Low-tax Turkish league beneficial for footballers
Onur Salman / Şebnem Turhan Radikal
Valencia’s Mehmet Topal (L) fights for the ball with Bursaspor’s Ivan Ergic during their Champions League Group match in 2010. Topal has signed for Fenerbahçe. REUTERS photo
Footballers hit by austerity measures in Europe, particularly in Spain and Greece, are increasingly opting to work in Turkey due to tax advantages.
Some Turkish footballers who have been playing Spain’s top division La Liga are returning back the local football league. Spain has recently announced a 65 billion euro austerity package and in Greece an eye-whopping 130 billion euro austerity package is currently in place. The Spanish football transfer market, which used to register Europe’s highest transfer fees, is nowadays muted, while Greece is desperately trying to sell-off assets to create revenue in order to meet budget.
Such lousy economic situations are prompting footballers to target Turkey, a country distinguished from debt-ridden European peers with a relatively high growth figure of 3.2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter. The tax advantages in the country, together with Turkish sports clubs offering generous pay packages, are luring more sportsmen than ever.
Galatasaray, last year’s football league champion, bought Hamit Altıntop from Real Madrid, one of the biggest football clubs of Spain, paying the Spanish club a handsome 3.5 million euros and an annual payment of 2.9 million euros and 20,000 euros per match to Altıntop.
Fenerbahçe, another heavyweight in the Turkish sports arena, paid 4.5 million euros to Spain’s Valencia for the release of Mehmet Topal, known to fans as “spider.” Topal will earn 2 million euros annually and 10,000 euros per match.
Smaller Anatolian football clubs have also taken advantage of the crisis in Europe. Orduspor, from the northern coastal province of Ordu, paid 2 million euros to Spain’s Guijon for David Barral. The club also picked up Roversio Rodrigues de Barros from Assasuna for free, offering him an annual payment of 350,000 euros.
Underdog Orduspor is also busy negotiating for footballers from the Greek league. The club picked up Javier Umbides from Aris for annual payment of 450,000 euros, and Vicente Monje for an annual payment of 350,000 euros, without any fee paid to the Greek football clubs.
Gençlerbirliği, a club based in the capital city of Ankara, paid 1 million euros to Ossasuna for the release of Dejan Lekic. Kayserispor, from the Central Anatolian city of Kayseri, transferred Cleyton Silva from Greece’s Panathinaikos for free.
Footballers playing in the Turkish Super League pay 15 percent in income tax. While Altıntop paid nearly 4 million euros of income tax in Spain, the figure now will drop to just 525,000 euros in Turkey.
The income tax rate drops to 10 percent for those who play in the first league and 5 percent for the rest.
The income tax rate for footballers playing in the English premier league is 50 percent, and the figure drops to 45 percent in Germany, 43 percent in Spain and Italy, 40 percent in France, and 30 percent in the Netherlands.
All of this makes Turkey something of a tax haven for foreign football players, as they also hold the same rights as all local players after six months, in terms of taxation.
However, almost all Turkish football teams are facing budget problems, with Beşiktaş, one of the three largest, banned from playing in the EUFA Europa League this season due to financial irregularities.