By Ian Holyman

The French government has insisted Ligue 1 footballers will be subject to its proposed 75% rate of income tax despite the French Football Federation president claiming they would be exempt.

FFF chief Noel Le Graet announced on Monday he had received assurances personally from French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that the proposed rate, which would tax annual earnings of more than €1 million at 75%, would only apply to large companies. Football clubs in France are classed as small and medium-sized enterprises.

However, after an initial sigh of relief there will be a sharp intake of breath after a government spokesman told AFP 24 hours later that Ayrault has had “no contact” recently with Le Graet and that the rate would apply to “all companies paying salaries of more than a €1 million”.

Around 100 Ligue 1 players would be concerned by the measure, which the French Football League (LFP) estimated would cost top-flight clubs an additional €82 million.

LFP president Frederic Thiriez said last week that clubs were “being strangled” with fears that France’s two top tiers, whose clubs were estimated cumulatively to be €107 million in debt last June, will not be able to compete for the best players on the global market.

“The effects will be catastrophic,” Jean-Pierre Louvel, president of the Union of Professional Clubs (UCPF), told RMC radio. “We’ve said it before and will repeat it: if it stays as it is now, it’ll be a catastrophe. But we’ll have sounded the alarm and we’ll see the result at the end.”