Spanish clubs finally begin trimming tax debt

Spain's financially troubled football clubs appear to be starting to get their houses in order after the government announced on Tuesday their debts to the tax authorities had fallen for the first time in decades.

Professional teams in Spain's top two divisions, many of whom are in dire straits, owe some 750 million euros in unpaid taxes plus another 600 million to the social security system.

The situation attracted the attention of European Union antitrust officials, prompting the government and the football league (LFP) to agree a "road map" in April designed to pave the way for clubs to settle their liabilities.

"The constant increase in debts built up with the tax authorities has been checked," secretary of state for sport Miguel Cardenal told the upper house of parliament.

"The total is falling for the first time in many decades and the best example is the absence of player signings this summer, replaced instead by loan deals or free transfers," he added.

Total spending by the 20 clubs in Spain's top division in the last transfer window fell by 65 percent to 128 million euros, according to the latest Prime Time Sport Transfer Review published this month.

La Liga clubs earned 55 million euros more from player sales than they spent strengthening their squads, the study showed.