Don’t touch Spanish football…!

Goodness me, what a mess there would be if they tried to mess with Spanish football right now!

In this life, we often talk about the importance of values: education, respect, solidarity and all the rest. Values we must teach our children to create a better world, etc, etc.

Then there’s the stuff we really value, those things we spend our money and our energy on; the activities we spend our time doing; the really valuable things.

Drinking beer with our friends, for example, or going on a long bank holiday weekend; watching football.

Spain loves football. 99% of the country, as well as supporting their favourite team, supports either Real Madrid or Barça. The Madrid–Barça struggle is seen in a similar light to the more political struggle between Spanish socialists and Spanish conservatives, although people are more passionate about it. It’s another twist in the historical tale of the Two Spains.

Spain—as well as loving football—is in the middle of a huge economic crisis; the country is now into its second recession in five years. Spaniards are suffering, the country is full of corruption and the underground economy is now of gargantuan proportions.

At least there’s football.

Which is why Spain is now going going to live through something of a national drama: it is said that Spanish football clubs owe €752 million to the Spanish tax authorities, without counting what they also owe to the Spanish social security system.

Football or recession. Recession and football. Football matches and paying taxes. What to do? It appears to be a first-order national problem.

Spain’s tax inspectors complain that Spanish football clubs are allowed to do whatever they want with their tax debts; this, of course, is exactly the way your average joe wouldn’t be treated. They say that clubs treatment is ‘condescending’ and that: “the tax agency uses two different yardsticks, because it doesn’t treat football clubs in the same way as normal taxpayers.

It is also said that the clubs and the Spanish League are drawing up a payment plan to repay the debt as soon as possible. They suggest 2020 might be a suitable date.


Right, when the current directors, the coaches and the politicians have all disappeared and all of this will have been forgotten; and when the debt will probably have increased.

The Spanish socialist party and the Galician nationalist party want to take the issue of Spain’s football debt to the Spanish parliament and table a new bill which would forbid football clubs in default from competing in big competitions and from buying new star players.

The Spanish government, for what it’s worth is hurrying to put together a rescue plan for the national game, although obviously without going into any actual detail or without setting anything like a deadline for its implementation: “”in a few days, or a very few weeks time.**

Clearly all this isn’t going down very well at all abroad, especially with the Germans. Uli Hoeness, the chairman of Bayern Munich, is fed up with Spanish football debt:

“For me this is the last straw, it’s unthinkable. We pay them hundred of millions of euros to help get them out of the shit (referring to Germany helping out Spain during the financial crisis) ant then Spain’s clubs don’t pay their debts. It cannot go on like this.”

He reminds us that, in 2010, just the amount of money Real Madrid owed was more than that owed by the entire Bundesleague.

Well, loyal reader, Bayern’s chairman can complain as much as he want about Spanish football. This isn’t Germany. And the socialists can try if they want to table a new football debt bill in the Spanish parliament.

In the country where the only state of emergency since Franco’s dictatorship was declared because 600,000 Spaniards saw there very long bank-holiday weekend put at risk by some bolshy air traffic controllers in December 2010, the Spanish government would do very well to leave this well alone right now.

They shouldn’t touch it given the current situation. What difference would €752 million make, anyway? Spain’s underground economy represents 23% of its GDP. This amount isn’t even as much as Zapatero spent on the ‘Plan E’ public works plan or as much as Brussels now wants Spain to correct its deficit by.

They wouldn’t want to cause a sudden surge of uncontrollable, rebellious social energy amongst Spaniards, not for a few football matches.