The organisers of the recent Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace had hoped to stage the first 100 metres head-to-head of the season between Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell but Bolt, the triple Olympic champion, decided to shun the meeting because it would expose him to a huge tax bill.
Since April 2011 foreign sports stars competing in Britain are liable for a top-rate of income tax but, controversially, they are taxed not only on prize money earned in the UK but also on a proportion of their global endorsement income, calculated on the proportion of events in which they play in Britain. If, for example, Bolt were to race 10 times in a year with just one event in the UK, the taxman would claim 10 per cent of his multi-million dollar earnings at a top rate of 50%.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that such punitive measures, ones which impact especially upon athletes, tennis players and golfers, are good neither for the individuals involved, nor for those who host international sporting events – nor for the British public who are increasingly deprived of opportunities to see the world’s best compete in British competitions.
And where does all of this sit within the drive to promote philanthropy? The world’s biggest sports stars are well-placed to play their part in philanthropic enterprise. But they need help and encouragement. Time surely for a major re-think?