I’ve been asked to share the following statement on behalf of the Walsall Football Supporters Trust:
Walsall Supporters Trust has access to expert Pensions Advice that particularly applies to SIPPs and SSAS.
As most supporters know the freehold of Bescot/Banks Stadium is owned by the SIPPs of Jeffrey Bonser and Robert Bonser and is leased to the football club. A rent of £440000 per annum is often quoted, that is the amount shown in the latest Accounts.
However, we believe that a small amount of this is the cost of rent for the Training Ground which not owned by the Pension Scheme.
Over recent years there have been comments from supporters with regard to the rent and calls for a “rent holiday”. This was covered by a working party meeting with in the last year. Changes in Inland Revenue rules in 2006 now allow a Pension Scheme to do anything whilst before that date there were specific rules that could not be broken.
However, the Rules were replaced by extreme financial penalties which would practically impose a very high price for rent not being collected. The non-collection or “rent holiday” would be treated as an unauthorised payment by the Revenue with a fine of 55% of the amount involved. A fine of £220000 plus non-collection of say £400000 is a lot of money. It also may not end there as if HMRC felt that more action was required that can remove the tax approval of the pension scheme which would require the repayment of all the tax allowances received during the lifetime of the pension scheme. It would in fact decimate the scheme.
Nevertheless, there is an action which we believe could be taken to reduce the rent if Jeffrey and Robert Bonser wished. The Saddlers Club has been unoccupied for a year and we understand that the rent to the Football Club of £37000 per annum had not been paid by the Supporters Club because of their financial difficulties. We believe that the Football Club do not expect to receive rent for some years and that, in any case, the building requires considerable money to spent in repairs and decoration to bring it up to a condition to allow it to be re-let.
We believe that Inland Revenue Pension Rules would allow this building, the former home of the Saddlers Club, to be taken back into the SIPPs and the Lease between the Football Club altered with the rent being reduced accordingly.
Pension rules are very complicated and we feel that it is almost certain that Jeff and Robert Bonser are unaware of the above. It would in fact be only a minor adjustment to the Rent but nevertheless it would be something.
We will inform the Directors of the Club so that this matter can be considered.
Trevor Reece (acting Chair)