Italy recently approved a new “solidarity tax” for high income earners. The country’s soccer players don’t want to cough up the cash. Impatient, the government fired back by calling the players “a caste of spoiled people.”
ROME -- Italian soccer players have taken the field for an unusual match – not against one of their classic European rivals, but against a new "solidarity tax."
The tax, approved recently by the Italian government, will charge an extra 5% on annual incomes of over 90,000 euros. Italians earning more than 150,000 euros – a category that includes many of the country's professional soccer players – will have to pay a 10% tax.
Italy's soccer idols are up in arms, and making no secret about their opposition to the new solidarity tax. Rumors have swirled that the players might even strike. Earlier this week the players' union, AIC, stated publicly that players will pay the extra tax only in cases in which their contracts mention gross salaries. If the contracts mention net salaries, the compensation should remain the same, said the union. The soccer clubs, in other words, should be responsible for shelling out the extra tax.
The Italian government has answered the AIC's challenge by sending in one if its own hard hitters, the notoriously controversial Roberto Calderoli, minister for legislative simplification.
"If they continue to threaten strikes or retaliation, I'll propose that, just like the politicians, the soccer players pay a double extra tax. No more 5 and 10%, but 10 and 20%. Then they'll have a real reason to complain," he said.
"The players are throwing a tantrum," Calderoli went on to say. "I don't know if the solidarity tax is fair or not, but if anybody should pay it without issues, the players should. They represent a caste of spoiled people who don't pay tax because the clubs pay in place of them."
"The players didn't understand that this is a law of the State. If they will strike, the soccer fans will strike back against these spoiled children. We'll go to the stadium to see the matches of First Division instead of the Premier League" Calderoli said.
The Italian government approved the tax as part of an austerity package to ease EU and market concerns about Italy's high rate of public debt. Authorities are calling on all Italians to make a sacrifice. The soccer players, it would seem, prefer that their employers make the sacrifice for them.
The players' union now finds itself on the defensive. "The footballers are a spoiled caste? That's ridiculous." Said AIC's vice-president, Leo Grosso, who continues to insist that in the case of net salary contracts, clubs pay the extra tax. "The members of our association are employees and they have to follow the same rules of all the other employees," he said.
Given that the majority of the deals between clubs and players mention net salaries, according to this interpretation of the law, the clubs will have to pay the extra tax in almost every case.
Not everyone in Italy's soccer world, however, agrees with the AIC. Maurizio Beretta, president of the Serie A soccer league, called on everyone "to be reasonable," and insisted the AIC "invite its members to play their part."
"I don't like these distinctions between gross and net salary," he said. "A one-off contribution is asked of those people who receive a salary above a certain figure. Asking the clubs to pay does not make any sense."
It is worth noting that for all the hubbub the solidarity tax is causing among the country's soccer players, Italy's basketball players have been pretty quiet on the issue. Basketball is the only other big-time professional sport in Italy. "If the law says that we have to pay, we will pay," stated a note from the union of the basketball players.
Read the original article in Italian
Photo - NaturalBlu