Vivien Saunders to stand as an MP

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 13, 2014 10:51

The chair of the Association of the Golf Course Owners (AGCO), winner of the 1977 Women’s British Open and campaigner for tax reform in golf, Vivien Saunders, is set to stand as an MP at the 2015 General Election.

Vivien Saunders, who also owns two golf clubs in Cambridge and set up the Women’s Professional Golfers’ Association, has been at loggerheads with many in the administration of golf, including England Golf and the United Kingdom Golf Course Owners Association, for several years over the issue of taxation, which she believes has created an unequal playing field between private members’ and proprietary clubs.

It is not clear yet which constituency Vivien Saunders will stand in, but there are suggestions that it will be Maidstone and the Weald, which has been held by Helen Grant, the current minister for sport, since 2010. Prior to that Ann Widdecombe held it.

Saunders has not yet set up a political party but has stated that it will campaign on a reduced rate of VAT for all sports, and not just golf. It is thought that as many as five candidates for the party could stand at the next election.

At the heart of Vivien Saunders’ campaign is the European Union ruling last year that green fees at private members’ golf clubs must be exempt from VAT, while the same fees at proprietary clubs can not be, which, she says, will lead to the UK government paying back about £500 million of taxpayers’ money in a VAT rebate to private members’ golf clubs.

Commenting on the case last week, she said: “Can this country really afford to hand out £500 million to posh member-owned golf clubs? And remember if we don’t keep fighting, all the range balls will be VAT exempt too. AGCO has a case in front of Europe and a VAT tribunal in the pipeline.

“Rest assured that we are fighting the corner of all the proprietary clubs and the UK taxpayer.”

She has also accepted that she is likely to lose her deposit but this would be a price worth paying to raise publicity in her fight to stop private members’ clubs receiving the rebate.

As well as winning the Women’s British Open in 1977, Vivien Saunders was the first European to get a player’s card on the LPGA Tour in the USA. She also has a PhD in sports psychology and an LLM in sports’ law and tax, and is a solicitor by profession.

 (Watch Vivien Saunders’ response to the 2014 Budget here)


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 13, 2014 10:51
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  1. Pat April 22, 17:59

    Vile, horrible, bully of a woman.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Bob Braban November 30, 11:38

    Richard is absolutely right. Members’ clubs were ‘Posh’ many years ago. Today the great majority of clubs have a predominance of members that are very ordinary men and women who love golf and are prepared to pay a not insignificant part of their income to play. The money goes back into the game in many ways and members do not receive an annual dividend for their investment. I have not played at Ms Saunder’s venue for a long time, but when I did it was expensive and I was well aware that the substantial profit from my visit went into her pocket. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favour of private enterprise and believe that she should profit from her venture if she is successful. What she should not do is to snipe at other organisations, many of which provide a far greater service to Golf than Ms Saunders will ever do. It must not be overlooked that every time a members’ club is closed, Ms Saunders improves her personal income prospects. Don’t get the idea that she is standing for parliament in the name of Golf. She is standing in the interests of increasing the flow of money to her pocket.

    Bob Braban

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  3. Richard November 20, 15:55

    Not all member clubs are posh so why feel the need to refer to them in that way? Bringing in the politics of the class system – real or imagined – does not enhance the argument. Member clubs are run so members can play golf. Proprietary clubs are run in the hope of profiting from people who play golf.

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  4. Alan K November 13, 15:13

    Fantastic work Vivien!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Big Ron November 13, 11:30

    eat em alive Vivien

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