Will French sport soon stop self-financing?

Since the 1960s, both casual and elite amateur sports have been financed by a public support fund supplemented by various earmarked taxes. Originally managed by the Ministry of Sports, the manna was later taken over by the National Center for the Development of Sports (CNDS) in the early 2000s from the Board of Sports, which has direct contact with the key players in the sport. French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) to the federations.

In 2019, the National Sports Agency (ANS) took its place with a new multi-stakeholder management, where sports players, state and economic players are represented. Whatever the operation, it ensures France’s victories and success in many sports.

To finance this model, a predetermined share is levied during budget votes in the Milli Majlis from television rights for professional sports (Buffet tax), sports betting and games of chance. Thus, the interests of high-level athletes and everyday practitioners are independently and sustainably satisfied.

The perceived sport of logic is the sport of funding. Professionals provide the budget with the TV rights they generate, and fans with the amounts they bet.

Gear shift

Only after Emmanuel Macron arrived at the Élysée was this system seriously questioned. With the approach of the 2024 Olympics, the budget of the ANS and the Ministry of Sports has increased since 2018, but the buffet tax and sports betting ceiling have not been raised even a single bit despite the increase.

When voting on the Finance Bill 2023 (PLF), the Parliament estimated revenue from the tax on sports betting at €181 million, an increase of more than 63% compared to the revenue estimated in PLF 2022 (€111 million). According to the National Gaming Authority, this is explained by the World Cup effect, which allowed 615 million euros to bet during the month of December.

“We reject the idea of ​​funding sport through sport, including through earmarked taxes.”

Elisey’s close friend

The 63% increase is enough money to be returned to the sport and benefit ANS without any increase in taxes and duties. However, the ceiling remained stable at €34.6 million. The difference went directly to the state budget and reached 147 million euros from 76 million euros. And worse on the buffet tax side, the popular TV rights tax has been reduced to €59.7 million, down from €74.1 million in previous years.

In other words, when the tax allows for the deduction of 5% of the total amount of television rights for professional sports, only 59.7 million euros are allocated directly to ANS, compared to 74.1 million euros before. The rest is recovered at the expense of the state budget, which completely distorts the essence of the tax created by the former sports minister Marie-Georges Buffet in 2000.

Source: Ministry of Sports. | Screenshot of Senat.fr

According to Loire’s Honorary Deputy Regis Juanico, “This reduction in the amount of the buffet tax is not offset by an equivalent increase in the upper limit of the other taxes affected. […]Yes [représente] Another net loss of 15 million euros for the budget of the Ministry of Sports. Unfortunately, the reduction refers to the tax, whose ceiling and expected revenue in 2021 have been raised from €40 million to €74 million, symbolizing solidarity between professional and amateur sports.

another paradigm

In fact, it is the state that directly finances sports from now on. He wants to gradually come out of this sport philosophy that feeds the sport sought by CNOSF and national authorities. Elisha’s close friend, interrogated behind the scenes, realizes that this is a clear and probable will: “We reject the idea of ​​funding sport through sport, including through earmarked taxes.”

“Removing the limit on the Buffet tax or increasing the levy on sports betting to respond to the CNOSF directive would mean saying that the state no longer has to directly fund French sport”he continues. “The logic of solidarity will become a vertical logic, from professional sports to amateur sports. But it would also mean the elimination of a large part of public funding, which would not be offset by lifting the Buffet tax cap or raising fees for French sport.

What will happen to the government that does not drink tea?

Our interlocutor goes further and confirms that the guarantee falls on the state: “More money for the state means more money for all areas of public service.” The rest of his demonstration is ambiguous:

“It is absurd to reason with the relationship, to say that endowments should continue in the same way when the volume increases. For French sports, what matters is not how much, but how. How money is used, spent, invested. If we give 10, 20 or 30 million euros more, what can we do more specifically? How do clubs function and develop at the local level? We do not give for the sake of giving, but to achieve concrete results; it’s our role for the collective good over several generations.”

Budget volatility and political choice

Thus, despite the increase in revenue from sports betting, especially due to the recent soccer World Cup, allocated revenues will not be increased and most of the fees will remain with the state. After that, it will be able to make an assessment, but only with a political choice that the government fully assumes.

We can deplore and worry about this, especially with the risk that sports funding has become a variable of political alignment and that a new president or the choice of a new president could make it worse. Indeed, what will happen to a government whose sport is not their cup of tea, if the ceilings are not raised and there is no cyclical progress, if the budget allocated to sports depends purely on political decisions and preferences?

Admittedly, budgets are still growing. The Ministry of Sports increased from 450 million euros to 1.1 billion euros in less than 6 years. The least we can recognize is this: Emmanuel Macron’s governments love sports, as evidenced by the boost in funding for the Paris Olympics. But what about subsequent governments?

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