Prospective buyers of Man United will have HMRC to answer to

IN THE MONEY: Prospective buyers of Man United will have HMRC to answer to as club’s tax issues rumble on, Brighton pay £3m to firm which helps owner Tony Bloom rake in millions gambling… PLUS Ennis-Hill’s fitness brand goes from strength to strength

  • Manchester United’s issues with the taxman rumble on over a disputed bill
  • Brighton’s accounts reveal a £3m fee paid to a data firm with helps Tony Bloom
  • Analysis of the 18 first-class counties’ books reveal debts totalling £366m 

Manchester United’s new owners potentially face a battle with HMRC as soon as they take the reins of the club, should the Glazers end up parting ways with their asset.

Issues that have rumbled on for some years between the club and the country’s tax authority are not nearer being resolved, with it likely no owner will want the issue to rumble on.

It has been revealed, meanwhile, that Brighton spent £3million on the services of a data firm that helps owner Tony Bloom rake in millions gambling professionally.

Manchester United’s prospective owners potentially face a battle with HMRC when they arrive

Tax issues rumble on for Manchester United 

Prospective buyers of Manchester United, including advisors to Sheikh Jassim of Qatar, and Sir Jim Ratcliffe, will have been told the extent to which United may still be on the hook to HMRC for unpaid tax.

United face a multi-million payout to HMRC and have been locked in discussions for several years over issues including image rights payments, player tax and agent money. The tab won’t dissuade bidders apparently prepared to spend £5billion plus to buy the club. It’s probably only going to be a few million. But no new owner will want the issue to drag on.

HMRC are also investigating whether David Gold’s shares in West Ham are liable for inheritance tax.

The late Gold held a 25.1 per cent stake in the Hammers worth £175m. Based on an inheritance tax rate of 40 per cent, that could mean a £70m bill. Around 18 per cent of Gold’s shares were held in his name with the remainder placed in a family trust.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is one of the names looking to purchase Manchester United from the Glazers

Brighton spend £3m on data firm linked to board

It appears that Brighton’s faith in data is every bit as strong as that of club owner and professional gambler Tony Bloom, with the Seagulls spending £3million last season on fees to the same firm that helps Bloom win millions in football bets each year.

The £3m figure was revealed in the club’s latest accounts and while Brighton won’t specify what exactly they received from StarLizard, the latter’s company website lists three main ‘products’: data, sporting predictions and bet execution.

Bloom is nicknamed The Lizard because of his cold-blooded brilliance in high-stakes professional poker tournaments and football betting. He does not own StarLizard but is associated with those who do, Adam Franks and Marc Sugarman. The pair are non-executive directors at the club.

StarLizard provides bespoke intelligence to professional gamblers and others to gain an edge. SportLizard’s best-in-class services provide the knowledge that allows Bloom’s betting syndicate to make steady returns on football betting. They reportedly annually wager hundreds of millions of pounds, mostly in Asian markets, making returns of one to three per cent.

Tony Bloom – a professional gambler – uses the services of the firm to help him with his betting

Brighton, it is presumed, paid StarLizard for data on players or teams. It seems money well spent as Brighton managed the highest league finish in the club’s history (ninth) and now eye Europe. 

StarLizard’s LinkedIn page makes no bones that they help pro gamblers beat the odds. It says: ‘StarLizard combines innovative research, analytical thought, world class technology and a constant desire to question and improve.’

Gambling is banned for all footballers, clubs and executives, although Bloom is allowed to be a pro gambler in football, as is Brentford’s owner Matt Benham, while Stoke City’s Denise Coates can also own Bet365 — all under rules tweaked by the FA in 2014.

Brighton’s CEO Paul Barber is also in the money. His salary has almost doubled in three years from £1.5m in 2019 to £2.9m last season.

Ennis-Hill enjoys huge success off the track

London 2012 heptathlon Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill is enjoying huge success off the track, with her start-up company boasting assets of £2.1million. The face of the 2012 London Games has grown her Jennis fitness app, designed to consider the female hormonal cycle to boost athletic performance. 

Assets in Jennis rose £1.6m last year after raising £1m in 2021 to fuel growth and fund research into the impact of periods on female athletes. Ennis launched the app following her own experiences, when she won a third world title in 2015 after giving birth in 2014. 

First-class counties face astronomic debts

The 18 first-class cricket counties have combined debts of £366million, an In The Money analysis can reveal.

With the 2023 Championship due to start on Thursday, that figure is indicative of how badly cricket was affected by the pandemic and how long it’s taking to recover.

We analysed the latest financial accounts for the 18 counties and eight teams posted annual losses, led by Yorkshire (£2.2m), Hampshire (£1.5m) and Middlesex (£1million). Ten of the counties have debts larger than their annual turnovers.

The possibility that crisis county Yorkshire might go into administration is a concern, and the majority of teams would be unable to operate as viable businesses without the financial backing of their owners.

What assets counties have — a combined £462.3m — are largely tied up in the grounds.

The 18 first-class counties in England and Wales have combined debts totalling over £300m

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