Friday, March 22, 2013

Time for a reality check

You hardly need to be told that Spaniards are passionate about football and that the country hosts some of the top players in the world. However, football in Spain comes at a huge cost to the country. Clubs in the top two divisions have bank debts of 3.5bn euros. The tax debt to the government by these clubs alone comes to 692m euros.

At a time when major cuts have been made to public services, it is so wrong that football clubs have been allowed to get away with this situation.

The only clubs that are not in danger are apparently, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao. Twenty two of the  other clubs are in insolvency proceedings including some famous names like Deportivo who have a tax debt of 96m euros.

It is not just the central government that is to blame for this mess, regional governments like the one in Valencia have given preferential loans to clubs and then turned a blind eye when the loans have not been repaid. Local savings banks have also given preferential loans to clubs which have not been repaid.

What is the possible outcome of all this?

Now that the issue has been brought before the European Parliament, it is not going away. If action is taken, then it is likely that some of the clubs will have to close and others will be forced to sell off their star players. As a result, the quality of football in Spain will plummet.

Naturally, the government would not want any of this to happen because it would provoke riots in the streets far worse than any demonstrations seen so far. The questions have been raised but so far the answers are not forthcoming.

In my opinion, the issue behind all this are the ridiculous transfer fees and the untenable salaries paid to secure top players. And the problem is not just confined to Spain, PSV Eindhoven along with other clubs in Holland apparently benefit from 10m euros of public money and no doubt clubs in France and Italy also benefit from favourable treatment.

Maybe it is time for football throughout Europe to take a reality check. It may be “the beautiful game” but why should we all be forced to pay such a high subsidy for it? Winning the World Cup was a great achievement but was it worth 692m euros?

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