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After the Saudis

One of the richest championships in the world has again invested massively this summer. Its clubs, although very indebted, are financially supported by the State.

It's almost the only UEFA championship where clubs spend more than they sell, at least in terms of sales. with the exception of the English Premier League. With a balance of transfers in deficit of more than 100 million euros for two years, this championship has benefited for years from a policy of massive investment by the 39;State in football, in line with Saudi Arabia. Clubs can therefore recruit players for very high transfer amounts and offer salaries that defy all competition in Europe. They still attracted major European players this summer, despite Disappointing results in the European Cup and only one club present each year in the Champions League.

This championship is the Süper Lig, the Turkish championship. During the last transfer window, Turkish clubs again recruited players. many foreign stars, to name a few. the image of Galatasaray's XXL transfer window. The salaries offered are each time very high: the recruitments of Icardi, Ziyech, Zaha, Tête and Demirbay would thus cost nearly 28 million euros. annual euros for Galatasaray, which is equivalent to the total payroll of a club like FC Porto. However, TV rights for the championship have fallen. since the last contract signed in the summer last by the league is only 370 million, compared to 500 million for the previous one.

A State which invests billions

First explanation: Turkish clubs are greatly favored fiscally. Severe; where The salaries of football players are taxed at the same rate. more than 50% in France and in the majority Of the major European countries, it is only 15% in Turkey. This fiscal particularism increases the attractiveness of of the championship among European players. But this has a cost for the Turkish state: the total payroll of the country's clubs is between 250 and 300 million euros, the fact of taxing these salaries so weakly corresponds to an investment of almost 100 million euros per year in football from the government. According to the current exchange rate, the shortfall earn an annual tax of 15% compared to a rate of 50% is therefore almost 3 billion Turkish liras for the State.

And Turkey's massive investment in football is not a new strategy: in 2007, Galatasaray built its new stadium entirely thanks to football. public funds. This is the company public housing construction company TOKI which had bought the site of the old Ali Sami Yen stadium to build the new 53,000-seat enclosure. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then Prime Minister, himself declared: "Galatasaray did not spend money on its budget. a cent for the construction of the stadium. Our investments in the stadium amount to 600 million Turkish liras (350 million euros according to the exchange rate at the time). " 

Clubs riddled with debt

However, the country's big clubs are all very indebted. According to the economist Kerem Akbas, author of a book on the finances of Turkish football when asked by the AFP, the four big clubs (Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Trabzonspor) had two billion euros in debts. the four of them the end of August 2023. "À “Every transfer window, teams are essentially managed by fans via social media,” says Akbas. "Clubs are in a difficult financial situation due to pressure from fans and the quest for fame." leaders… The government authorizes it. Otherwise, with these financial situations, the clubs would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.

According to a former Turkish club director, interviewed by The Guardian, clubs are in such poor health financial that the State must artificially guarantee their survival: "All the big clubs are listed on the stock exchange. If these were other companies, they would have been deregistered and would have gone bankrupt years ago. But due to the social implications and popularity of football, all these clubs are 'too big to fail'.

Turkish clubs continue to recruit expensive stars at the end of their careers to attract fans, despite this. finances in dire straits. The State has always stolen à their help, by guaranteeing very low rates thanks to a network of public banks for example.

Football, a major political issue

To fully understand this state investment in football, we must understand the social importance of this sport in Turkey. If most fans of Istanbul clubs are atheist city dwellers, often opposed to the President of the Republic Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, football has its importance in all fringes of society. Turkish and is an important tool of power in the country. In the columns of Libération, a former manager of Fenerbahçe confides: "Since the military coup of 1980, football has become the hard core of nationalist ideology. Whatever the regime, the government has always stuck its nose in the authorities. ÇIt has always been a national issue. […] It is a network of mutual benefits, political and business links which passes through football or the media. 

As proof, the executive power itself decided to take action. to invest indirectly in a club in the capital, to extend its influence in the world of football. In 2014, the Istanbul club Başakşehir FK was bought by the Istanbul club Başakşehir FK. by seven associates, many of them close to the President of the Republic, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Among these investors, we find among others Mesut Altan, a businessman close to the AKP (the president's Islamo-conservative party) and the current President of the club, G&ouml ;ksel Gümüşdağ, who is the nephew of Erdoğan's wife. Başakşehir, a historically insignificant club which has only really existed on the national scene since this change of owners, is also nicknamed Başakşehir. the "FC Erdoğan" by supporters of rival clubs. The number 12, worn by the president during a gala match in 2014, just after the takeover, was removed and cannot be worn by any player of the club.

But football is also a political issue for opponents of Erdoğan's power. Supporters of the big Istanbul clubs often take advantage of matches to show their opposition to the game. the executive. In response, the state created Passolig: a prepaid credit card now necessary to attend the event. any professional football match in Türkiye. She was established less than a year after the Gezi protests in 2013, carried by numerous groups of supporters of different clubs.

Described as a registration tool by the ultras of Istanbul clubs, this card is an effective means of control for the authorities: full name, identity card number, bank account, Mobile phone number, photo and date of birth are contained in this Passolig. Enough to identify all supporters or spectators present at the stadium in the event of an incident. But not enough to inhibit the fans in their stadiums: those of Fernebahçe were still singing in March 2023, after the earthquake that struck their stadiums. the country, "They lie, they lie, they lie! They are lining their pockets, resignation! "It's been twenty years !". Many stadiums in the country have displayed their opposition to President Erdoğan.

A soft power tool abroad

Turkey is also investing in foreign football, as it does abroad. USL Dunkerque (Ligue 2), 85% of whose shares were acquired by the USL Dunkirk (Ligue 2). bought back this summer by the Amissos group, a company investment in the world of sport created by businessman Yüksel Yildirim. Already Owner of Samsunspor in Turkey, he gained the trust of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by saving this club from bankruptcy. Yildirim chose not to shake up the organization chart of the northern club, by simply integrating his son Jasper Yildirim (Investment Director) and former Chelsea player Demba Ba (Sports Advisor), who continues the long tradition of players who spent time in Turkey and who kept their skills. strong ties with the country.

These are great foreign footballers who, coming to freelance in one of the great Turkish clubs at the end of their career, then praise the country and its institutions. We can take as an example Moussa Sow, who left with President Erdoğan on an official trip to Senegal and who declared in an interview for the Anadolu Agency that in Turkey, “individual and collective freedoms are very well respected.”

But the most famous symbol of this soft power personified is is Samuel Eto'o, the Cameroonian star who promoted Turkish tourism by organizing large receptions mixing football personalities and politicians, including members of the AKP, the government and Erdoğan himself. Many trick players, such as former FC Barcelona Arda Turan, also regularly show their support for the President and his teammates. its policy.

In all branches of Turkish football and throughout the world. At all levels, from institutions to players to clubs, politics interferes. The executive power has well understood the societal issues of such a popular sport. And it doesn't matter if the supporters are mostly hostile to him, because they are not the ones in charge: the elites of sport and politics are rarely very far apart.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116