Companies line up to fund football academy in Hungarian PM Orban's home village

Companies line up to fund football academy in Hungarian PM Orban's home village
PM Viktor Orban with his friend Lorinc Meszaros (l) watching a game in Felcsut
By bne IntelliNews November 26, 2019

The Ferenc Puskas Football Academy (PFA) named after Hungary’s legendary football player located in the prime minister’s home village Felcsut has received HUF1.1bn (€3.3mn) under the government's TAO support scheme this year, local media reported on November 25.

The cabinet of Viktor Orban introduced the corporate tax benefit scheme in 2011, which allows tax deductions for companies which sponsor sports clubs. The scheme was later extended to cultural institutions but was scrapped last year as news surfaced about mismanagement of funds at a few institutions.

Irregularities were also reported on the use of TAO funds for sports clubs, which are supposed to help academies and youth clubs. Amateur clubs are also allowed to request funding. Local media reported recently that division one clubs used proceeds to pay wages.

The Hungarian prime minister's passion for football is legendary. He regularly attends Hungarian league football games, and he had not missed a World Cup or Champions League final since 1998, when he first came into power. In his home village with a population of 1,700, a stadium with a capacity of 3,500 was built next to his home.

Since the launch of the scheme more than HUF500bn went to sports clubs. The football academy operating in Felcsut, founded by Orban and former mayor Lorinc Meszaros, has been a major beneficiary of the programme, although the 2019 donations were the lowest since 2013.

The Puskas Academy received HUF26.5bn in TAO funding in eight years, which was complemented by another HUF22.5bn in donations by companies. These include the biggest firms, such as OTP, MOL or construction firm Kozgep, which has grown to become one of the largest through state contracts.

Critics acknowledge the positive impacts of the corporate sponsorship, but add that it also makes way for corruption as companies helping Orban's favourite club can expect something in exchange for their support.

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