Im­age Rights Prove Foot­ball is the Panama of all Pana­mas

The Economic Times - - Sports - Ian Herbert

Pray for Lionel, my friends. His name is in the Panama Papers and un­like all of those toffs of a cer­tain age whom we now know have been busy off­shore, they want to tell us that Messi is the vic­tim. A com­pany for which he and his fa­ther are co-sig­na­to­ries was set up in Panama in 2015, a day af­ter the player was charged with tax ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, doc­u­ments from the Mos­sack Fon­seca cache ap­pear to show. But Leo pos­sess­ing that star­dust qual­ity of his, the global re­sponse is not ex­actly the one which Sig­mundur Gunnlaugh­s­son, Gianni In­fantino and a bunch of Tories can say they are fa­mil­iar with. “False and in­ju­ri­ous” is what the fam­ily claims this dis­clo­sure about the ‘Star En­ter­prises’ shell com­pany to be. And though no one is ac­tu­ally call­ing it crim­i­nal to plough a hefty wad of your £40m an­nual salary off­shore to limit your tax, when the Span­ish na­tion which has nur­tured you is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the agony of 22.4 per cent un­em­ploy­ment, Barcelona are not tak­ing a scep­ti­cal view, ei­ther. The club quickly said it of­fers “af­fec­tion and sup­port to the player and his whole fam­ily and makes all ju­di­cial means at its dis­posal. “Mas que un club in­deed.

The re­but­tal is the ver­sion of the story which has been wash­ing around the in­ter­net for the past 72 hours, with the Mes­sis in­sist- ing that the Panama com­pany is “in­ac­tive and dor­mant.” And it could, in­deed, be an ac­count that they didn’t bother to get to work on. But what can be said with­out fear of con­tra­dic­tion, is that there will be another Messi ac­count, reg­is­tered where the sea laps the shores, into which he de­posits a vast stash of cash earned be­cause of the ubiq­ui­tous en­tity called im­age rights. How can we be so sure? Be­cause al­most ev­ery self-re­spect­ing top-f light player in ev­ery self-re­spect­ing league in Europe will have struck an agree­ment with the club he signs for that a per­cent­age of his wage, typ­i­cally 15 per cent, will be sy­phoned off into an ac­count es­tab­lished for im­age rights. When you are hear­ing about your club con­clud­ing a trans­fer this sum­mer, be as­sured that one of the first ques­tions he is be­ing asked will be: “Do you have an en­tity?” Or: “How would you like us to do the 15 per cent?”

Where does his money go in Spain, I ask my friend who op­er­ates in the busi­ness of La Liga and knows it ex­tremely well. “Off­shore usu­ally,” he says. Nice work for Messi - but nicer work still for those my friend de­scribes as the “less suc­cess­ful” play­ers who you re­ally can’t see en­hanc­ing the club’s im­age all that much but who will still get that cut hived off.

It’s the same here. A nice lit­tle slice of pro­tected in­come. If ev­i­dence were re­ally needed that this is a pre­pos­ter­ous ar­ti­fi­cial con­struct, de­signed to line the pock­ets of in­di­vid­u­als who in­creas­ingly com­mand six fig­ures a week, then it comes in the rev­e­la­tion that Manuel Pellegrini earns im­age rights.

Messi will not have an en­tirely easy ride in

Messi will not have an en­tirely easy ride in Spain. Real Madrid’s po­lit­i­cal power and in­flu­ence will make sure of it

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