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Spain's success masks extent of tax debt crisis

Spain was yesterday celebrating having a record five teams in the Champions and Europa League quarter-final draws. But only 24 hours earlier, Spanish football had been reeling from Government figures that confirmed its clubs owe £625m in unpaid tax.

The worst offenders are Atletico Madrid, one of those three Spanish teams still with a chance of winning the Europa League, who owe £129m to Spain's tax authorities -- three times the amount that the British revenue were pursuing Rangers for prior to the Scottish club entering administration. Atletico Madrid's debt had stood at £215m last summer before they sold Sergio Aguero to Manchester City for £50m and were obliged to hand the money straight over to the tax man.

Real Betis, Real Zaragoza, Racing Santander, Levante and Mallorca have all been in administration this season and owe the tax man £35m, £33m, £10m, £23m and £17m respectively. Mallorca now have a deal in place that allows them to pay their debt back over 10 years.

Other clubs will be forced to follow suit with Secretary of State for Sport Miguel Cardenal saying this week: "The debt will be cleared. Football generates £1.8bn a year so it's hard for people to understand when it says it cannot pay."

Only six teams in the top flight have no tax debt, among them Manchester United's conquerors Athletic Bilbao.

The Spanish players union, which began the season chasing clubs for a debt of £50m in outstanding wages and went on strike for the first week of the season for the cause, has led the fight to prevent clubs protecting themselves by going into administration but currently there is still no points penalty for teams that do so. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent