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French football clubs to strike after Hollande rejects tax-exemption plea

French football clubs have said they will go ahead with plans to go out on strike over a new 75 percent tax. This comes after their plea for an exemption fell on deaf ears at the Elysee Palace.

Representatives of the soccer clubs in France's Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, the country's two top leagues, announced on Thursday that they would not play any of their scheduled games on the last weekend of November.

The strike is meant as a protest against a new 75 percent tax on salaries above one million euros ($1.4 million annually.”

The announcement came after the heads of the clubs met with French President Francois Hollande on Thursday, where they had hoped to convince him to grant them an exemption to the tax, which they say will make it impossible for them to attract top stars.

"The president listened attentively but absolutely did not hear us," Frederic Thiriez, the head of the French Football League told the AFP news agency following the meeting. "No solution was found tonight, so the mobilisation is going ahead," he said.

Hollande stands his ground

President Hollande, though, defended the temporary levy, which is to affect salaries earned in 2013 and 2014 and is meant to help the eurozone's second biggest economy reduce its high public debt.

"The need to clean up public finances fully justifies this effort demanded of businesses that choose to pay such high annual salaries," Hollande said in a statement.

Imposing a tax on high earners was one of the main promises that the socialist president successfully campaigned on ahead of the 2012 election. However, the levy in its original form, which would have seen the tax imposed on the portion of employees' salaries above one million euros, was struck down by France's supreme court. The amended proposal, which has not yet been approved by parliament, would make employers pay the tax on salaries above one million euros.

Hollande whose current approval rating is the lowest of any serving French president on record, has been forced to back down on a number of unpopular proposed measures aimed at reducing the deficit.

Popular idea

However, a recent opinion poll indicates that the idea of putting the squeeze on professional football clubs has a lot of support among the French public. A survey conducted by the polling company Opinion Way in October found that 85 percent of voters did not thing soccer clubs should be granted an exemption.

The tax would affect the salaries of around 120 players at 14 French clubs. Observers say Paris St. Germain would be hardest hit, as the Qatari-owned club has 10 players on its payroll who earn more than a million euros annually, including star Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (pictured above left). Monaco, which does not fall under French tax laws, would be exempt.

pfd/jm (Reuters, AFP)