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Footballers’ shame

Our roving accountant gets angry about the greed and hypocrisy of Premier League footballers at a time of global crisis.

6th Apr 2020
Partner An unnamed firm
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Football
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I was almost literally sickened to hear that the Premier League’s footballers have not only refused to take a pay cut but claimed that the justification for doing so was a desire to pay tax.

This is the kind of hypocrisy that can only be accepted if you take the view that these people have the mental capacity of five-year-olds at school. It may be relevant but some might have noticed that these people aren’t at present even fulfilling the raison d’être behind their exorbitant pay by playing football.

It might possibly be argued that some are listening to the advice of a group of unscrupulous agents, but even that would not be a reasonable excuse for such outrageous behaviour.

There are three obvious reasons why these greedy, prancing prima donnas deserve to be treated as laughing stocks or pariahs by the whole country.

First, they must have noticed that there is a pandemic ripping through not only the country in which they play football but the whole world. Thousands of people are dying every day while they sit in their mansions watching daytime TV and counting the millions.

On a lesser scale, far more are destitute, with businesses about to close despite the efforts of governments to keep them afloat, individuals worried about how they will feed their children and the elderly being told that if they get sick, hospitals may do little or nothing to save their lives.

Secondly, rather closer to home, you might have thought that the odd superstar would have noticed or been informed of news stories about their colleagues, who are effectively losing their jobs and their livelihoods in order to finance the leading players’ multi-million-pound salaries. All of this is happening at a time when their employers are going to be losing millions as a result of their failure to comply with contractual obligations to broadcasting outlets.

In passing, I would love to see a club putting its footballers on to furlough. 80% of 10 minutes pay would not last long when you have to fund a carefully hidden coke habit, gambling addiction and a stream of very beautiful ex-wives and girlfriends. Obviously, this isn’t a depiction of real life, but I’m sure that if I was reduced to watching something like Footballers’ Wives that is exactly how these idlers would be portrayed.

Thirdly, entering our own field of expertise, footballers are among those renowned and vilified in the press for trying out any kind of tax avoidance scheme that is going, however devious.

Therefore, announcing that your main reason for refusing to support the nation by taking a pay cut is to continue paying tax must be treated as a joke in very poor taste.

I would be very surprised if any footballers read this column but it is just conceivable that the odd agent or adviser might do so.

If so, please have a word with your ultra-rich pals and tell them if they wish to continue this charade, the very least that they can do is stop getting salary siphoned through image rights, settle all back taxes in respect of abusive tax avoidance schemes (and, if they have any sense of self-respect, the kind of non-abusive but disrespectful avoidance schemes that the government is currently threatening to attack) and make a public statement confirming that they will no longer indulge in such practices going forward since they have such a burning desire to pay the right amount of tax.

In reality, I have no doubt that greed will overcome any such qualms. The best hope for those who believe in equity and genuinely want to see the Exchequer getting its proper whack is a media backlash so strong that these sad losers are forced to back down.

Replies (16)

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By Justin Bryant
09th Apr 2020 13:26

Wayne Rooney has made much more sensible comments about all this. See also this important point that has been overlooked in the above (shooting from the hip) commentary: https://www.tax.org.uk/media-centre/blog/media-and-politics/beware-tax-i...

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By vstrad
08th Apr 2020 10:38

Rooney stated that football was a profession. I think many qualified professionals might dispute that.

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By mdoodney
06th Apr 2020 20:03

OK, but if you're going to go after millionaires for not doing their bit maybe you should spread your net a bit wider. Matt Hancock singled out footballers for criticism but presumably ran out of time before working through the list of wealthy donors to his own party, none of whom are particularly visible in the philanthropy department at the moment and many of whom also have a long (and thanks to the Panama papers often a well documented) history of tax avoidance.

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By vstrad
08th Apr 2020 10:43

Hancock didn't start this hare running, he was responding to a question. Footballers are, in any case, in a quite different position to "wealthy party donors". Footballers will earn nothing without football clubs and the clubs are laying off or furloughing low-paid workers, such as ground staff, cleaners, replica kit sellers, casual programme sellers and stewards, catering staff etc. Do the players have no sense of responsibility, empathy or duty towards the little people? It's not a good look.

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By mdoodney
08th Apr 2020 12:09

OK, so this is a moral issue. How much empathy are wealthy people expected to show?

Why would you expect a young man with a stupid haircut to show public empathy (and open their wallets presumably) but not expect the same from other wealthy individuals when many of the latter arguably have a greater moral responsibility having built their fortunes directly from the work of the 'little people'?

Footballers are overpaid and often appear a bit dim on MOTD but I haven't seen them lobbying government for bailouts the way, to pick an example at random, Virgin has done (and not just over the current snafu, they did the same over Flybe).

Taken to its logical conclusion isn't Richard Branson as a wealthy tax exile seeking government support in a time of crisis in fact worse than the average footballer who does nothing but apparently operates in a 'moral vacuum'?

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By philomena
06th Apr 2020 20:08

Perhaps somebody could enlighten me - but I have gone onto Companies House web-site and Wayne Rooney (all his dormant companies are being dissolved 7 April 2020). No companies in the name of Gary Linneker. Not sure re David Beckham. How do they pay their taxes as they are resident in UK?

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By Sanjeev Nanda
07th Apr 2020 09:44

I honestly do not have an issue with Footballers preserving their wealth (unless it's Tax avoidance, then they become the worst automatically). The thing is that these folks, who are worth millions in net-worth, are "employees" at the end of the day, and are entitled to schemes being rolled-out by the govt, for the benefit of the average worker. These footballers stand to receive a gigantic sustenance pay, which could help hundreds of workers more.
~Sanjeev Nanda

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By rememberscarborough
07th Apr 2020 15:27

Footballers are easy targets and there are many more who earn far more than premiership footballers who are keeping their heads down (bankers?)

What I would say is that the football industry has been notorious for trying to reduce the amount of tax they pay (Rangers Oldco was only the tip of the iceberg). For the PFA to say that it's members want to pay tax is mind bendingly hypocritical but then much of what the PFA does seems designed to feather their own nests rather than the good of football or society in general.

Finally, I was wondering how football might cope if they didn't have any TV monies and it's possible that we might find out in the very near future because Sky & BT aren't going to carry on paying money out for nothing. The PFA and its members should start to get very worried....

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By sculptureofman
07th Apr 2020 16:10

What about literally every other person that earns a lot of money?

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By Duggimon
08th Apr 2020 10:10

While there are perfectly good arguments that footballers are far from the only group of people who earn too much money, are typically tax evaders, and are generally quite disgusting; none of those arguments are making any kind of a case in favour of footballers.

They are, almost universally, terrible people, and it's hard to see how the world wouldn't be improved by not having any. Some may make the same arguments about bankers, but we need banks, whereas we don't need idiot tax dodging rapists running up and down a field for three hours a week trying to cheat people into thinking they've been horrendously injured every three minutes.

If they want to pay more tax there really isn't anything stopping them paying all their wages as tax. The government won't decline it. They all earn enough to file self assessment returns, self assess as owing all the tax they can possibly pay and hand it over in this time of crisis.

Or perhaps that was an empty statement and what they actually want is as much money as they can get. Quelle surprise, it is after all what the entire sport is built on.

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Replying to Duggimon:
By Ruddles
08th Apr 2020 11:02

Feel better now, do we?

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By Rammstein1
08th Apr 2020 15:01

Someone was picked last on the playground weren't they?

'They are, almost universally, terrible people' is quite a blanket statement and says a lot about yourself. A small minority might be like that but the majority are good, family minded people. They don't get the headlines though and that's all that people like you see.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By sammerchant
09th Apr 2020 17:23

"They are, almost universally, terrible people, and it's hard to see how the world wouldn't be improved by not having any." I am confident that there are very many people with the same view of accountants, lawyers, tax inspectors, even priests.

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By martin180smith
08th Apr 2020 13:11

May I comment on the speculation..

1) Agreeing to a pay cut means the owners of the club 'benefit' as less gross pay is paid. How does the exchequer benefit ? No Employers Class 1 NIC or PAYE Employee NIC. The writer does not explain how the exchequer gets its proper whack if there are pay cuts. What am I missing ?
2) The majority of footballers make regular charitable donations from net pay already. They are not widely reported in the press.
3) The majority of footballers have already made substantial charitable donations from net pay due to the Covid-19 with further donations being made to local hospices and the local community.
4) Overseas footballers (mainly from Africa and South America) send up to 80% of their income back home to support their family. Taking a pay cut would mean their families suffer. Covid-19 is worldwide and not just UK
5) The tax from Premier League players is 0.1% of the total tax paid to the Exchequer. Why are footballers targeted and shamed ? As other writers have correctly mentioned why are not other industries targeted.
6) It is clear the accountant has no experience in how image rights work in practice or HMRC own guidance on this.
7) How many 'current' footballers in the Premier League are engaged in past tax avoidance schemes. I will be very interested to hear how many the writer is aware of (from their own field of expertise). Likely to be only one or two
8) Pay the right amount of tax. This is exactly what footballers do. How does the writer know this is not the case.

I could go on..

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By ryanmillward
09th Apr 2020 09:26

Who is actually saving money if a premier league footballer takes a pay cut? I'm pretty sure the billionaire owner gets richer, the footballer gets poorer and the government doesn't get as much in tax revenue to fund the NHS!

Should the Newcastle team take a 30% pay cut so that Mike Ashley can save a few million £££?

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By ollie
16th Apr 2020 15:26

Now that these "sad losers" have announced their co-ordinated #PlayersTogether campaign to support the NHS and associated charities, I expected to see a series of similar bile-filled invectives from you directed at the other 98% of the UK's millionaires demanding that they also do their bit.

So where are your diatribes against bankers, hedge fund managers, Tory cabinet ministers, partners of Big 4 accountancy and magic circle law firms etc etc ?

Or is it just working-class lads who have become successful in their chosen field because of their natural ability and hard work that you have a problem with?

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