Rugby Union: Growing row over taxation inquiries

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JOHN PERKINS, the Pontypool chairman, yesterday hit out at the declaration by Dudley Wood, secretary of the Rugby Football Union, that the taxman is 'doing our job for us'. Perkins was responding to the investigation by the Inland Revenue into payments to players by clubs throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

'That attitude is no good to anyone,' Perkins said. 'The leaders of our game should dictate which way we should go and not sit back and say that somebody else is doing their job for them. As far as I understand, every big club in Wales has been investigated and as far as Pontypool are concerned there are no areas of concern.'

The investigation is causing foreboding among top clubs. 'It may lead to a decision as to whether the game should go professional or not,' Perkins said. 'I have feared for some time that rugby union could find itself in difficulties and it is up to the rugby authorities to tell us what we should and shouldn't do and for the clubs to abide by their ruling, as long as it is the same for everybody. While I've no worries on this score for Pontypool, I fear for some clubs who may go to the wall if they have to pay big money to the Revenue.'

One anonymous Heineken First Division club, the subject of an undercover investigation, are believed to have already admitted owing tax in the region of pounds 12,000. The club have decided to introduce a PAYE system for their players for work as development officers. The Welsh Rugby Union has approved the idea but is calling a special meeting with all clubs this month to notify officials of their responsibilities in tax matters and the prevailing amateur regulations.

What worries many clubs is that former players, some having turned to rugby league, are prepared to reveal how they were paid as union players in return for a tax amnesty.