Bookmakers may have to start paying their way - Monday 23rd of March 2009

Bookmakers head to Cheltenham this week rubbing their hands at the prospect of £500m of turnover. Profits from the next four days will also go a long way to providing the minimum £65m they must pay to horse racing through the annual levy.

But if sports bodies are successful in persuading the European Commission to adopt draft legislation currently being worked on in France, bookies will be forced to hand over a proportion of all sports-betting turnover to organisers.

The Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC) – a collective including the FA, the Premier League, Uefa, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the LTA – has seized on the development to push for the adoption Europe-wide of a 1% turnover levy on all sports bets.

That would be worth tens of millions to bodies who are calling for a "fair return" and demanding the levy as a means to tackle the growing threat of corruption in sport. "The threat of corruption and match-fixing poses major challenges for sports," said SROCs Nic Coward, who will be at Cheltenham this week as chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority. "It is also right that sport, right across the spectrum, with all that sport represents, receives a fair return. This French proposal is a huge move forward."

SROC hopes to influence the Commissions independent study investigating what would constitute a "sustainable financing model" for sport that was launched at the end of last year.

2018 mission hits Bristol

England 2018s World Cup bid yesterday made its first foray into the regions as Brian Mawhinney accompanied Simon Johnson and Ian Riley on a fact-finding mission to Bristol. Lord Mawhinney, the Football League chairman, Johnson, the England 2018 chief operating officer, and Riley, its director of technical bid, held meetings with the two Bristol clubs, the local authority and regional development agency. The England 2018 delegation was seeking feedback about stadium-development plans and how this could be reconciled with Fifas technical guidelines, which will be issued in mid-April. Further city visits are scheduled, with a trip to Nottingham tomorrow the next on the itinerary.

Taxman has tabs on Leeds

HM Revenue & Customs is monitoring a court action that is attempting to identify who controls the offshore companies around Leeds United. The taxman lost millions in the 2007 insolvency of the club that led to Ken Bates remaining as chairman, and the current court case taking place in Jersey may not be the last time the club faces legal scrutiny. This column revealed last week that Redbus Group, whose bid to take over Leeds was defeated by Bates, has consulted lawyers with a view to challenging Bates and his investment vehicle, his fellow directors at the time of the insolvency and the offshore company Astor Investments. Will the Revenue go down the same route? "HMRC are aware of the litigation in the Jersey Royal Court but we are not able to discuss possible implications while the matter is before the court," said a spokeswoman.

Bendtner loses boots

Nicklas Bendtner risked the wrath of the traffic wardens on Sunday as he sat in his vehicle signing autographs rather than obeying a green light. That annoyed the traffic behind him but not the children who were emboldened to approach him. The Dane would have done his image no harm as he handed over a pair of his lurid tangerine match boots to the first child to ask for his signature.

Pullein bet kills market

With Skybet sponsoring the inaugural Sports Journalists Association sports-betting writer of the year award, the bookmakers Stan James and Ladbrokes sought some publicity of their own by opening novelty books on who would win it. But Ladbrokes is said to have felt compelled to withdraw after a big bet on the Racing Posts Kevin Pullein. The fears were unfounded as Pullein did not walk away with the prize. It is understood the betting regulator, the Gambling Commission, has not been alerted.

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