Football Leaks – fair tax play?

New platform exposes tax tricks of football stars

Football Leaks is a whistleblower platform, which scrutinizes confidential data and emails concerning the cash flows in football. Revelations include illegal payments to agents and investors, who act according to the already well known pattern; multi-million amounts are smuggled past the taxman via offshore transactions. The sources, which – just most leaks – are unknown, have been made available to “falter” and other media associated with European Investigative Collaboration. Being as large as 1.9 terabyte, this has been until now the most extensive collection of data in football.

How Messi, Ronaldo, Özil & co. avoid paying tax

The first publications of Football Leaks have caused quite a stir. The “Spiegel” reports of a judge from Spain, whose intention is to stop these publications throughout Europe and who concretely threatened a newspaper to take out an injunction. Given the fact that two of the football clubs worth millions are at home in Madrid and Barcelona, this is hardly surprising.

The media is specifically reporting on tax avoidance practices adopted by Messi, Ronaldo, Özil & co. For example, the earnings of superstars from image copyrights are not taxed in the countries, where they are actively playing football – hence, working – but are smuggled to tax havens via companies, which enables them to avoid paying tax. However, not only players are tempted by these tax tricks; numerous data also reveal the connections between agents and managers, such as Mourinho or Laudrup. According to “Spiegel”, there is new information concerning tax fraud by star manager Mourinho.

Crazy contract clauses: premium worth millions for “no-spitting”

Many contracts with players include general disciplinary measures. Sometimes, these “measures” have certain originality. For example, FC Liverpool paid Balotelli a million pound sterling for good behaviour and an additional million if he receives fewer than three red cards and another million if he does not spit at an opponent. Which employer pays bonuses worth millions if colleagues don’t spit at each other? One also found that players were paid unusually low (up to falling!) gross salaries, whilst at the same time they received payments worth millions, which are far better suited to be “creative” with tax payments. Other clubs pay premiums for draws and losses, not to mention goal clauses and championship premiums for a former club. In case of Agüero, Manchester City pays his former club Atletico Madrid for the number of times he plays, goals and championship trophies (as in 2012 and 2014).

Footballers’ conduct is detrimental to society

The bottom line is that our superstars, who we cheer on the pitch, do not pay the tax they should. In doing so, they shirk from complying with the social obligation to make their contribution and thereby do not only harm those who pay for their tickets to see them. To put it differently: if we would also decide not to pay our taxes, they could not drive their cars, made available to them by Volkswagen, Mercedes etc., on well-maintained roads, to get to stadiums, which after all have been built with the contribution we make.

According to the Greens, the already started enquiry committee in the European Parliament dealing with the Panama Papers should also be used to get to the bottom of the football leaks.

For some time now, “fair play” has been exercised on the pitch, which can only be a good thing. However, “fair play” also means to pay one’s fair share of tax!