rate. Some ministers even rejoiced that his salary would bring so much revenue to state coffers.

"I am delighted that he will be paying taxes in France," said Benoit Hamon, a junior economy minister. "This is a demonstration that this tax was not an argument to prevent great players from coming to play in France."

Former sports minister Roselyne Bachelot of the right-wing UMP also expressed her "indignation, almost disgust" with the vast sums involved when asked about Ibrahimovic's transfer.

Even President Francois Hollande joined the fray.

Although he didn't criticize Ibrahimovic's salary itself, he pointed to the relatively modest salaries at French league champions Montpellier as an example.

"There are teams that manage to win… without necessarily having very significant salaries," Hollande said during a visit to France's national sport institute.

PSG President Nasser al-Khelaifi told reporters Wednesday that the club's owners, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), would follow French law when it came to paying Ibrahimovic's taxes.

"As we have already said, we respect French laws. We do it today and we will do it tomorrow. Ibrahimovic's signing is very positive for PSG but also for French football," he said.

Tax experts said that to guarantee Ibrahimovic a €14-million net salary the club will have to set aside enormous amounts.

"If you want the part taxed at 75 percent a year paid entirely to the player, the club will have to pay four times that much," said French tax lawyer Frederic Naim.

Experts said Ibrahimovic would be required to take French residency and pay French taxes, though he might benefit from a deduction for temporary residency allowing him to cut his taxable income in half.

Hollande defeated right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in a presidential vote in May with vows to tackle France's economic problems by boosting taxes on the wealthy and spending to promote growth.

The 75-percent tax rate has been derided by the right, who say it will lead to an exodus of top earners from France while doing little to address the country's fiscal problems.

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French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

Lawyers for FFR President Bernard Laporte said he was going to appeal against the court's verdict

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

French rugby was reeling Tuesday after the president of the country’s governing body Bernard Laporte was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence on corruption charges nine months before France hosts the game’s World Cup.

Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) president Laporte, 58, was convicted after a French court ruled he showed favouritism in awarding a shirt sponsorship contract for the national side to Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier. He was also banned from holding any rugby post for two years. Both are suspended pending an appeal, which Laporte’s lawyer said was imminent.

Laporte later stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, pending a review by the body’s ethics officer.

“World Rugby notes the decision by World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte to self-suspend from all positions held within its governance structures with immediate effect following his conviction by the French court in relation to domestic matters, and pending his appeal,” World Rugby said.

“While acknowledging Laporte’s self-suspension and right of appeal, given the serious nature of the verdict World Rugby’s Executive Committee has referred the matter to its independent ethics officer for review in accordance with its integrity code,” it added.

Resignation call
Laporte faces problems on the domestic front, too, with Florian Grill, who narrowly lost to him in the 2020 election for federation chief, calling for Laporte and the entire board to stand down.

“It is unheard of in rugby, this is an earthquake,” Grill told AFP. “We have never before seen a president of the federation condemned to two
years in prison, even if it suspended.

“We think the 40 members of the board of directors should draw the obvious conclusions and resign.”

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the sentence was an “obstacle for Bernard Laporte to be able, as it stands, to continue his mission in good conditions” as federation president, and called for a “new democratic era to allow French rugby to rebound as quickly as possible and sufficiently healthy and solid, with a governance by the federation that will have the full confidence of the clubs”.

The court found that Laporte ensured a series of marketing decisions favourable to Altrad – who was given an 18-month suspended sentence and
€50,000 euro — in exchange for a €180,000 image licensing contract that was never actually carried out.

Altrad’s lawyer said he would study the decision before deciding on whether to appeal.

At the trial’s close in September, prosecutors said they were seeking a three-year prison sentence for Laporte, of which he should serve one behind bars, and the two others on probation.

The friendship and business links between Laporte and Altrad are at the heart of the case.

It goes back to February 2017, when they signed a deal under which Laporte agreed to appear at Altrad group conferences, and sold his image reproduction rights, in return for €180,000.

But while that sum was  paid to Laporte, prosecutors claim that he neveractually provided the services he signed up for.

Laporte did, however, make several public statements backing Altrad and, in March 2017, signed the €1.8 million deal with the businessman making his namesake firm the first-ever sponsor to appear on the French national team’s jerseys.

The Altrad name and logo still features on the shirts thanks to a follow-up deal negotiated by Laporte in 2018 and which prosecutors say bears all the hallmarks of corruption. It is also on the All Blacks’ national squads’ shirts, and New Zealand Rugby is reportedly seeking an urgent meeting with company officials following the court ruling.

Laporte, formerly a highly successful coach who guided France twice to the World Cup semi-finals (2003 and 2007), was also found guilty of favouritism
with regards to Altrad’s Montpellier Herault Rugby (MHR) club.

He was convicted for intervening with French rugby’s federal disciplinary commission to reduce a fine against the club from €70,000 to €20,000 after several telephone calls from Laporte.

While prosecutors saw this and several more incidents as proof of illicit favouritism, Laporte himself had claimed there was no “cause-effect relationship”.

On the last day of the trial in October, Laporte’s lawyer Fanny Colin accused the prosecution of “confirmation bias” by “taking into account only elements backing their original assumptions”.

The verdict comes only nine months before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France on September 8, 2023, with matches played in nine stadiums across the country.