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Labour apply same old tactics to the Premier League

    One of my favourite pointless debates in football is about the best own goal ever scored.  There are a number of candidates: Frank Sinclair and Jamie Carragher were masters of putting the ball in their own net, Peter Enckelman missing the ball completely against hated rivals Birmingham, Djimi Traore’s beautiful little back heel turn past Jerzey Dudek. Personally, I plump for this stunner from Carl Jenkinson for Arsenal in a pre-season friendly.

    A new candidate can be added to the list as of today: Harriet Harman of Labour F.C.

    Labour have decided that their tax-and-spend record in office was so successful that the same remedy can be applied to save football. Hallelujah!

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    It’s something of a modus operandi for Ed Miliband’s party to see a successful industry, focus on the negatives, and believe government can apply the solution, usually in the form of taxation. They believe people want and need a Robin Hood figure to steal from the rich (bankers, oligarchs, footballers) and give to the poor.

    Guido Fawkes reports this morning that Premier League clubs already pay £1.3 billion in tax, not to mention the £706m in football tourism to the UK in 2012, the boost to regional economies, and the general worth to the economy and stature of Britain around the world.

    It is widely accepted that taxes on corporations are the least efficient and most damaging of all. If Labour is concerned about expensive Premier League ticket prices, who does it think extra costs would be passed on to? Ultimately businesses cannot pay tax; by forcing clubs to contribute more toward the levy on the Premier League this means either ticket or replica shirt price increases, or being able to pay less in transfer fees and wages to attract top players to our shores.

    Across the world, countries are cutting tax rates to bring in international businesses and encourage new companies. The 45p rate of tax is thought to have increased revenue over the previous 50p band. Not everywhere thinks like this of course – France has applied its 75% super tax to footballers; this summer has already seen World Cup star James Rodriguez depart for Real Madrid and a number of top players rumoured to be looking elsewhere after threatening to strike last season. Labour should not seek to punish our industries for their success.

    Another focus of Harman’s initiative is getting more kids involved in sport at school. Rumoured Labour sources are right to say this is preferable to gimmicks that infringe on personal choice like proposed ‘sugar taxes’. It is right that any child who wishes to play more sport should have the opportunity, and we desperately need a higher standard of school sport in this country.

    Sadly Labour’s plan is once again enforcement and a ‘compulsory’ ethos. Every primary school pupil will have to do two hours of PE under their plans. Far more beneficial would be work with bodies like the Premier League to encourage them to take a greater direct role in school sport – more tournaments, more sponsorships, more free schools – as an alternative to increased taxation. We need to produce more top class English players and this early investment is certainly preferable to enforcing quotas that mean the current crop of less talented Englishmen get game time over dazzling foreign imports. 

    Cutting out the middle man of government could benefit pupils, schools, football clubs and fans. It wouldn’t benefit government coffers or control-happy bureaucrats and unfortunately that means for Ms. Harman and Labour, it is an idea destined not to make this season’s squad. 

    Lewis joined the Centre for Policy Studies in April 2011 with responsibility for social media and digital engagement.

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