Sunderland chiefs looking to reduce business rate and police costs bills

Chiefs at Sunderland AFC say they are to look at the club's policing bill and the business rates its pays as part of a bid to reduce costs.
SAFC Director Charlie MethvenSAFC Director Charlie Methven
SAFC Director Charlie Methven

Black Cats executive director Charlie Methven has told the Echo that the club will look to appeal its £2million business rates bill, claiming its back-to-back relegations to League One has resulted in a hugely reduced income.

SAFC’s rates are around the £2million mark, which are much higher than their third tier rivals who typically pay about £80,000.

Stadium of LightStadium of Light
Stadium of Light
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The club hierarchy is also looking at how much it pays Northumbria Police after being handed a bill of £347,618 from the organisation, a figure which is more than double what nearby Newcastle United paid at £167,613, despite the Magpies having an average attendance which is almost twice as high as Sunderland’s last season.

Sunderland had a turnover of £123million when the club was last in the Premier League in 2016/17, but that has plummeted dramatically following two demotions in a row.

Mr Methven said: “If you look at the business rates bill, it’s at £2million a year but in regards to our turnover, that’s £17million a year.

“To be spending near enough an eighth of your turnover on business rates, that’s way out of kilter.

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“There are national guidelines, but if you look at large Championship clubs, they are paying about £500,000 a year so for Sunderland to be paying four times that is bizarre.

“Successive relegations mean this is not a profitable business, it’s a loss-making business.”
He added: “It’s absolutely right that businesses should pay business rates and of course I’m comfortable with Sunderland paying its fair share.

“Together with the Foundation of Light we’d like to think that the club contributes to the community.

“We are not trying to disavow our responsibilities but it’s a two-way street.

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“It’s important the club gets promoted as quickly as possible back to the Championship first so that we have bigger clubs coming to play here.”

Earlier this month it was revealed that Wigan Athletic, who have been relegated three times in the past six years, have gone to court to challenge their business rates.

The Latics are arguing that they should pay less because the taxman has failed to account for the catastrophic loss of value sustained when dropping down a division.

Business rate evaluations were conducted last year for the first time since 2010, and are not due to be done again until 2021.

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As part of an appeal to the lands chamber division of the upper tribunal, the court that hears rates appeals, Wigan argue that after their relegation to League One in 2015, they were paying more than six times the average business rates bill of other clubs in that division.

Wigan’s legal team argues that the average League One club paid about £88,000 a year in 2015-16, but Wigan’s bill was nearly £600,000.

A decision of Wigan’s appeal, the outcome of which could set a precedent for other clubs including Sunderland, is expected next month.

With regards to the police bill, Mr Methven said: “Going forward we’d like to see a more reciprocal situation.

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“Our matches need to be policed, but it’s hard to believe that our bill should be twice as much as Newcastle’s when they had twice as many spectators.”

Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt of Northumbria Police said: “The cost of policing is based upon rates set by the Home Office and not by Northumbria Police.

“All bills relating to policing football matches are then agreed with the football clubs.

“We have already praised fans of both Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC for their good behaviour over the course of last season and we had very little trouble at either St James’ Park or the Stadium of Light.

“Our football fans are among some of the most passionate in the world and are a real credit to the region. We are looking forward to working with them again when the season starts next month.”