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French soccer trying to deal with the coming AS Monaco problem

May 18, 2013, 2:01 PM EDT

1198px-Monaco_in_Europe_(-rivers_-mini_map)

The influence of Dmitry Rybolovlev’s billions could stretch well beyond AS Monaco’s audacious attempt to lure Radamel Falcao to Ligue 1. The club has also been linked with Porto’s Joao Moutinho and Jackson Martínez, Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, Manchester City attacker Carlos Tévez and Málaga creator Isco. Along with the talent already in tow (Ibrahima Touré, Valare Germain, and Lucas Ocampos), the high-profile additions could make Monaco immediate contenders to take one of France’s three Champions League spots. There may be another bully on PSG’s block.

That’s if AS Monaco even get a chance to compete. The club is currently at the center of a debate in France, with the French federation and league trying to balance what amounts to an uneven playing field.

Because of Monaco’s (the state) status as a principality, the club is not subject to the same, significant taxes as their other league competition. In that past – before Rybolovlev and tax hikes in the France – that status was not an insurmountable advantage (though Monaco has won seven league titles). Now, the combination of billionaire investment, extreme taxation, and the hyperactive transfer market means the club’s return to Ligue 1 could be an unsettling one.

How much is this upsetting the league’s existing clubs? They want Monaco to pay a fee to offset that advantage, an amount speculated to be around $260 million dollars. Rybolovlev seems willing to pay some fee over time (which would be distributed among the league’s other clubs), but as of now, he’s balking at the lump sum.

There are other, more extreme solutions. The idea of denying Monaco entrance into Ligue 1 has been floated, though FFF president Noel Le Graet doubts this will happen. Forcing Monaco to operate within France seems the most likely, if still disputed solution, as it would expose the club to French taxation. Then there’s the most extreme idea: Clubs boycotting their games at Monaco, taking 3-0 losses in forfeit, and refusing to play until the situation is resolved.

Talks between the club and federation officials will continue next week. It’s unclear when there’ll be a resolution, though it seems unfathomable that Monaco, a traditional power in French soccer, would be denied access to the top flight merely because they’ve had the fortune to attract a new owner.

For a league that features Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco could be seen a way to offset Parisian power, even if that ultimately makes life more difficult for the likes of Lille, Lyon, and Marseille. In the long run, however, as teams like PSG and Monaco raise Ligue 1’s profile, increase the value of its television and marketing rights, improve the league’s results in Europe and, far down the road, maybe even win access to Champions League for a fourth French team, the Monacos of the world could be a net good.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be some road bumps along the way. Right now, though, France seems as willing to erect new obstacles as to find a balance.

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