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Tax fraud and football: are football’s biggest names greedy?

The cost of football tickets has risen massively over recent years as the average fan is paying a lot more than their fathers and their fathers before them. A fan will usually pay anywhere between £18-£120 for a ticket depending on the club, along with transport and refreshments, which means the cost of a single game of football is very high. The price of football is rising with every year, but while the fans may struggle to come to terms with the rise, the people that they watch are getting richer all the time.

The average weekly salary for a Premier League player is £43,717, while the other top European leagues (Germany, Spain, Italy and France) average out between £19,000-£28,011, with France’s Ligue 1 at the bottom of the scale, while the Bundesliga of Germany is at the top according to a Daily Mail article about football salaries that was published in 2014. The average yearly salary in England is £27,195, almost £17,ooo less than what a football in the Premier League earns in a week.

Incredibly, every single Premier League team earns on average a mammoth £80 million per season from central distributions, which means paying a weekly salary of £43,717 is not an issue. Despite the huge money in football and the equally high salaries, some footballers are still avoiding tax.

Footballing personalities are dodging tax despite their huge earnings

Recently, former Real Madrid and Manchester United star Angel Di Maria has become embroiled in tax fraud. The Argentine has agreed to pay £1.76 million to settle a tax case in Spain. Di Maria reportedly gave up his image rights to companies in Panama, which are defined as tax havens.

Di Maria is pleading guilty to the two charges levelled against him which each carry eight-month sentences, but he will be spared jail time as Spanish law says that a first time offender does not have to serve jail time for a sentence below two years. The player has clearly had his name tarnished, but it is not just the men on the pitch that are reportedly doing this.

Jose Mourinho under fire?

Spanish prosecutors have recently accused Jose Mourinho of tax fraud which accounts to £2.9 million from tax when he was managing Real Madrid. The last thing the Manchester United boss would have wanted to be dealing with right now is a case for tax evasion, with the busy Premier League schedule only intensifying. However, the biggest tax fraud scandal pertains to one of the great footballers.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s fraud case

The biggest tax fraud scandal of 2017 came in the form of Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo’s apparent tax evasion which totalled £13 million for the years of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Interestingly for Ronaldo is the fact that, if he was found guilty of his charges, then he would face up to seven years in jail as the three of the four accusations are considered as “aggravated”, meaning they each carry a minimum sentence of two years.

Ronaldo would have a number of options if he was found guilty. He would be able to admit that he is guilty, pay his fines and taxes in advance and reduce in jail time below the two year sentence which would spare him jail.

Ronaldo’s troubles were revealed while Javier Mascherano of Barcelona was given a suspended one-year sentence, while Lionel Messi and Neymar are awaiting the court’s decision on their own tax evasion cases, while the likes of Radamel Falcao of Monaco and Sporting Lisbon’s Fabio Coentrao have been under investigation as well.

Statistically, the amount that the players are accused of evading is staggering, but it is even more incredible when taking into account how much they would earn after tax anyway. It is really put into perspective by the above stats, with the average player in most of Europe’s top leagues earning more in a week than the average English person earns in a year.

Are footballers getting more greedy?

It is difficult to tell whether or not footballers are more greedy because they are just lucky enough to be talented in an area that is very well paid. With so much money being thrown at them by their clubs and sponsors, they are able to live incredibly lavish lifestyles which many are intensely jealous of.

The real cost of this greed is to the younger generation. Footballers and sports stars, in general, are role models for children and the younger generation, meaning if they see their favourite player diving or shouting at the referee, they are just as likely to do this as they are in copying a player’s trademark celebration.

This is the same off the pitch too. It is, therefore, something that must be curbed lest it becomes a crime that happens all too often.

What is very interesting is that, in a report by The Guardian, MEP’s have criticised FIFA and UEFA of being ‘enablers’ of tax evasion. If it is true that they do enable the players to evade tax, then something should be done to curb this. Of course, these claims were rebuked. German MEP Jeppe Kofod questioned Kimberly Morris, who is FIFA’s head of global transfers and compliance, saying: “You are for fair play, shouldn’t you also be for fair taxes?”, to which Morris replied: “It’s a matter for national legislation. Our competencies are limited. We do what is in our power to investigate the sports aspects”.

While many would say that it is obscene for a player to want more money than they are already making, the average person will always want to make more money than they are currently on, it is just the way humans are, and footballers are no different.

Many would claim that the players that avoid tax are greedy, much in the same way that people in everyday life would be seen as greedy for doing the same. After all, things are all relative in life, and footballers are only as greedy as the game they play in.

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