Sport – Taxing Questions

Richard Baldwin has set out the strong case for another look at the way we tax sport in the UK in an article for the World Sports Law Report.

This subject area is always difficult for law makers – because most of the high-profile cases are about very well paid athletes in a variety of sports. Quite rightly who has any sympathy for top paid footballers paying a bit of tax? I certainly wouldn’t have any qualms about making them pay their way.

But as my old friend Richard points out there are other consequences for our tax regime on sport as a whole. We actually need sport to prosper for so many other government agendas that overtaxing and killing them off is a little shortsighted.

I can’t see many negotiations with the Treasury getting very far with the current regime/coalition government. Cuts are the order of the day and as far as the Treasury are concerned revenue lost is just as important as revenue gained.

The burden on sport could be lifted. It just needs to be treated in the same way as other areas of public policy.  We discovered this when I was campaigning for the CASC scheme and more recently on the Subs for Clubs campaign. Sport seems to be singled out for negative tax concessions compared to other areas – even the National Trust!

Richard Baldwin is one of the few people who keeps bagging this particular drum. I have worked with him several times to try and achieve some minor victories along the way. But until we have a government as a whole that sees the value of sport they will only be small victories along the way. But Richard will never give up. He epitomizes the voluntary sport nut who gives his/her all with passion! I hope to keep helping him along.

New Club is Born–same old score for Birstall

Congratulations to Sileby RFC for a warm welcome to their new ground and opening matches on Saturday. It has been a remarkable journey for Sileby and those involved in getting a club off the ground and up and running so quickly deserve praise. This is what grassroots sport is all about – the hard work of eager volunteers.

It was good to part of their opening day. Unfortunately turning out for Birstall 2nds felt as though not much had changed! A big loss for the first game of the season. The team sheet looked good on Thursday but by the time I arrived on Saturday there were 13 of us. The first team had 7 drop out and all our great squad were called up! Loughborough brought a strong side with the dangerous mixture of old experienced players up front and young backs! It was one of those games where I stopped counting the score. I did get plenty of practise for the re-starts though. (someone tells me we lost 64-0!)

andy rugby birstall v loughborough 2

We always start the season slowly – but I am sure the lads will respond and we will do well this season. Certainly after the game nobody was too downhearted.

Leicestershire Leicester & Rutland No 1

It’s official, Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland has become the top area for swimming participation, with adults aged 16+ enjoying the many benefits the sport provides along the way.

The Active People Survey, which measures adult participation in sport and physical activity, has illustrated the dramatic rise of Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport from rank 32nd out of 49 County Sport Partnerships in the first Active People Survey (2005/06) to number 1 in the recent results. This statistic relates to adults aged 16+ who swim once a week. It has risen from 7.8% to 9.5% over the five year period. (See below for a graph illustrating this).

Andy Reed, Chairman of Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport, said, “We are really pleased with this result and as sports people it’s always our ultimate aim to achieve the number one spot. Being the top ranked area for participation in swimming clearly demonstrates the excellent partnership between the Amateur Swimming Association, Local Authorities and pool operators.

“This is yet more evidence of the progress towards the goal of making Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland the most sporting and physically active place in England.”

Roger Glithero, Director East Midland ASA, added, “This has been a massive team effort and we have been supported by both Sport England and British Gas in understanding challenges around marketing and communicating to both the industry and people. However, we still have a long way to go in changing the culture and customer experience in swimming but with the support of the pool operators, who are all now fully engaged, we will continue to grow the market and achieve our goals.”

The increased popularity of swimming may be down to many factors including recent successes of Team GB, but the people of Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland have risen to their own challenges.

At Swimathon events earlier in the year 370 people swam a total distance of 1054km which is 42,180 lengths of a 25m pool! At a recent celebration event in April, the county’s oldest swimmers were recognised and were presented with awards from members of the British Swimming squad. Pat Ward, 97 and John Walford, 91 are testament to the benefits of swimming and lifelong participation in sport and physical activity.

For more information about swimming pools, clubs and other aquatic opportunities visit or

Blair – What more can be said?

From September 1st I decided I would start blogging again. I hoped to restrict my blogging to the new world I now inhabit – sport and faith around the political class. So I imagined the first blog being about something sporty or faith based. Instead my day was dominated by everybody asking my views about THAT book and THAT interview – Tony Blair. Calls came in yesterday to go on the record to comment about Blair. Unfortunately I was stuck in meetings and on the underground. A badly timed day.

I got to know Blair before he became party leader via an East Midlands Regional Conference fringe event. It was the first time I came across him in the flesh and you have to say he was impressive. Already he was a politician at ease with his message. That is important. It marked him out. You can tell politicians who are having to defend a line they don’t support. Tony instinctively seemed to believe what he was saying with passion. It may now sound daft but that was new. Sadly in the end his overconfidence in being ‘right’ was his downfall as far as I am concerned. Blair could have been an amazing Prime Minister. He has highlighted many of his own failures in the book. It was a wasted Premiership. So much could have been done if he wasn’t so timid to start and so overconfident to finish!