Elite footballers are doing nothing wrong by using loopholes to avoid paying the current top rate of income tax, according to Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor.
It emerged this weekend that some top Barclays Premier League players had set up companies to market their own image rights, into which they have diverted wages in an attempt to avoid the 50% tax rate.
This could mean them paying as little as two percent on some of their earnings, a loophole of which Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are aware and which has been heavily criticised.
But players' chief Taylor hit out today at what he insisted was "an unjustified attack on a profession when there's a limited time to make your money".
He told Sky Sports News: "If any player's doing anything illegal then, of course, he comes under the law of the land.
"But this isn't the case at all."
He added: "And any good financial advisor will tell them to make the best use of the money they're getting by any legitimate means.
"I find it a little bit ironic when footballers seem to be on the receiving end with regard to image rights.
"This applies not to too many footballers, of course, because it has to be okayed by the Inland Revenue.
"And when you think there are so many multi-nationals and high-profile individuals who don't pay any tax at all in this country, I feel it's a bit unfair that it's coming down on football."
Insisting such instances of tax avoidance were "few and far between", Taylor said: "Once you start increasing tax rates to such a high level, where anybody - including footballers - is starting to lose more than half of their money, then any good tax advisor is going to try to look at ways to reduce that.
"Having said that, the image-rights side of a player's contract is only a small amount and this can't apply to any individual who's not entitled to claim image rights."
Taylor claimed supporters had no interest in whether players avoided tax, provided they were performing for their clubs.
"I don't see any complaints from fans on this particular issue," he said.
"Every labourer is worth his hire."
Denying the gulf between players and supporters was widening, he added: "There's always been a close relationship between footballers and fans.
"If fans don't turn up, if fans don't pay the subscriptions for television then the clubs can't pay them that money.
"It's as simple as that."
But Footballer Supporters' Federation chair Malcolm Clarke told Press Association Sport a gulf did exist.
He added: "If it's the case that players aren't paying a fair share of their taxes, there's a real danger that gulf will be widened even further.
"Most football supporters would expect our footballers - who get paid incredibly well - to pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us.
"If there are loopholes which enable them to avoid this then the Government should act to close them."Reuse content