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Rugby league chiefs call for VAT cut for sports

Rugby league’s governing body has called on the UK Government to cut VAT on ticket prices for sports events.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) wants the same temporary reduction from 20 per to five per cent that was announced for attractions and events earlier this month to be extended to sport. The reduction for theatres, concerts, museums and theme parks was introduced on July 15 and will run until January 2021.

The RFL said the cut would stimulate ticket sales for Super League clubs and those in other competitions, developing audiences and encouraging people to return to normality in the wake of the Covid-19 shutdown. The body said women’s sport could be a particular beneficiary, and added that while Premier League football clubs may be financially secure and able to sell out stadiums that is not the case for the majority of UK sport.

In its petition to the Government, the RFL added that season ticket sales for 2021 will be complicated by the 2020 campaign still being under way during lockdown. The VAT reduction would encourage people to buy ahead for next season and also purchase tickets in advance for Rugby League World Cup 2021, which goes on sale in September.

Tony Sutton, the RFL’s chief operating officer, said; “Together with other sports we are asking Government to look again and not to miss this opportunity to put sport on a par with hospitality, arts and culture. Like those sectors, we offer live, in-person, close proximity events and therefore face the same financial challenges as a result of COVID-19.

“Extending the VAT cut to sports tickets as well as other admissions tickets would provide an immediate boost to the sector which is under great pressure.”

The RFL plea comes soon after Liberal Democrat politician Layla Moran, the MP for Oxford West, called for the VAT cut for sports, contrasting the assistance for West End theatres with her local League One football team, Oxford United.

Last week it was announced that sports events with crowds in attendance will be trialled in the coming weeks with the potential for the widespread return of fans from October.

Sutton added: “Just as people are being encouraged to return to cafes and restaurants through the ‘Eat Out to Help Out Scheme’, the Government can encourage the public to return to, and support, sports which were forced to close as a result of lockdown.

“The return of spectators to sporting events, when it is safe to do so, is key to supporting jobs and the long-term financial security of the whole sports sector – just as returning to restaurants or theme parks matters to those sectors. Watching sport again is good for our collective mental health and the nation’s psyche as we come out of a difficult time and the nation recovers.

“A VAT reduction on ticket sales could have significant benefits for the cash flow of clubs, including Rugby League clubs, as well as being a direct benefit to the customer.

“For all these reasons, the RFL urges Government to extend the VAT reduction for admission to events to sporting events.”

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