Albanian prime minister turns down request from soccer clubs

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The prime minister of Albania turned down requests Tuesday of more financial support for the country’s soccer clubs, an ongoing spat that has led most of the top teams in the league to boycott the start of the season.

Edi Rama said soccer is independent and the clubs may continue the boycott if they want to.

“The government has no obligations to soccer,” Rama said. “Soccer is an industry.”

A new sports law with two years tax free for players, a 6% value added tax for investment in sport, “everything which is possible, which is reasonable and profitable for the country and the soccer” has been done, Rama said.

Many top soccer clubs have been boycotting the new season for three weeks and players have promised not to play again until their requests are met.

The Football Professional League, known as the FPL, is holding the boycott. It is comprised of nine of the 10 clubs in the top division.

The FPL has asked the government to exclude players from income tax for up to 10 years, increasing the period from two years. It also wants to lower the value added tax for all soccer economic activities from 20% to 6%, cancel the not-paid fiscal obligations and draft a new law on sponsorship.

On weekends, the teams go out on the field and the captains regularly read a call to the government for support before leaving without holding the match.

The FPL and the federation reminded the prime minister of a pledge he made 18 months ago to support the clubs, which are in financial difficulties.

“FPL is determined to continue the boycott and escalation of the protests planning a mass protest of soccer players on Oct. 10, 2020,” the group said in a statement after a closed meeting before Rama spoke.

Rama also openly criticized club owners who want to “discharge in their clubs the financial obligations they owe to the state for the other business activities.”

“Why should soccer players be tax free for 10 years?” Rama said, speaking to journalists at a news conference. “With all due respect, what do they do more than you?”

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