Latics to challenge ‘unfair’ business rates system

The DW Stadium
The DW Stadium

WIGAN Athletic are facing a business rates bill more than six times the average for League One clubs - and are considering a challenge ‘at the highest possible level’.

The club has heavily criticised “an unfair system” that calculates the business rates payable on the DW Stadium at over TWICE the amount of any other Sky Bet League One club, over SIX times the average for clubs in the division and a staggering THIRTY-SIX times more than the lowest amount in League One.

Why should we be paying more than six times as much as the average of other clubs in our division?

Wigan Athletic club spokesman

According to business rates information, the average business rates payable this year by the clubs who were in League One during the 2014-15 season will be just under £88,500, with Coventry City paying the most at £295,800 and Fleetwood Town the least at £16,269.

Yet Latics are due to pay £591,600 in 2015-16 with the likelihood of a further rise in 2016-17 - the highest figures ever charged to the club, despite the club’s lowest league position for over a decade. The last time Latics were in League One, in 2003, the rates payable were £133,285.

Business rates are the tax that all businesses, whatever their size, pay on their properties via their local council.

The amount payable is based upon a rateable value set by the Valuation Office Agency.

Rateable values of most businesses premises are not based upon the income of the business but those for football stadia are calculated according to a number of factors, the principal one being total income generated by the stadium and to a lesser extent, the capacity of the stadium and average attendance figures.

Rateable values are normally set every five years, with the current 2010 valuation actually based upon the clubs’ income during 2008, the year the initial calculation was made. However, the next revaluation has been put back two years to 2017.

So in Latics’ case, although the income for this coming season, including Premier League parachute payments, will be around one third of what it was in 2008, the business rates bill is almost four and a half times as large.

The imbalance in payments is clearly illustrated when Wigan Athletic are compared to League One counterparts Bradford City. Both clubs’ stadia have a similar capacity of just over 25,000, and had a similar average attendance last season – according to the official Football League figures, of 14,092 for Bradford as opposed to Latics’ 15,177. Yet Bradford City will be billed just £84,796 for this season, approximately 14 per cent of the sum Latics are being asked to pay.

Even taking into consideration the fact that the DW Stadium generates extra income from staging home games for Wigan Warriors, Wigan Athletic’ rates bill is still excessive when compared to another stadium where a similar groundshare exists, Hull City.

Although Latics have the ability to appeal the level of rates being charged the club believe that whilst this might succeed in obtaining a slight reduction in the rates payable, this will not alter what the club believes is a fundamental injustice in the system and are calling for the system to be changed.

A spokesman said: “The system needs to be considered at government level, because the way we are being charged makes no sense. Why should we be paying more than six times as much as the average of other clubs in our division?

“Rateable Value should relate to the building a business operates from, and its location, not its income. A supermarket, for instance, pays rates on the premises it uses, unrelated to how well it trades.

“But football is treated differently, with income being a major factor in the calculation. How can this be fair when the rates are set only every five, or in the current case, seven years?

“The system needs to be challenged and we are currently seeking advice as to what avenues are open to seek a change and we are prepared to take this challenge to the highest possible level.”