In what is turning out to be a disastrous season for Steve Lansdown’s expensive ego trip Bristol Sport, it is impossible, and I would suggest downright wrong, for those of us who little time for Guernsey’s finest (legal) tax avoider to not to have a little gloat. I start from the position that every pound Lansdown saves by avoiding pay UK taxes means that the rest of us, especially those of us at the bottom of the pay ladder, have to pay even more. If the exchequer is short of cash, there will be more people lying on trolleys in hospital corridors because of the collapse in social care. He is not the only seriously rich individual who seeks to minimise his tax bill – I suspect many, if not most rich folk do – but at a time when both his lavishly funded sports franchises are struggling and the creaks in our society are becoming more serious, I can have no sympathy for him whatsoever.
The fact that both Bristol City are knocking on the door of League One and Bristol Rugby are poised to rejoin the Championship cannot be a coincidence. Bristol City started off well, subsequently collapsed and manager Lee Johnson, who appears to the outsider as hopelessly out of his depth, appears lacking in firefighting skills. Bristol Rugby, coached by Andy Robinson, who seemed to most people as the day before yesterday’s man, started off badly and stayed bad. Something has obviously gone horribly wrong at the football club whereas a blind man would have seen what was coming down the line to the rugby club.
If both franchises are floundering, then who is to blame? I suppose you can attach all the blame to the managers, coaches and players, but who is managing the managers and coaches and who is signing the players? With Lansdown’s millions at their disposal, it seems incredible that Bristol Sport is facing a double relegation. I realise that there nowadays mobile phones and computers for the likes of Lansdown to communicate with his minions, but is there really a substitute for hands-on management?
I have been asked what I would do if I was Lansdown, a highly likely scenario. Would I avoid tax, like he does, and delegate responsibility to others, like my son? The hypothetical question is, I know, nonsensical since I will never be in possession of sufficient funds to own a football club, except perhaps on a computer game, but I’ll give an honest answer. If I had Lansdown’s money, I wouldn’t spend a penny of it on any sports club but if I’d had a brain storm and done exactly that, I would not base myself in a tax haven. How much is enough for a billionaire? It simply comes down to greed and not giving a toss about those less wealthy than you. I’d like to think I’m a bit better than that.
At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Lansdown. Even though things are pretty grim now, at least he will have one team in the Championship next season.