A NORTH east Fife football coach has called for political support to raise awareness of the effect of the new VAT hike on children’s sport.
Austin MacPhee, managing director of AMsoccerschools which provides coaching for around 500 children each week, said this month’s rise of VAT to 20 per cent will hit parents in the pocket and could lead to less children playing football.
He has now asked local MP Sir Menzies Campbell for his help in raising the issue with UK chancellor George Osborne, particularly as he believes the move goes against government measures to combat childhood obesity.
Mr MacPhee said he established his soccer school after returning from playing football abroad to find Scottish youth football coaching in a “shocking state”.
Over the past four years his company, based at Cupar Muir, has grown rapidly and now offers coaching for children of all ages. It also provides six full-time and 22 part-time jobs.
Mr MacPhee has ambitious plans to build a £1.5 million soccer centre on the outskirts of Cupar, and make his company Scotland’s leading independent football organisation.
In his letter to Sir Menzies, Mr MacPhee says he believes football in Scotland to be in a “dire state” and points out that former First Minister Henry McLeish, in his recent ‘Review of Scottish Football’ has recommended £500 million is required to improve the game.
However, Mr MacPhee said: “I feel that with AMsoccer schools we have a model which does not cost £500 million to sustain, just some assistance from the government Sir Menzies is now associated with.
“Due to investment and continually increased running costs, AMsoccerschools has run at a small loss in each of the previous three years.
“I am in the fortunate position of running a profitable football tours company and can therefore invest to a degree in the soccer schools business.”
He went on: “We approach football schools in the same way as a karate club or tennis club and feel my own UEFA Licence, which took four years to obtain, has assisted the AMsoccer curriculum and staff training.
“However I was surprised and disgusted to find out that VAT was applicable to children participating in sport.
“As the ‘sick nation of Europe’ with the highest rate of child obesity and heart disease, I cannot fathom why VAT is levied on children playing sport!
“Surely making sport affordable to parents promotes healthy living and reduced state-funded medical care later in life, therefore saving the UK money.
“I know that some parents already make big sacrifices to afford the £16-£45 per month they pay and with VAT going up this will increase to £19.20 and £54 respectively.”
A letter from HM Treasury issued to Sir Menzies in response to Mr MacPhee’s concerns, said it was not possible to relieve coaching fees charged by commercial organisations.
It states: “Sport and physical education services are exempt from VAT when supplied by certain non-profit making organisations such as sports and leisure trusts.
“However, when these services are supplied by commercial organisations and local authorities, they have always been taxable at the standard rate of VAT.”