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Inspire a Generation

Before I get into full flow, I would just like to say what a fantastic two weeks of sport we've just witnessed at London 2012 - so good in fact that it momentarily actually stopped me participating myself as I rushed home to put the telly on instead of riding my bike! I'm pretty sure that if any of you were as drawn into the Olympics as I was, you will agree that we did ourselves proud as a nation, not just with the exceptional sporting performances, but with every aspect of the games, from Lord Coe's vision and organisation, right down to the 1000's of volunteers who took to the streets of London to help. If it wasn't for the two days of Paralympics I'm booked in to see in London and the ensuing TV coverage, I'd think it's all over, but fortunately it's not quite...

It’s not customary for me to get on my soap box, but you might be mistaken for thinking that it is after my comments relating to the recent BBC Panorama programme and strong views a few months ago on the government’s decision to U-turn on ‘Pasty Tax’, yet stand fast on ‘Sports Nutrition Tax’. However, having just thoroughly enjoyed the Olympic coverage and revelled in the success of our GB athletes, once again I can’t just sit here in silence without expressing my views on this damaging contradictory government policy.

In October of this year, the government plan on slapping 20% VAT onto powdered energy and recovery drink formulations engineered by niche specialist companies like TORQ. Furthermore, they have come to this decision without adhering to the 12 weeks of consultation specified by their own code of practice. If you want to read previous articles on this subject, click on the links below:

http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/news/vat-energy-products

http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/news/pasty-tax-u-turn

These articles clearly explain our objection to this bizarre idea, but in light of the Olympic success we have all witnessed and the pride with which Mr Cameron quite rightly feels toward the UK heroes that have lifted the spirits of this nation, I feel that all of us should be aware of the hypocrisy that the implementation of this new tax would represent.

No one can deny the role that specialist sports nutrition brands like TORQ play in the development of athletic talent in the UK (and all over the world for that matter). My comments on the recent Panorama programme emphasised that TORQ isn’t here to service the wider population – our remit is clear – we are here to provide performance services to serious athletes and exercise enthusiasts. It’s a small focussed market and we’re not greedy, we’re not pushing relentlessly for wider appeal, we just want to ‘do something’ and ‘make a difference’ to the sporting elite. This is something we work tirelessly to achieve and the reason you’ll see a TORQ bottle in someone’s hand will in large part be because that person believes in our philosophy and wants the best tool available for the job in hand.

This new tax is aimed at punishing businesses like ours who are genuinely trying to ‘Inspire a Generation’. It’s an interesting juxtaposition isn’t it? Not only that, but they are punishing the generation that need to be inspired by adding 20% to the cost of performance nutrition they desperately need. The traditional stance of Customs and Excise was that Sports Nutrition products should be zero-rated (VAT free), because they represent a fundamental necessity for the specific athletic population, in the same way that food ingredients are a fundamental necessity for the wider general population. So what’s changed?

The recent Panorama programme highlighted how the big brands are distorting the marketplace and trying to fool the wider population into buying sports nutrition when the products have no relevance to them. Without fully understanding the context with which the government are acting, it could be argued that this has added fuel to the government’s campaign, but it’s actually totally irrelevant. Most big brand ready to drinks (RTD’s) have VAT on them anyway, so the government’s remit is purely and simply to tax niche companies producing powders and concentrates, most of whom are providing a genuine service to the nation’s elite sports people. Surely this can’t be right? It was never right, but in light of our recent Olympic success, surely it couldn’t be more wrong?

Mo Farah was obviously just one of the huge success stories of this Olympics and I just happened to catch an interview with him on BBC 1 the Sunday morning after he’d completed the double and won the 5,000m. He said during the interview that he’d achieved what he had through ‘hard graft and commitment’ and said that you ‘get out what you put in’ and wanted to send out a message to the kids of the nation that ‘anything is possible’. These are all pretty admirable qualities don’t you think? In fact they are qualities that all serious sports people have, because they understand through experience that success doesn’t come easily and that you need self belief and be prepared to work hard to get a result. Sport also teaches you how to deal with failure and it builds a stronger character. Surely these are qualities that Mr Cameron dreams of in his constituents at this time of deep recession?

We are in recession and the government needs money, there’s no denying that, but taxing our ‘inspired’ is morally wrong, because firstly there aren’t really many of them in relation to the wider population, secondly it won’t raise much money anyway, because companies like TORQ aren’t huge businesses and finally the notion is ultimately hypocrisy at its worst. It makes so much more sense to add 1% more tax to confectionary and biscuits for instance, so the VAT rate becomes 21% for these items. This will haul huge revenue in for the government and send out a positive inspired message to the nation that they have the health interests of the nation at heart. Or they could put 1% tax on cakes and flapjacks, because currently these are zero-rated. Are you going to notice a 1% tax on a cake?

In previous articles (those mentioned above) I mentioned many more reasons as to why we feel at TORQ that this tax is immoral, so please take the time to read them, but ultimately this says it all:

“Our customers generally have a very positive attitude to life, they are healthier than the average person, they take less sick days at work, are more productive when they are at work than their sedentary counterparts and most importantly, they put fewer demands on the National Health Service.”

Put this into the melting pot too and surely most of you would agree that something has to be done? We’re not taking all the credit for our Olympic successes of course, we’re just a small cog in a huge wheel, but these cogs need to be lubricated and if the Olympics is to inspire a generation, barriers do not need putting in the way.

There are 2 e-petitions that we know of and we have asked you if you would mind signing the first one already:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31893  - this one has only 3,600 entries

The second one seems to have had a much bigger response (and we haven’t advertised this before):

http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/vatonsportsdrinks - this one has 36,300 entries

We would argue that the relatively small numbers involved here isn’t a reflection of people’s apathy towards the situation, but perhaps further confirmation for the government that their proposals are effecting a very small group of exercise enthusiasts who feel very passionate about this.

If you've read this far and agree with us, please help the current and future generations of serious athletes by taking the time to sign these petitions, it only takes a minute for the first one and 10 secods for the second!