It is said sport and politics should not mix, but there is now a political row over claims of a "new" tax on five-a-side football pitches. MPs claim more 150 sports pitch sites around the country that offer help in arranging matches, leagues and even referees are poised to receive a VAT bill of 20 per cent. What will that mean to the companies and the more than one million people who use them?
What is the tax?
Rather than waiving VAT on five-a-side leagues because they provide a social good, HMRC says companies that run leagues should pay the tax at the standard rate. The leagues argue this is a change from the policy they have been used to for almost 20 years but the exchequer says this is not a new idea: leagues should always have paid VAT.
Why should VAT be charged?
Providing land is usually exempt from the tax. But the taxman argues that the leagues go well beyond this, with extras such as organising fixtures and providing changing facilities adding up to providing a service, which is usually liable for VAT.
How will it affect clubs?
More than 150 sites across the country would have to pay the tax, potentially adding millions of pounds a year to their bills
How could players be affected?
Leagues say they would be forced to pass on the tax to individual players, costing about an extra £1 per player per match – or up to £100 a year for someone playing twice a week. Clubs say this will inevitably reduce the number of people playing football.
How many people play five-a-side?
About 1,143,700 people play “small-sided” football, including five-a-side, once a week in England. But this figure includes some who do not play in leagues that would be taxed.
Who opposes the plan?
Gerry Sutcliffe, the Bradford South MP and former sports minister, said the price rise could put people off sport. Hugh Robertson, the Sports Minister, has also questioned the tax, according to a leaked memo to David Gauke, the Treasury Minister. He raises his concerns over “the detrimental effect VAT on small-sided football leagues could have on the sport”