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Thursday, February 29, 2024

France May Use Tax Incentives to Woo Sports Orgs. Its Top Target? FIFA

  • French officials look to extend tax benefits to relocating sports entities.
  • Proposed policy drawing in part on American concepts sparks division in France.
A view of the FIFA logo outside their headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

France could soon turn to tactics often seen in American stadium financing and in pro team expansion derbies in order to lure some of the world’s biggest sports organizations.

At the behest of president Emmanuel Macron, the French government is considering an amendment to its 2024 budget that would not only exempt sports organizations that relocate to the country from a series of corporate, property, and income taxes, but also extend many of the same benefits to employees of those entities.

The tax benefits would apply to a wide series of sports organizations, including more than 30 international federations recognized by the IOC. But there is a particular prize on the minds of French legislators: FIFA.

The politicians would like to see the global soccer governing body shift its headquarters from Zurich to France, where FIFA was based from its 1904 formation until 1932.

A relocation from Zurich has been openly considered for several years as the organization has struggled with regaining public trust globally while situated in a locale known for corporate secrecy. Most recently, FIFA opened a permanent office in Miami, designed in part to administer the upcoming 2026 World Cup in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, as well as to take advantage of the burgeoning American soccer market.

Local Debate

Similar to other instances of public stadium financing that have roiled U.S. locales, the developing French legislative effort comes with its own heavy dose of criticism. Opponents argue the measure is misplaced given the numerous social needs in the country. France in particular has faced widespread protests recently over a lift in the country’s retirement age.

Prominent French newspaper Le Monde devoted an editorial earlier this fall toward blasting the proposal, which it called “a political blunder” that would see the country “enter a race to the bottom.”

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