“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax,” so said a fairly well-known German physicist by the name of Albert Einstein. Clearly if income taxes puzzled one of our great geniuses, more than likely they would cause problems for the average Russian billionaire football club owner.
Taxes are at the center of a current dispute between the French Football League (LFP) and AS Monaco FC. Monaco and the LFP met Thursday in court, arguing over the LFP’s demands that the club’s headquarters to be relocated from the principality of Monaco to France-proper for tax purposes. The move would strip Monaco of their existing tax rights. In particular, the outcome could force Monaco players to pay French income tax of which they are currently exempt. Furthermore, the LFP declares Monaco must pay a staggering 200 million Euros (£168million) to stay in the French Football League.
The ruling should be resolved in the next few weeks. If Monaco is decided against and fails to comply, the recently promoted Ligue 2 champions will be expelled from the LFP. Monaco would therefore be ineligible to participate in Ligue 1 in the 2013/2014 season. And while this is a serious matter for the club, what is more intriguing are the implications these next few weeks could have on the 2014 World Cup.
Since the end of the 2012/2013 season, Monaco has gone on a spending frenzy buying some of the hottest targets in world football. Radamel Falcao, João Moutinho, James Rodríguez and Ricardo Carvalho have all joined the financial giants this summer, with more big names likely to join. This practice of superstar splurging has become commonplace in the footballing world (think Manchester City, Paris St. Germain, Anzhi Makhachkala, etc.). Yet, their recent problems with the LFP makes Monaco’s situation the most maddening of all.
What is outrageous about these transfers is the fact that just a year before the World Cup the players and managers, of the national football federations indirectly involved in these moves, would allow their most prized possessions to sign for a team like Monaco. First of all, Monaco was recently promoted from the second division of the French league to the first, and thus will participate in neither the Champions League nor the Europa League. Taking these tournaments out of the equation eliminates the test they provide, as well as lowers the competitiveness Falcao and company are accustom to.
More importantly however is that Monaco may not be able to promise top-flight football to these newcomers. If the LFP prevails, Monaco will be condemned to a footballing grey area. Unable to go up or down, they will have to spend the 2013/2014 season outside of a formal league. I think we can all agree that a league-less team is not the most ideal situation for an international football star. It’s obvious that in today’s game, money rules. Yet, with such an important event on the horizon it is curious, even with today’s standards, something like this could happen with such little resistance.
Falcao and Rodriguez are two of Colombia’s most important assets. Both players are crucial for Colombia’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in sixteen years. Additionally João Moutinho is essential for Portugal; a squad that until recently faced elimination from the qualifiers. Moreover, if Monaco is barred from participating in Ligue 1 next year, the decision could have devastating effects not just on Colombia and Portugal’s chances for qualification, but also the other nations whose senior players play for Monaco.
Clearly without top-flight football, internationals will not be presented with the challenge many agree is necessary to prepare for the World Cup. What’s more is that if the decision is upheld, Monaco could be forced to sell or loan their newly acquired talent. This too could hinder a World Cup campaign. On the one hand too many moves can have a negative effect on performance of a player. While on the other hand, those who stay with the team face the jeopardy of not being called up and missing out on footballs most important event.
This situation is not that unfamiliar. Just two years ago Rangers FC of Scotland was deemed insolvent and placed into administration. Rangers were forced to sell many of their players while those who stayed with Rangers ran the risk of not being selected for their respective national teams. Therefore, those both directly and indirectly involved with the Monaco situation would be wise to force a resolution to avoid a Rangers-esque meltdown.
It will be interesting to see how this case pans out. 200 million Euros may seem like a small amount to a Russian billionaire, but if Dmitry Rybolovlev continues to play hardball with the LFP, the cost to the many National teams associated with AS Monaco FC, including Colombia and Portugal, could be incalculable. More than likely Monaco will be promoted and allowed to participate in Ligue 1. Then again, you never know what can happen when you throw Russian billionaires, French politicians and a large sum of money into the mix. International managers around the world will be biting their fingernails in anxious anticipation of the outcome, and I hope for their sake that this row is settled quickly.