Kicking the taxpayers while they’re down

I was just watching British football on TV. I was struck when I saw the jersey of one of the teams, Newcastle (see picture on right).

Every team has the logo of their main sponsor on the front of their jersey. In the case of Newcastle, it happens to be Northern Rock. If you’ve never heard of the name, don’t be too hard on yourself. They are relatively unknown in North America, but they’re a very large bank in the UK.

During the financial crisis, Northern Rock went bust. They had made such poor loans that their losses because unsustainable.  The government took over the bank in 2008 and has been the sole owner ever since.

The UK government, like many other European governments, is in really bad shape financially. They’re slashing spending and raising taxes (the national sales tax was just jacked from 17.5% to 20%).

Yet, in spite of all the hardships the government must impose on its population as part of much needed financial reforms, they still allow themselves to sponsor a football club. Does that make any sense? I don’t know how much they’re paying for that sponsorship, but it must a doozie.

As the government cuts services and lays off public servants, it doesn’t seem reasonable to be funding a football team.

We’ve been through these dilemmas in Canada too. Several years ago, the Quebec government made the decision to allow the Quebec Nordiques and the Montreal Expos to leave their province rather than offering government bailouts. Similarly, Manitoba let the Winnipeg Jets go.

When it comes down to saving hospitals or saving a sports team, the government needs to get its priorities straight. They owe it to their citizens.

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