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No more secrets - football and financial transparency

By Andrew Hogg | 14 March 2012

Two years ago, Christian Aid used the offshore ownership of leading British football clubs as a lens through which to look at financial secrecy, how it works, and the damage it does not just to football but to millions of people living in developing countries.

Now, with two great British clubs - Rangers and Portsmouth - languishing in administration, our report, entitled Blowing the Whistle, has been in the news again thanks to a blog post by Channel 4 News reporter, Alex Thomson.

Download  Christian Aid's report, Blowing the Whistle

There seems little at first glance to link impassioned Scottish and English football fans and the poor and powerless in the developing world.

Twic Olympic competitorsBut there is a connection. While the differences between their lives are vast, football fans and those in need in poor countries are victims of the same phenomenon – the use of financial secrecy by business entities in a way that minimises their tax liabilities and accountability.

This secrecy – core to which is the anonymity offered by tax havens – has hidden the financial meltdown of a number of football clubs from view until too late.

And in the developing world, the same web of secrecy is used by unscrupulous companies to dodge tax – Christian Aid estimates to the tune of $160bn a year, more than poor countries receive in international aid. 

Of course, we're not saying football is in any way making global poverty worse. We are simply using football to illustrate the scale of the problem.

So, using the current headline-making examples, the majority shareholders of Portsmouth were, at the time we published Blowing the Whistle, widely reported to be based in the British Virgin Islands, while the majority shareholders for Rangers were registered in Jersey.

Our campaign is about calling for an end to the secrecy tax havens offer.

After all, for millions of people, this really could be a matter of life and death. 


Take action!

Act now!Write to David Cameron now and ask him to work for tax justice at the G20 in June.


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 About the author

Andrew Hogg is Christian Aid's news editor