Thursday 29 April 2021 5:41 pm

Week in Sportbiz: Taxman cometh for football (again); BT Sport; Simone Biles; social media boycott; and NHS x NFL draft

HMRC has cashed in by increasing scrutiny of the football industry, so perhaps it should be no surprise that the taxman has begun a new crackdown on players and clubs.

Investigations into footballers almost tripled in 2019-20, while those concerning clubs more than doubled. The result was an increase from £35m to £73m in tax collected from the probes.

Tax experts warn that HMRC is likely to ramp up investigations even further after issuing new guidance around agents’ fees.

In a nutshell, the new rules mean that clubs will not be able to pay a players’ share of an agent fee without it being taxed. 

“This new guidance formalises the approach that HMRC has started to adopt in enquiries into the tax returns of an increasing number of footballers in recent years,” said Adam Craggs, a partner at City-headquartered law firm RPC. 

“This formalisation may foreshadow an increased focus by HMRC on the payment by clubs of agents’ fees on behalf of players. 

“The indications are that HMRC hopes to increase the tax yield for the Exchequer by focussing on this area and increasing the amount of tax paid by professional footballers.”

BT news justifies Premier League move

Has uncertainty over the future of BT Sport played a part in the Premier League’s apparent eagerness to roll over current domestic broadcast contracts for another three years?

BT confirmed today that it is in talks with “a number of select strategic partners” said to include Amazon, Disney and DAZN streaming platforms over the sale of a stake, as first reported by the Telegraph. 

As Richard Broughton, research director at industry experts Ampere Analysis notes, questions over the long-term commitment of BT would hardly help the Premier League achieve top dollar if selling their rights for 2022-25 by the usual auction process.

The Premier League and broadcasters have not commented on the rights sale.

Biles bales on Nike for Athleta

Nike has lost another star name from its roster after gymnast Simone Biles quit the sportswear giant for a deal with female-focused brand Athleta.

Biles said she chose the deal with Athleta, an offshoot of Gap, because it supported her aims of creating social change.

Gymnast Simone Biles has followed track athlete Allyson Felix in leaving Nike for Gap-owned brand Athleta
Gymnast Simone Biles has followed track athlete Allyson Felix in leaving Nike for Gap-owned brand Athleta (Getty Images)

Her exit came days after the estate of Kobe Bryant allowed its contract with Nike to expire and represents the second major client lost to Athleta.

Track star Allyson Felix left for Athleta in 2019 shortly after joining criticism of Nike’s handling of athletes who fall pregnant. 

Cricket, rugby and cycling join social media blackout

English football bodies have had a good couple of weeks for setting the tone on the game’s most pressing issues.

Having played a key role in the backlash that helped submerge the European Super League breakaway, it is now taking on racist and other discriminatory abuse on social media.

And where the Football Association, Premier League, Women’s Super League and bodies representing players, managers, referees and fans have led, other sports have duly followed.

The England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and British Cycling have all signed up to join a social media boycott spanning the whole Bank Holiday weekend first announced by their football counterparts.

NHS x NFL 

The NFL draft will feature a cameo from NHS staff and key workers when it wraps up this weekend.

Jacksonville Jaguars, London’s unofficial NFL franchise, has picked London A&E Paul Nurse and Nici Waugh, a care home worker from Rugby, to reveal its fourth-round picks to a live US television audience of 8m. 

The Jaguars’s senior vice president and main man in London, Hussain Naqi, said: “We are delighted to be to able to show a token of our thanks by giving these two incredible key workers and Jaguars fans, Nici and Paul, an opportunity to be a part of the 2021 NFL Draft.”

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