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October 2016
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The dangers of letting perfidious government lackeys get their hands on Premier League money

By Tony Attwood

It is being said in the corridors of power (to use CP Snow’s influential phrase – largely because my brain refuses to dream up an alternative before my first coffee of the day) that the government is thinking of imposing a levy on the Premier League’s radio and tv income and then distributing that money to grassroots football.

That is according to the minister for culture, media and sport John Whittingdale.

So what is wrong with that statement?   After all Untold has constantly argued that massively more should be done for grassroots, and we have occasionally reported from the smaller grounds we’ve been to when Arsenal is not playing.

On the face of it, the ploy might sound reasonable, which probably explains why, when the minister’s speech writers run out of ideas (which given the mess grass roots sport is in in England is about every 2.7 seconds) they keep hammering this one.  Sports minister, Tracey Crouch, used much the same speech to talk about how she was “genuinely appalled” by the fact that the Premier League distributes very little to grassroots.

But just as the media can hide real issues to cover their own tracks and make life easy for themselves (see Fear and Loathing for example) so can governments.  Or indeed so do governments.  All the time.

1: This government and the previous Coalition is the one that has destroyed the grassroots.

The Conservatives (for five years with the backing of the now decimated Liberal Democat Party and now let loose on their own) have cut, cut and done nothing but cut, the money available to local authorities – the bodies in England which are charged with improving recreation facilities.   Over the last four years this has been running at a rate of about £100m a year in cuts on sport and leisure.

In simple terms, in order to maintain its disastrous fiscal policy the government is casting around for someone, anyone, with an income and then saying, “hey we will take it from you.”  The question is, “should one trust a bureaucratic body that had the money, and then removes it, and sneaks around looking for some other source of income?”   Probably not.

2: Taxing company income not profit is dubious.

The UK and international TV rights deals for 2016-19 will probably reach £8bn.  Some of it is used to rebuild the crumbling old stadia of the 1980s, a lot of it goes on transfers and wages, and only recently has much of it ended up as profit.   That could reverse again very quickly, and indeed the world’s fascination with the Premier League could decline very quickly – especially if anyone ever unfortunately let slip that the whole thing is run by a highly secretive behind-the-scenes organisation that issues utterly insane statistics as facts and which manipulates issues and rules for its own ends.  (I speak of course of the dreaded PGMO).  (Ooops, maybe I just let the bag out of the cat.  Or something).

In short, put in a levy on income, people start doing wonderful things with the money, and then the income collapses because of a scandal or just lack of interest, and suddenly all these projects are stuck.

Interestingly, in another attempt to cover up the shortage of funds its own policy has just created the government has just imposed an additional 8% tax on banks.  And while people like me might welcome a tax of 200% on banks, it is interesting that this tax on banks is indeed on profit, not on turnover.  But with football they want it on turnover.

3:  It is the FA’s business

The FA is the body charged with looking after grassroots football.  Which raises two concerns.  One is that if the government actually ever did raise the money, it might give it to the FA, who would probably spend most of it on another round of getting chummy with Fifa and blowing it all on watches, handbags and the like in once more running a futile bid to get a contract from a bunch of unmitigated crooks.   Oh yes, and they’d also spend it in part on paying off their own debts for the utterly unnecessary Wembley Stadium, which still hangs like a financial millstone.  (Question: is there an alternative word for millstone?   “It hung like a banker around his neck.”  Yep that works for me.)

Of course the fact that after Sport England (a government body) gave money to the FA to boost its community programme, and was then forced to take the money back because of the gross incompetence of the FA, doesn’t help us believe that the FA could handle the proverbial in the alcohol making factory.

Indeed given that fiasco Sport England withdrew the money from the FA and set up its own City of Football Project that doesn’t give me much faith either.

4:  It is not as if the Premier League is not taxed already.

As I pointed out at the end of last month the Premier League distributes almost 20% of its overall income to areas outside the Premier League.   The clubs additionally give 20% of their profits to the state in corporation tax – currently around  £37,000,000 a year.  Additionally the clubs collect another £577,000,000 in VAT from fans and gives that to the government (and are fined if they get any of their sums wrong or don’t pay up on time).    Another £15,000,000 is voluntarily given to grassroots funding.

So in the light of this what do we make of Whittingdal’es statement when he said,

“The real challenge is to get right down into the grassroots. Every MP will have local clubs who are struggling, and in some cases failing, to survive, and yet there is this vast amount of money at the top of the game.”

to me it seems just like yet another cover up for a disastrous government policy of removing money from local authorities.

Richard Scudamore has said the Premier League will put £1bn of the income between 2016-19 outside the league, although that of course means giving money to relegated clubs most of the time.

And my annoyance at the government’s policy should not be taken to mean that I support the Premier League in all it does.  It’s own appalling failure to introduce its own promised Financial Fair Play rules says about as much as needs to be said concerning its ability to handle the money and power.  Or rather power and money.

Threatening the Premier League with taxation and the FA with an outside imposition of sanity goes on all the time, but there are still huge problems which no one is dealing with.

Of course we need a vibrant and growing grassroots football programme, but what we actually have is a decline in grassroots football.  And that leads me to a bold prediction!

If the government takes money from the Premier League and gives it to grassroots football it will then, within a year, cut its own funding of local authorities cultural and sporting activities by the same amount or more, leaving the local clubs and leagues even worse off than they were when this round of insanity started.

Perfidious seems a good word to use when contemplating the work of John Whittingdale and Tracey Crouch.

Yep, that works for me.

Anniversaries – all today’s anniversaries on the home page

  • 11 September 1893.  The first ever league win.  Woolwich Arsenal 4 Walsall TS 0; John Heath scored the first ever Arsenal hat-trick in the Football League.
  • 11 September 2010: Arsenal continue their perfect home form beating Bolton 4-1 and making it 10 goals in two home games.  Koscielny, Chamakh, Song, Vela scored.

The Untold Books


13 comments to The dangers of letting perfidious government lackeys get their hands on Premier League money

  • serge

    The Premier League is run by the PGMO? Are you sure about that?

  • nicky

    In the modern world, the love of money colours everything, I’m afraid and for this reason it would be difficult to nominate ANY whiter than white body, trusted enough to handle the proceeds of such a tax.

  • serge

    It’s worth pointing out that it’s not just this government & the last that is responsible for destroying grassroots.
    The Labour government closed down more than 200 school & public pitches in two years from 1997.

  • porter

    Does road tax get spent on the Queen’s highways. I believe that it goes into the public coffers and gets spent from there. Don’t expect this to be handled any differently.

  • colario

    It seems that the ‘world’s number one goalkeeper could be playing for chelski tomorrow except that…..

  • Menace

    Serge – I’m not sure if it was the government that closed the playing fields. It was certainly a special for developers & their backhand chums in Local Councils. There was a lot of hospital land lost (including care in the community) in similar fashion.

    I think each club should be tasked with sponsoring 20 local grass root teams, rather than funding quangos (jobs for the boys) created by government.

    Colario – there was something about a knee problem with Courtois. Pity the pretty doctor is not available to kiss it better! 😉

  • proudkev

    Tony, it was the labour government who were responsible for selling off the public spaces and the sports fields that belonged to our kids schools. It was also the Labour governemnt who tried to remove competitive sport from school sports days and the like. Pathetic attempt by left wing ideologists and non sports people to generate more cash to waste at the same time as playing their favourite game of social engineering. I would much rather have football debate over political debate; because whilst you get heated debate over football, politics is where you really do lose friends quickly!


    The fact that Courtois is out for a long time is very amusing. Mourinho is going to be seething, which has made my day!

    I wonder if people will now realise just what a great deal the Cech signing was. Will anyoe question Mourinho not having world class cover in goal or is world class cover in every postion only required of Arsenal? I guess we all know the answer. The fcat Arsenal did not have to sell any of our players or buy to replace them is still being ignored.

  • proudkev

    “Colario – there was something about a knee problem with Courtois. Pity the pretty doctor is not available to kiss it better! 😉”

    Made me laugh that comment.

    The whole thing is full of irony. Would love to see Mourinhos face when he found out Courtois was out long term. Imagine some Arsenal fans & their mates in the media, if that had been Cech injured they would be blaming Wenger.

  • para

    More and more we are getting to realise that politics plays a very big role in football and in every aspect of life and they are looking to increase that influence significantly.
    I find it amazing that people still think there is a difference between a Labour and a Conservative government. They all have the same bosses and follow the same agendas.

  • Tom


    I don’t disagree with you very often but taking pleasure from player’s injury is one of those things I disagree with, even a Chelsea player. Although if Ivanovic missed a couple of games because of a rake on his Achilles, I probably would find it funny.

    Also, if anything, Courtois injury proves Mourinho right for not wanting to sell Cech . ” if it was up to me , Cech would be at Chelsea till the end of his contract” said Mourinho.

  • AllanC

    Tony, you are getting very irate about what will be done with this money before it is clear what will actually happen. I have always blamed the FA for not channelling income from the Premier League for the specific purpose of providing facilities and coaching for grass roots football from the time that they set up the Premier League. I am now happy that the only body that can presently do anything about this has started to take action. I hope that the next step is sorting out the FA itself.

  • TailGunner

    You’re right about the hospital closures. Where I used to live three out of five local hospitals were pulled down for redevelopment. Ironically I ended up living in a flat on one of the new housing schemes .

  • blacksheep63

    to those of you blaming Labour for selling off school fields I would like to remind you that those of us with longer memories recall that the Thatcher/Major government were responsible for most of thee sell off. The squeeze on public funding will continue under this government (and probably under a Blairite Labour party) because Lord Snooty and his Bullingdon pals are ideologically committed to shrinking the state. This process started under Thatcher but even she and her cronies weren’t as blatant about their intentions: come the spending review in November expect massive cuts in healthcare, higher education, sports, the arts, and anything else this government thinks should be entirely privatised.

    vive le Corbyn!