Tickets tax: Ek sê, slow down, Mr Mbalula

2014-08-17 15:00

Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula has sent ripples of indignation and anxiety through the community he represents by threatening to raise a levy on sports tickets.

He did not discuss the issue with the different sports bodies that fall under his department before he presented it in Parliament. What seems to irk them is his declaration that the model “advocates the establishment of a new ticket levy to be imposed on sport tickets”.

In his budget vote speech to Parliament three weeks ago, Mbalula announced that his department had “formulated a new funding model to finance the National Sport and Recreation Plan. Key to this funding model is the financing mechanisms for school sport.”

Mbalula mentioned ring-fencing funds allocated to school sports from the National Treasury (to ensure that these funds were spent on school sport) and the national lottery. But he added a rider that has taken sports officials by surprise.

“This will become a new revenue stream that will generate funding for school sport development programmes,” he said.

However, it appears Mbalula may have been flying a kite because no discussions had taken place with sports bodies on what, in effect, amounts to a tax on sports tickets.

Rugby, the sport with the most to lose as it has the biggest crowds coupled to the most expensive tickets, responded cautiously. But it confirmed it was unaware of a scheme to divert a cut of gate takings.

A leading rugby administrator, who requested anonymity for fear of prejudicing his union, said: “This is certainly a surprise to us all.

I wonder who dreamt this up? We are already struggling to fill stadiums and any further increase [suggesting any levy would be passed on to fans] would be pushing too hard.

“I don’t know who has researched or investigated this and would welcome any accurate survey that may guide us in this matter.”

Another top rugby administrator from a big union, who also asked not to be named, said his organisation had not had word of a possible levy on tickets.

“No matter the sport, we’re all under severe financial pressure and my first question would be, ‘how do you audit it?’ A large part of our income is from the sale of suites and corporate packages and we’re battling to maintain prices as it is.

“Another factor is that the sports that are able to attract the biggest crowds and maintain the best systems will be disadvantaged because we have sound financials. I don’t see this flying at all and find it strange that we were not consulted.”

SA Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux said: “It would be unfair to comment on the proposal until a plan has been formulated and circulated to federations for us to understand the detail.

We have not had any discussions with the ministry on the idea, but expect that to happen in due course.”

Premier Soccer League (PSL) communications manager Luxolo September agreed: “We are not aware of discussions between the league and the ministry to this effect. As the PSL, we will comment if and when the minister approaches us about the matter.”

Cricket SA (CSA) chief executive officer Haroon Lorgat responded in the same vein: “CSA has not had the opportunity to engage on this topic at all with the ministry.

“We have, however, noted this proposition in the budget speech. We have received an invitation to meet the minister this week and this topic is likely to be discussed.

“School sport development programmes are essential in developing world-class cricketers and we would be willing to support such programmes.

“In any case, school sports is an integral part of our development programmes.

The challenge for us would be to understand the implications of the levy and to ensure capacity and governance in delivering the required infrastructure.”

Sunshine Tour commissioner Selwyn Nathan said while “it’s a process managed by the SA Golf Association” the tour’s minimal gate takings were already being diverted to the SA Golf Development Board and other streams of development.

Mbabula could not elaborate when contacted this week, citing a busy schedule.

His office did not respond either, but the minister promised to avail himself to City Press this week to discuss his budget vote speech in detail.

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