Vivien Saunders: Why I’m standing against David Cameron

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 20, 2015 10:44

Golf club owner and tax campaigner Vivien Saunders has announced that she is standing for parliament at the forthcoming election – against prime minister David Cameron in his Oxfordshire seat of Witney.

Running for the Reduce VAT in Sport party, Vivien Saunders, the chair of the Association of the Golf Course Owners (AGCO) and winner of the 1977 Women’s British Open, has released a video explaining her decision.

“It’s not because I want to stand against David Cameron,” she said, “it’s because I want to give him and other politicians the message that they need to do much more about British sport.

“There are two sorts of sports facilities in this country – one are considered to be non-profit making such as schools, local authorities and private members’ clubs, and the other are commercial. Those that are non-profit making don’t have to charge VAT and those that are commercial do. This isn’t fair on the sports player or the facility.”

Saunders’ main argument is that commercial operators have to charge more to sports players due to this ‘distortion’, which puts off the players from playing at commercial venues, which, she states, is why participation in sport is now lower than what it was before the 2012 Olympics.

“This also means that people who are building the sports facilities of the future in this country are being clobbered to death by the distorted nature of VAT,” she added.

“The chancellor treats sport with disdain. We’ve been campaigning for VAT to be reduced on sport to five percent, but last year the chancellor reduced VAT instead on bingo.”

Saunders accepted that David Cameron is likely to win the seat but stated that if he does people should lobby him to change the legislation on VAT in sport.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 20, 2015 10:44
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  1. golfschooluk May 8, 14:19

    Having worked in both Private and Proprietary golf clubs I can understand both sides of the argument.

    Proprietary clubs have seen their income drastically fall over that last 6 years due to the Olympic legacy (cycling and running are the winners), reduced money in pockets (recession) people working longer and harder (recession/house prices). Most proprietary clubs are more play and play oriented and beginner focused.

    Often these clubs are feeders to Private clubs as new golfers develop.

    VAT charged on all memberships and green fees

    Private clubs have seen membership numbers decline over the last 6 years due to similar reasons as Proprietary clubs, however the nomad golfer plays a huge extra roll. Private members clubs allow green fees WITHOUT a handicap certificates. As member clubs push for the green fee market and do not insist on a handicap to play, in the past golfers stuck to proprietary clubs, learnt the game, etiquette until their golf was at a level Members clubs would let them play, now we are all losing out.

    Proprietary clubs and Members clubs are both competing for the same client, one pays VAT the other does not, one is designed to make a profit to be shared by the owners the other for the benefit of its members.

    Which is right or wrong depends on the side of the fence you stand but my belief is if we all market to the same client it just becomes a price war and no one will benefit.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Bob Braban April 28, 07:08

    Hi Tony,

    Perfectly valid question. The PGA squeeze the absolute maximum amount of revenue out of TV coverage and at the moment the only TV company that can afford to pay the ransom is SKY. It may well be in the future that BT Sport will enter the arena, but there is little hope that the BBC will ever be able to afford the fee unless they go commercial.
    Although SKY is big business the number of UK subscribing households is relatively small so the sport is largely out of the public eye. TV showing live events is the best marketing you can get. Showing highlights, even when it is the only coverage available, does not have anything like the same impact. The effect is that golf is less and less in the public eye and although clubs can and absolutely must compensate as best they can by conducting their own local marketing programmes, the comparative impact is small.
    By keeping Golf off popular TV the PGA may be keeping its prize funds etc. at optimum level in the short term, but they too must suffer in future years if things continue as they are.

    Bob Braban

    Reply to this comment
    • GolfSec April 28, 11:12

      As a non-subscriber to Sky, I am gutted that BBC have lost the rights to show the Open live. However, I do not believe that the PGA are to blame…yet. The extra revenue generated from selling the rights to Sky has, so far, been promised as investment into the game at grass roots level. While I do not disagree that the best advertising is free to view live coverage, I think when looking at the figures of those who actually watched golf compared to those with Sky subscriptions, it will make little difference.

      Golf has an image problem in the UK, and no matter how much is put on free to view that will not change.

      As for Vivien, this is purely a publicity stunt and a load of nonsense at that. If she were really that worried about her golf clubs then she would spend a little more time looking closer to home to see why they are not competing as well against others. For a supposedly intelligent woman with an expert legal knowledge, she shows a distinct lack of that when it comes to VAT.

      Reply to this comment
      • Bob Braban April 28, 15:10

        Hi Mr Secretary,

        You’ll get no argument over Viv. A fine golfer but a serial moaner and in her position as a proprietor I would expect her to fight her corner to maximise profitability for her enterprise.

        As far as the PGA goes I have yet to see any reason to believe that they will compensate for the loss of wide TV coverage. During my lengthy involvement in marketing there has been ample evidence of a real surge in interest during periods of concentrated TV coverage of golf. Kids need role models. They want to be Wayne Rooney (perish the thought) because he is at the heart of the fight and scores goals. They want to be Rory McIllroy because they see him perform on the golf course, enjoy the admiration of his peers and win tournaments. Today’s kids watch TV and that’s where they get their inspiration. Very few read newspapers or magazines or even listen to the radio.

        Although there are some superb exceptions, the average golf club professional is more concerned with developing his business and making money than putting unpaid hours into youth development. There is really nothing wrong with that in today’s society. He is a professional trying to make the best living possible for his family. There is a great deal a pro can do to develop interest in golf in his local area, but finding examples of it actually happening is a little difficult. If the PGA changes that I shall be very surprised.


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  3. Bob Braban April 24, 19:23

    If Viv spent the same energy in fighting the PGA greed that helps to make Golf a minority sport now screened only by Sky she might just get a little sympathy. I understand that if she gets more than 25 votes David Cameron might feel pressured into dealing with her concerns and trying to boost her profits from her golf complex where her ability to manage her affairs like a business gives her an almost 20% advantage over members’ clubs.

    Bob Braban

    Reply to this comment
    • Tony April 27, 21:26

      Interested to know why you blame the greed of the PGA for golf becoming a minority sport? Is golf a minority sport? Why are Sky the villains when the Beeb have clearly shown little interest in golf in recent years.

      Reply to this comment
  4. pensioner pete April 23, 17:36

    Bingo is a sport – isn’t it? She obviously can afford a lost deposit

    Reply to this comment
  5. mike April 23, 15:35

    Never ceases to amaze me. Losing out on the VAT on visitors green fees against private members clubs! Now running against David Cameron! At least she might have more chance now

    Reply to this comment
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