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A multimillion-pound levy on all sports betting is being considered by Labour with the revenue ploughed back into grassroots sports. Some of the funds would also be used to tackle...

A multimillion-pound levy on all sports betting is being considered by Labour with the revenue ploughed back into grassroots sports. Some of the funds would also be used to tackle problem gambling.

The proposal is set out in a new “sport for all” document issued by Harriet Harman, the shadow culture secretary, and Clive Efford, the shadow sports minister.

At present only gambling on horseracing is subject to a levy with the money, some £82m in 2014, returned to the racing industry.

Efford said: “We believe it is right that businesses that make money from sport should contribute to sport. We are consulting on whether we should introduce a levy on betting, including online betting, to fund gambling awareness and support for problem gambling but also to improve community sports facilities and clubs.

“It’s my preference that the income from the levy went into a general pool to help grassroots sport and from which the respective sports would draw their future elite sportsmen and women. Football gambling online and in betting shops is now far larger than horseracing gambling and yet it does nothing to help the sport itself. I think they have a moral obligation to help the industry from which they make billions, and the results could be dramatic.”

The betting industry says it already pays tax on its profits and there is no need to pay any more to the public purse. Sport governing bodies argue that their tournaments are intellectual properties and that bookmakers should pay for the right to take bets on such events.

The overall UK gambling industry had revenues of more than £6bn after winnings were paid in 2012-13, according to the Gambling Commission. But the tax take is complicated by so much of the industry operating offshore. Efford argued it would be able to levy football betting conducted overseas since a 15% levy on horseracing bets has recently been extended to operations not based in Britain.

Efford added: “The Premier League also needs to be forced to return to its previous obligation to ensure that a 5% voluntary levy of its income from domestic TV rights are ploughed back into grassroots sport.”

The pledge was made after the report by the 1999 Football Task Force. Efford said income from domestic football rights had risen by 75% in recent years, but instead of the Premier League helping the development of grassroots football, much of the money was going in parachute payments to relegated clubs or in straight donations to Football League clubs.

Domestic broadcast deals will generate about £3.4bn over the three seasons from 2013-14 for Premiership clubs. Overseas broadcasting rights covering more than 200 territories will generate a further £2.2bn.

The Premier League and FA Facilities Fund, managed by the Football Foundation, commits £34m per year to improving the nation’s grassroots football facilities. This includes £12m a year each from the FA and Premier League, and £10m from the government.

Commenting on the Labour proposals, a Conservative spokesman said: “This is yet another short-term gimmick from Labour. It is a tax on football fans which will mean higher ticket prices for ordinary people wanting to watch our national sport.”

The Labour document, due to be unveiled in a speech by Harman on Thursday, also makes a series of familiar calls for more to be done to increase participation in sport, especially in schools. It points out “rising costs of obesity, diabetes and other Body Mass Index (BMI) related illnesses mean it is essential that we fulfil the ambitions of the sporting legacy. The estimated total cost of the Olympics was £9.3bn. By 2050 the annual wider costs to the economy of elevated BMI is expected to reach £49.9bn. The projected health costs alone show that if we get the legacy right, the legacy of the Games will prove to be good value for money”.

Labour claims there are 110 fewer School Sports Partnerships now than there were in 2010, a decline of 37 per cent, and that 60% less time is being spent organising sport by PE teachers on release than was spent by School Sports Coordinators in 2009-10.

It says this loss of interest in sport is particularly acute for young girls, whose participation drops off rapidly through secondary school. While participation levels are lower for girls throughout primary school, the difference is between 3 and 5 percentage points. By Year 11 the percentage point difference between boys and girls has increased to 13%.

Source: The Guardian