BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 16:33 GMT
Bird racers' rates plea to Queen
Geoff O'Connell and Eric Sim
Mr O'Connell and Mr Sim are writing a letter to the Queen
Pigeon racing enthusiasts are seeking the Queen's help to get the activity recognised as a sport, after it emerged they could face being taxed.

Members of Belford Racing Pigeon Club in Northumberland may have to start paying rates on a small shed where they store their race baskets.

Because pigeon racing is not classed as a sport, it may now be subject to an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) levy.

The Queen is patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA).

EXEMPT FROM RATES
Aikido
Hurling
Ballooning
Shinty
Baton Twirling
Skateboarding
Skipping
Bobsleigh
Korfball
Crossbow
Octopush
Source: HMRC

Under proposals to introduce rates on sports clubs and village halls, groups can formally apply for dispensation from HMRC for 80% relief and then to their local authority for a 20% reduction.

Sports such as yoga, arm-wrestling and trampolining are also exempt from paying rates.

But because pigeon racing is not currently recognised as a sport like football, rugby and athletics, pigeon racers have been told they will have to pay up.

Recognition of a sport is a joint process, operated by the UK's four home country Sports Councils and UK Sport.

Eric Sim, pigeon owner and chairman of Belford Racing Pigeon Club, said: "Pigeon racing has been recognised as a sport for well over 100 years and this latest turn of events will cause many clubs to struggle to make ends meet.

"It seems so unfair and shows what a cheeseparing attitude the treasury can adopt."

'Big issue'
HAVE YOUR SAY
Pretty sad stuff when a harmless pastime gets an additional tax burden because of some bureaucratic nonsense.
Kim Potter, Hungerford

Peter Bryant, general manager of the RPRA said it was the first such case he had heard of, but confirmed that HMRC did not recognise pigeon racing as a sport.

He said: "This has been a big issue with the tax people for many years. We have to pay VAT on our subscriptions and as a result it's difficult for us to get grants from the lottery sports board.

"Pigeon racing is really suffering - to impose taxes on people just to store their baskets is crass."

Councillor Geoff O'Connell, of Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council, proposed to raise the matter with HMRC and Berwick constituency MP Alan Beith.

A spokeswoman for Sport England, which promotes sport in the community, said: "The principal criteria against which the sports councils assess activities is whether or not the activity meets the definition of sport contained in the Council of Europe's European Sports Charter 1993.

"This defines sport as all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels."

"Currently, we do not recognise pigeon racing as an official sport."



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Pigeon racers explain why they are engaged in a sport



SEE ALSO
Pigeon loft used to control flock
17 Jan 07 |  Southern Counties
Pigeon fancier wins 30,000 race
29 Sep 05 |  South West Wales
Hero pigeon's WWII medal on show
01 Jun 05 |  Hampshire

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific