Wigan Athletic have lost a tax appeal in the High Court over the level of business rates that they pay for the DW Stadium despite the Judge warning that business rates were “no longer fit for purpose” for professional football clubs.
In the space of three seasons Wigan were relegated from the Premier League to League One, before ultimately being promoted back to the Championship in 2017/2018 after a further spell in League One in between.
The Latics told the Court that their relegation had constituted a ‘material change of circumstance’ for tax purposes entitling them to far lower business rates.
The side, currently fighting relegation from the second tier, sought to have the rateable value of the stadium, used to calculate the business rates paid, reduced from £1.1 million to £255,000 from December 2015 until all properties in England and Wales were then revalued on 1st April 2017.
Wigan Athletic told the Court that the relegation had reduced the club’s income, including television money, from £58.46 million during 2012/13 when the club was in the Premier League to £18.02 million whilst in League One during 2015/16 despite a parachute payment of £11.71 million.
The former Premier League club have argued for the last 4 years that, since its league status was crucial to the rateable value when the Rating List was compiled, the List became inaccurate when the club was relegated, and should have been changed. A host of former Premier League clubs, including Sunderland, were waiting on the outcome of the appeal.
But the High Court, dismissing the appeal from the Valuation Tribunal, held that a change in a team’s performance, however dramatic, could not be “shoe-horned” into the statutory criteria for a material change of circumstances quashing the club’s hope of a £541,754 rebate.
However, Judge Cooke said “the method (of valuing stadiums) does not seem to us to be fit for purpose any longer given the fundamental changes in the finances of professional football in England and Wales since the introduction of the current league structure and the importance of broadcasting rights in the calculation of fair maintainable trade.”
Robert Hayton, Head of UK business rates at Altus Group, said it was important to remember that it was “the stadium being assessed for tax rather than the club” adding “the cause for concern by the club were purely economical rather than physical but had been exacerbated by the successive relegation coinciding with the Government’s unprecedented decision to delay the revaluation from 2015 to 2017 meaning the club paid artificially high rates for an additional 2 years.”