Font Size

HM Revenue and Customs Brief 04/11


HM Revenue and Customs -Tax Authorities

Tax Articles
Submit Articles   Back to Articles

Issued 9 February 2011

This brief confirms HMRC's view of the VAT treatment of commercially operated sports leagues

It has been issued in response to enquiries from a number of organisations that run football leagues. The brief reflects what HMRC's policy has always been. It does not represent a change of policy.


There are a number of commercial organisations that run football and other sports leagues ('sports league providers'). Typically, a sports league provider will do most or all of the following:

  • organise a league
  • allocate fixtures to teams in the league
  • provide pitches for teams to play on (some league providers own pitches, others rent them from other parties)
  • provide referees
  • determine results
  • keep and publish scores and league tables
  • award trophies to winning teams

Payments for such supplies are collected in a variety of ways. For example, the sports league provider may charge a one off 'admin fee' to teams plus a 'match fee' for each game that is played.

VAT liability

Some sports league providers have suggested that they are making supplies of land of a kind that are exempt under Group 1, Schedule 9 of the VAT Act 1994 (they rely on Note 16 to Group 1 which allows a series of lets of sports pitches to be exempt, subject to certain conditions). They consider that the essential nature of their supplies is one of pitch hire.

HMRC disagrees with this analysis. We consider that the supplies made by sports league providers consist of a bundle of elements, which are integral to each other, but that it cannot be said that there is one principal element to which all others are ancillary. In these circumstances, it is necessary to establish the character of the overarching supply to determine whether it falls within the exemption. In HMRC's view, the overarching supply is of participation in a sports league, not a supply of land.

It is therefore HMRC’s view that the supplies made by commercial sports league providers are liable to the standard rate of VAT.

However, supplies made by certain non-profit making bodies may fall within the Group 10 sports exemption. For details of the conditions that must be met for the Group 10 exemption to apply, please see Notice 701/45 Sport.

Claims of misleading advice by HMRC

Some sports league providers have asked HMRC to consider whether they have been in receipt of misleading advice from HMRC officers in the past relating to the liability of their supplies. Such cases must be considered on an individual basis by the appropriate Complaints Team. We would recommend sports league providers to contact their Complaints Team if they:

  • consider that they have been misled by HMRC in relation to the liability of their supplies
  • have acted in accordance with the misleading representation
  • would suffer real detriment if VAT was to be collected for past supplies

For information about our complaints procedure, go to, and under 'quick links', select 'Complaints'.

About the Author

© Crown Copyright 2011.

A licence is needed to reproduce this article and has been republished for educational / informational purposes only. Article reproduced by permission of HM Revenue & Customs.

Follow us @Scopulus_News

Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2011-02-11 08:22:29 in Tax Articles

All Articles

Copyright © 2004-2021 Scopulus Limited. All rights reserved.