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Our View: Football clubs are clearly above the law

The Apoel debt was €4.4m

THE FINANCE ministry has given a breakdown of the €17.5 million that was paid from public funds last December to settle the football clubs’ debts to inland revenue and the social insurance fund. These debts were up to the end of June 2007 and the Papadopoulos government had decided to pay them off, even though the money was not transferred for 10 years. Coincidentally, the original decision was taken eight months before one set of presidential elections, while the actual settlement was made 10 years later, two months before another set of presidential elections.

The breakdown was included in a letter sent by the ministry to the House refugee committee president and was published in Phileleftheros on Saturday. According to the report, the Apoel debt was €4.4m, Omonia’s €1.5m, Anorthosis’ €3.4m, Apollonas’ €1.8, Ael’s €1.2m, Paphos’ €1.6m while for the rest debts were below the million mark. Even in this regard this scandalous decision made no sense as the most profligate clubs gained the most benefit. Aek, which was relatively more prudent financially received only €591,000 from the taxpayer because that was the total it owed.

There has never been a convincing explanation for the decision to settle these debts. The Papadopoulos government said it had reached an agreement by which the clubs would meet their tax obligations to the state after the slate had been wiped clean, while all the Anastasiades government could say was that it was honouring the 2007 agreement. Neither was convincing, but how could it be considering both governments were defending the indefensible – that the law does not apply to football clubs and that they had the right to be bailed out by the taxpayer.

Business owners have ended up in prison for owing the social insurance fund a couple of thousand euros and not having the money to pay it because that is the law. Clubs, in contrast, were allowed to build up debts of millions, without anyone being prosecuted and the taxpayer eventually picking up the bill. And we pride ourselves for having rule of law in Cyprus. We never mention that the rule of law does not apply to football clubs because they represent tens of thousands of voters. The political parties with which they enjoy close links would not dream of alienating them.

We do not know if the clubs are now paying their dues to Inland Revenue and the Social Insurance Fund, but what is common knowledge is that they do not pay the full amounts. Several foreign players have reported that they are obliged to sign two contracts with a club – one with their real wages and one with lower wages that is shown to the state. The authorities have never bothered to investigate these allegations because, once again, the law of the land does not apply to football clubs.

 

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