Give us a (tax) break says BISL Conference


The leisure industry has 2.6 million employees and pays an annual tax of £200bn to the government. It is responsible for employing one in five of all young people working aged between 16 and 25 and it has no glass ceiling for women – 54% of all leisure employees are female and 44% of all management jobs are held by women.

These were the statistics that kicked off the Business in Sport and Leisure conference held yesterday at Lords Cricket Ground in London. The message to the Government was essentially – our industry is responsible for 7 per cent of Treasury take – when are you going to stop trying to bite the hand that feeds you?

Sport, leisure and tourism together make a profit of around £12bn, according to the Leisure Industry Report, published by BISL earlier this year in association with Oliver Wyman management consultants. They also estimate that the tax burden of the Government’s planned an current tax changes will wipe a quarter of that profit off the industry’s bottom line.

Take Machine Games Duty for example – that will cost the industry £64m. Pension Auto Enrolment will cost £500m, the Alcohol Escalator £700m, Late Night Levy on pubs £100m and so on. The recent VAT increase back to 20% cost £2,500m to the leisure industry. How much more can the golden goose take?

These were the topics tackled by a number of speakers who included Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon, who entertained delegates by complaining that his own son preferred to buy cheap alcohol from the supermarket and he was forced to tell him to, “Eff off down the pub.”

Simon Kirby MP and John Thurso MP represented the Coalition and showed an understanding of the licensed trade due to their background in the leisure industry, but really failed to offer any tangible insight into Government thinking, except to reiterate that the industry must speak with a united voice. The Rt. Hon Dame Tessa Jowell MP spoke in the afternoon session but perhaps wisely stuck to the Olympic Legacy, given the airing of Panorama’s damning FOBT programme the night before.

The gambling industry was well represented with delegates, with recent BISL joiners, Barcrest and Sceptre Leisure there.

“It really was an excellent event with a strong line up of speakers. A must attend event for any leisure operator and continued evidence of the value for money that BISL is able to provide for its members and potential members,” commented Nick Hardking, Chairman of the Business In Sport And Leisure (BISL) Gambling Working Group (pictured with Tony Eyre of Mediatheme).


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