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Sporting charities

Recent publicity surrounding funding of local sports clubs following the decision in Travis Trust , highlights the difficulties that exist for sporting bodies that seek registration as a charity.

While many sporting bodies are registered as tax charities, the charitable status of many sports is as best unclear.

One way this could be addressed would be to amend the Charities Act 2005 (“the Act”).  Although this Act largely restates how matters existed before the rules were recorded in legislation, charity law was amended for New Zealand purposes when the Act was passed so that a charity will not fail the public benefit test only because the charitable purpose is limited to favouring specified blood lines, an issue that had been of major concern to the Maori community.  At the time that decision was made, it was decided not to amend the definition of charity to specifically include sporting bodies, that matter being left to be dealt with by the legislation that governs gaming trusts.  Current uncertainty suggests that this approach has not been satisfactory.

Accepting the recognised public benefits of improved physical fitness and recognising changing social behaviours means serious consideration should now be given to amending the Act to confirm that the promotion of amateur sport can have a charitable purpose.  This happened in the United Kingdom in 2006.   Given the place of sport in New Zealand culture and a healthy community, it is timely and appropriate to amend the definition of charitable purpose to include the promotion of amateur sport within the community.

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