Britain’s Coalition Government has come up with controversial plans to tax five-a-side football players. Under the move, HM Revenue and Customs is demanding VAT at 20 percent from companies operating all-weather pitches at more than 150 sites in Britain. The tax will work out at almost £1 to a player typically paying £4.50 for a session (or roughly £100 a year for a player who plays twice a week). Five-a-side football is one of the few participation sports that are growing in the UK, where obesity is a growing strain on the National Health Service.
For more than 20 years, five-a-side centres have not attracted VAT because their operators believed they were only supplying the land to sports teams, reported The Independent. However, the HMRC has ruled that their use should be subject to tax because the players that use them are hiring pitches from commercial concerns that are also organising mini-leagues.
Spiteful penny-pinching that makes mockery of Olympic legacy claims
Government plans to draw VAT “makes a mockery of Olympic legacy claims as well as endangering one area of growth in participation in grass roots sport,” boomed Jim White at The Telegraph. He suggested that the Treasury “may well be doing is killing the growth of the sport in its infancy. And thus reducing at a taxing stroke many a modern Briton’s single access to regular exercise.” White said this must be “one of the most ill-timed – not to mention spiteful – pieces of legislations ever cooked up by the Treasury. The idea of the games – and the reason for the billions of pounds of public support – was that it would inspire a generation to get active, with all the concomitant benefits to health, wealth and well-being that that would bring. And yet here they are, two weeks away from the flame arriving in Stratford, doing their best to put us all back on the sofa. Talk about penny pinching. And it is pennies. Government sources reckon £5 million a year might be raised, enough to bail out a bank for about 90 seconds.”
Critics are hoping for a Government retreat on the levy following the recent U-turns on the proposed tax hikes on pasties, static caravans and charitable donations.
Sports Minister at loggerheads with Treasury?
The Independent has obtained a leaked letter, which points to disagreement within government over the Treasury proposals. According to the newspaper, Hugh Robertson, the Sports Minister, has protested to David Gauke, the Treasury Minister, over the “detrimental effect VAT on small-sided football leagues could have on the sport.” In the letter, Robertson asks if there is “any chance of revisiting this in the future,” and adds, “small-sided football is one of our three greatest participation growth areas. If would be greatly appreciated if HMRC could take a more balanced/lenient view!”
Absolutely disgusting move
The move has been widely condemned by those in the game. Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp branding the decision “absolutely disgusting,” adding, “we’re always being told how hard it is to get kids to switch off their computer games and play in the fresh air – yet this makes it a bit harder to do that.” Norman Whiteside, the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland midfielder, produced a succinct response of his own on Twitter: “George Osborne seems desperate to get sacked – VAT on 5-a-side football? Absolute scandal.”
Five-a-side should be subsidised not made made more expensive
Paul Harvey, chairman of the Oxford Mail Boys League, insisted the proposal posed a serious threat to the future of English football. He told The Telegraph that “the government should be subsidising this rather than seeking to profit and apply more tax. They should be asking how they can help and how they can make it easier. We are trying to encourage kids to get out of their bedrooms, off the PlayStation and play football and this is just incongruous with what we are supposedly trying to do, which is create a healthier Britain and creating players that can challenge at major tournaments in the next 10 years.”
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