Archive documents and data about the so-called entertainment tax are an interesting and surprising source for research into football history. In the Netherlands in the twentieth century, every municipality could determine whether this tax was levied and for what entertainment. This usually concerned a levy for visits to cinemas, exhibitions, theater performances and sports performances. As the most practiced sport, football always had the largest share, although it was still much less than the proceeds from cinema visitors. This local tax ended in the late 1970s. Since then, initiatives for reintroduction have been launched in some municipalities, for example recently in Zandvoort for the Formula 1 races on the car circuit. There is however no discussion about an extra tax on tickets to cover the government costs for the organization of professional football matches.
Using entertainment tax resources in education can not only help to learn more about local football history and clubs. It is also a nice approach for a lesson on public finances as an example of taxation for the incomes of a municipality or for an explanation of the functioning of budgets and annual accounts with expected and actual income. Besides that, it is also a chance to use another archival source for football history than the more predictable old newspapers and magazines or club archives. As a disadvantage, it does mean more preparation and research in advance by the teacher, but education staff at archive institutions can often help with this. You can ask whether there has been this tax levy and which records have been kept about it. I only know the practice in the Netherlands well, but I do know that a similar tax existed in other countries as well. With some examples that I have used in my own research into local football history, I hereby provide a starting point for the use of these archive sources.
As early as 1851, the Dutch municipal law included the tax on stage shows and other public entertainment as part of local taxes. Since then, the proceeds could be used to cover local expenses and were no longer specifically intended for the poor. Each municipality could determine for itself whether this tax was levied, which entertainments it concerned, at what rate and for which an exemption applied. Most municipalities did this in the early twentieth century, generally charging for cinemas, exhibitions, sports, theatrical and other performances. The levy took place through the issue of municipal admission tickets or through a levy based on the contribution or surface of the area. The levy on admission tickets, ranging from 20% to 35% of the price, was the largest source of income. With the increasing popularity and more and more spectators, football clubs also had to deal with this tax.
Raising the rates sometimes caused a conflict between the municipality and the organizers of entertainment. It was mainly cinemas that had to deal with high rates and opposed this. In 1921, the football clubs in the municipality of Hilversum showed solidarity with the resistance of the local cinemas and theatres against the rate increase from 20% to 40%. All cinemas, theaters and sports institutions closed their doors for three months, so that the municipality an the end withdrew the decision. The local footbalclubs ‘t Gooi, FC Hilversum and Victoria therefore only played away games for more than three months, with the full support of the national football association.
Like this example, more stories about local football history can be found on the basis of ‘boring’ tax files in the local archive. Depending on what has been preserved, information can be found in these sources about the existence of the football clubs, the numbers of spectators and possibly also the location of the football field.
Local example: ‘s-Hertogenbosch
In 1921, the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch adopted the ordinance for the levying of tax on entertainment. In the 1920s and 1930s, the income for the municipal treasury grew strongly, to over 50,000 guilders in 1935. In 1939 about 14,000 tickets for sports matches were sold, compared with 328,226 cinema tickets. The small share of sports and especially football in ‘s-Hertogenbosch had everything to do with the location of the football fields of the best and biggest football clubs in ‘s-Hertogenbosch: Wilhelmina (until 1926) and BVV played their home games in the neighboring municipality of Vught, where good playing fields were available. And so the tax proceeds from the well-attended matches of the best football clubs of the big city went to this small municipality. In 1926 Wilhelmina moved to a new sports field behind the station, as the start of the expansion of ‘s-Hertogenbosch towards the west.
The entertainment tax was also the main reason for the ongoing battle between Vught and ‘s-Hertogenbosch for the establishment of BVV within the municipal boundaries. The argument came up regularly in the council meetings in discussions about support for BVV. The football club knew this of course and regularly used its position to obtain a favorable settlement. In 1935, the football club played both municipalities off against each other by setting high standards for a new playing field in the city and asking Vught for a loan.
After the Second World War, the municipality of ‘s-Hertogenbosch finally succeeded in getting BVV within its own city limits with the plans for a completely new sports facility. Stadium De Vliert, one of the largest in the Netherlands at the time, was opened in 1951. But coincidentally, BVV experienced the biggest sporting successes just at the end of the forties, when it still played in Vught. In 1946, sports competitions raised f7,700 in tax and when BVV became national champion in 1948, sports and championship competitions resulted in f13,100 and f9,800 respectively in the municipal budget. In 1950 things were clearly less well with BVV in sport and financial terms, but certainly after the arrival of professional football in 1954, the municipality of ‘s-Hertogenbosch finally had an extra source of income.
From when and in what form was the local government more involved in football, in addition to possibly receiving tax money? Was it, for example, through a subsidy, granting permits or for the construction of football fields?
Should the costs of organizing football matches and receiving visitors from the home and away club be subject to a new, additional form of taxation for the club or spectators?