French press review 1 October 2012
A handball betting scandal rocks the nation. And, after tax rises for some in last week's budget, social security charges may be set to rise.
Handball is a particularly French passion. They're good at it. The French team has twice won the world championship and they recently successfully defended their Olympic title.
At the local level, Montpellier are the guys to follow. They're the national champions and have been for about the last thousand years.
The problem is that some of their leading players are, as the saying goes, "helping the police with their inquiries".
As the main headline in sports daily L'Equipe puts it, "It's no longer a game." The tabloid Aujourd'hui en France is stunned at the news that nine players and staff, including the Olympic hero, Nicola Karabatic, were arrested last night after their match against Paris.
The problem is that someone bet a huge amount of money that Montpellier would lose to lowly Rennes in the last match of last season, a sort of David and Goliath clash, with Rennes not given a handball's hope in Hell, and Montpellier already assured of being crowned champions for the eleventh time in 13 seasons.
Well, Montpellier did lose, and the person or persons who had bet 90,000 euros on that surprise result stood to net an estimated 300,000 euros in winnings. To put those figures in perspective, the people at the French agency which supervises betting would normally expect a first division handball match to attract between no more than 5,000 euros in total bets, probably a lot less when the clash involved sure winners, Montpellier, and no-hopers, Rennes.
All "winnings" have been frozen by the courts, which are now understood to be examining the bank accounts of key suspects to see if there were any major withdrawals on or about 12 May last, the day of the fateful clash between Montpellier and Rennes.
The only certainty for the moment is that there will be further arrests, as police spread the net to include the coaching staff and relatives and friends of Montpellier players.
The rest of this morning's front pages look at financial double-dealing of a different order.
Last Friday, the French government announced plans to collect an extra 16 billion euros in tax next year. Later today, we'll hear the details of the social security budget for 2013 with another five billion in charges likely to be piled on the curved backs of the taxpaying public.
Right-wing Le Figaro is delighted. It says government promises that tax increases would affect only nine families in every 10 can now be seen as glaring fictions. Everyone is going to have to pay more. Worse, the inherent imbalance in the socialist approach . . . taxing capital as if it didn't have to be earned . . . is scaring investors away at a time when French industry badly needs a financial boost.
Says Le Figaro, the Socialists are letting their political doctrines get in the way of their common sense and we will all lose as a result.