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Nadal's reluctant 'adios' to Queen's 2012

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Jonathan Overend | 18:18 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

When Wimbledon's chief executive Ian Ritchie voiced concerns in April that complex tax rules could deter athletes from competing in Britain, he was imagining a situation precisely like this.

Rafael Nadal has decided not to renew his agreement with the AEGON Championships at London's Queen's Club, opting instead to sign a new deal with the rival grass-court tournament in Halle, Germany.

The world number two, a former Queen's and Wimbledon champion, believes that the UK tax system is too harshly weighted against visiting athletes in individual sports.

So, despite frequently talking about his love of the Queen's Club, and the convenience of spending the Wimbledon build-up in the same city, he's off to Germany instead.

Rafael Nadal playing in Queens, 2011

Rafael Nadal won't be appearing at 2012 the AEGON Championships at Queen's Club. Photo: Getty

It shows how serious athletes are becoming about this increasingly thorny issue.

UK tax rules state that in addition to tax paid on prize money and appearance fees, visiting athletes have to hand over a chunk of their international endorsement earnings.

This amount, regardless of whether earned at home or abroad, is proportional to the time they spend in the UK.

It means Nadal, who normally spends four weeks in London over the grass-court summer and then returns to the capital for almost two weeks in November for the ATP World Tour Finals, hands over a chunk of his earnings from sponsors such as Nike and Babolat to HMRC.

He claims he actually loses money from his week at Queen's and, while nobody knows exactly how much he earns in sponsorship, this comment suggests it's a king's ransom.

Tennis has been concerned about this for several years and officials have been lobbying the government quietly behind the scenes.

Other individual sports are affected and when Usain Bolt pulled out of the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace, the Jamaican was believed to have similar concerns.

Ritchie said in April: "I think the overarching view is that what will happen is that these guys will choose not to come. It seems unfair individual athletes are subject to the taxation, while stars in team sports such as soccer are not."

It is believed Queen's officials are adamant that Nadal's defection is purely because of the tax issue. They are confident they could have resisted Halle's approach for Nadal with a new deal of their own.

The Spaniard's defection is a major blow but the tournament will still have an excellent field, with Andy Murray defending his title.

I wonder if there will be future concerns about staging the ATP World Tour Finals in London if the government refuses to alter the system, although I gather it's possible a change could be made to treat the Finals as an "exempt" event, as the Olympics will be next year.

This would certainly be progress in the attempt to keep international superstars such as Nadal competing on these shores.

Jonathan had more on this story, and other major events in the world of tennis, on 5 live Sport and you can download the programme as a podcast:


  • Comment number 1.

    sad, the problem is the shallow sighted people at HMRC only look at their balance books but fail to see all the other good that having world class athletes do for the country.

  • Comment number 2.

    Yep, sounds like an English problem alright. In fact, why even bother working until the oh-so-late hour of 5pm after which the entire work-force of the country go offline? Just tax the hell out of anything that moves, breathes or grows.

  • Comment number 3.

    Yes it must be hard having to give over what is essentially pocket change for the PRIVILEGE of playing in a great traditional tennis tournament. What's Nadal make a year? Millions and millions. I could understand this if it was a lesser sport or a lesser competitor.

    And I wouldn't normally be one point this out... but, oh my goodness I have never seen so many punctuation mistakes in a blog on the BBC. Any jobs going for proof readers?

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh and allow me to congratulate you on this gem:

    "I wonder there will be future concerns about staging the ATP World Tour Finals in London if government refuses to change the system."

    I guess a "whether" got lost in, er, copy-and-paste, somehow, but the number of mistakes appearing all over this website is getting ridiculous. There's practically a factual, grammatical or typing error in every other article on this self-proclaimed beacon of journalism.

  • Comment number 5.

    comment 3
    Says the person who puts three full stops together

  • Comment number 6.

    Have you really never heard of an ellipsis or am I missing some complex joke you are making?

    That being said, amounts don't matter. Why should someone lose money to play in Wimbledon? HMRC are incredibly short-sighted...

  • Comment number 7.

    This is a real shame. I used to really, really like Nadal for lots of different reasons. I'll give you an example. At the 2008 beijing olympics Nadal, unlike virtually all the other 'stars' of the professional sporting world (who should clearly never be competing at what is supposed to be an amateur event but thats another argument), decided to stay with the rest of his national team in the athletes village. Not for him 5* luxury. Quite right too. Proper touch of class if you ask me. Ruined now in one money grabbing fell swoop. As i say, it's a real shame because it means he is just like ALL the rest after all. I struggle to think of one single, genuine, decent sportsman. Sad. So sad.

  • Comment number 8.

    Put yourself in Nadal's shoes. If you were Rafael Nadal you would do the same thing. Why should he be out of pocket as he sees it? Same with Usain Bolt.

    Why is it different for an individual sport? Surely if the same rules applied to football, it could clear some national debt? haha

  • Comment number 9.

    I don't know how anyone can knock Nadal for choosing NOT to hand over a wad of cash to another Government on top of the tax he'd pay for any winnings.

    If he was to be knocked out in the early stages of the tournament, he'd end up paying more money as tax on his sponsorship deals for the period of time in the country, than he'd take home in taxed winnings ....

    How many of you would go on a business trip abroad if it not only cost you your salary, but more on top ... (lots of treble full stops here, but I'm not a paid journalist !)

  • Comment number 10.

    thewhitewizard - I fail to see why this makes Nadal a money grabber? Why should he hand over money to the HMRC for earnings made outwith the UK? Fair enough being taxed for Queens, Wimbledon & the tour finals but why should he be taxed for his sponsorships?

  • Comment number 11.

    While I don't blame Nadal for choosing to make more money in Germany, I don't see why the HMRC should give him free cash. If it's enough money for Nadal to care about (at least 5 figures, probably 6) then I'd rather him pay it than me.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ 3.
    At 21:17 13th Oct 2011, Padds31

    "What's Nadal make a year?"

    "Any jobs going for proof readers?"

    I suggest you don't apply.

  • Comment number 13.

    Until people in this country realise we cannot have a European level of public welfare, paid for by an American style of taxation, things like this will happen.
    The super rich can no longer pay for our superb standard of education, health, policing and military, the squeeze simply must be felt by the privileged middle class. The quicker we learn this the better.

  • Comment number 14.

    If Queens is so deeply unacceptable to Nadal, why not Wimbledon? More prize money yes, but also a longer stay working in the UK.

    I would have thought by Nadal's point in his career building up records like most wins at Queens would mean more than a few extra euros. Puzzling. Its not as if the German taxation system is overly generous after all - is the relatively small difference in income really worth it?

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm definitely no tax expert but I suspect the tax laws were aimed at the likes of bankers who migrated around the world during a tax year and the tax man wants to treat all foreign nationals who earn a living in the country equally. Sports people may have better PR than bankers but it's right that they are treated the same. Would you be happy at bankers paying less tax if the rules were changed to accomodate the likes of Nadal and Bolt?

  • Comment number 16.

    Why all the fuss! It is just market forces at work. It is not as if Nadal is sitting on his backside doing nothing during Queens - in some sort of greedy huff that he is not making tons of money. He is playing at another venue just as prestigious as Queens and as helpful in his preparations for Wimbledon. We are always talking about companies not moving to the UK for tax reasons. We don't accuse them of being greedy because they do not choose to come to Britain and lose money - we try to change our laws to make us more attractive!

  • Comment number 17.

    @12 Hate to pick up on a picker, but "what's", as a contraction of 'what does' is entirely reasonable.

  • Comment number 18.

    But I agree that the BBC articles have been badly dropping off in the quality of grammar and increasing spelling errors, all over the place.

    Gizzajob, Beeb. I'm starving here, and I could be getting paid to help someone spell and punctuate correctly.

  • Comment number 19.

    Typicallly poorly thought out and inconsistent HMRC rule. They now say any foreigner who works in the UK for 10 days in a year may be treated as resident in the UK for tax purposes. This is causing problems for conference hosts as well as putting off foreign companies having operations here as visiting executives can fall foul of this rule.

  • Comment number 20.

    @3 So you're one of these people who thinks that sportsmen and women are purely there for our entertainment and they should feel privileged that we care to watch? As an ex-international athlete and because this is a BBC forum I'm going to be diplomatic and tell you that's a relatively blinkered view. Sure, many sportsmen crave the idea of earning loads of money and being adored like a god and there are some sports that promote this in athletes more than others. However, to burst your bubble, have you considered that this is not only their job and one that they can only do at the top of their game until their early-mid thirties, but that to be a professional in golf and tennis these days (where players earn prize money instead of wages from clubs) parents and families have to focus all of their support, earnings, mortgages and loans onto hoping their talented children can achieve their goals and potential? No, I bet you didn't. I went to school with a professional tennis player currently doing quite well on the tour and his whole family upped sticks and moved to the other side of the world just so that he could have a shot at being a professional tennis player. That's called dedication, motivation and pride. Not greed and arrogance. So the next time you watch Nadal, remember that it's likely he will have to retire earlier than most because of the strain on his already aching body and ask yourself: what then? To have to give up the game he loves and everything he's known and worked towards at the age of just 32 or 33 is like you being made redundant from your job at the same age and told you can't return to do the same job. I bet the you would wish you hadn't been taxed so much!

  • Comment number 21.

    Pads31 - If you want to be a proof reader I suggest you learn how to write. Six lines written with six mistakes made. Way to go son, a great example set.

  • Comment number 22.

    3 and 7...surely your comments are flawed! As has been pointed out, you would not travel to a place where you would be taxed to the point where you would end up significantly out of pocket for having made the trip would you? So why should you blame Nadal for doing the same?

    Work it out...he probably gets around GBP10 mill per annum in endorsements and spends 7 weeks in London with Queen's Wimbledon and the masters. That would equate to him having to pay extra tax on 14% of those endorsements, GBP1.4 million. That would eventually equate to a significant amount of extra tax to pay not forgetting that he is also being taxed on in his home country. He doesn't live in a tax haven either so why should he pay double tax? Would you?

    14...Missing Queen's is a disppointment yes, but let's not forget that Federer has always used Halle as his warm up tournament for Wimbledon and he just happens to be considered the best grass court player out there. So it's not like he is choosing a tournament which offers no competition to him. Wimbledon is a Grand Slam, Queen's is not. Players look at their records in Majors at the end of their careers, not how they did in warm up tournaments.

    If Queen's was a Masters Series tournament I am sure you would still see Nadal playing in it, but when there is an equal tournament on the same week which means he can lessen a tax bill from a country he doesn't reside in, why not take up that option? 99% of human beings would!

  • Comment number 23.

    Oh...and I agree that the grammer on the article is pretty shocking. Obviously the proof reader is on his day off.

  • Comment number 24.

    Queens should just be glad it won't have to put up with this moonballing wastrel this year. Poor Halle!

  • Comment number 25.

    Poor Nadal, earns millions and millions and has to pay a high tax rate leaving him left with..........millions and millions. My heart bleeds. Oh and he's currently plastered across London buses advertising for Armani. I'm sure he gets peanuts for that.

  • Comment number 26.

    So Tiger Woods earns approximately $100m a year in endorsements. He plays in the Open for one week a year. Therefore he has to pay tax on 1/52th of this which is approx $1923000 @ 50% tax.
    Wow, HMRC receives $961000 from Tiger for this one tournament, even if he wins he's losing money, because his winnings will be taxed at 50% too!!

  • Comment number 27.

    If he isn't willing to pay tax in this country, then I am delighted that he isn't coming. To say he will lose money by coming here is utter nonsense. He will be paying tax on income that he has already made.

  • Comment number 28.


    "So the next time you watch Nadal, remember that it's likely he will have to retire earlier than most because of the strain on his already aching body and ask yourself: what then? To have to give up the game he loves and everything he's known and worked towards at the age of just 32 or 33 is like you being made redundant from your job at the same age and told you can't return to do the same job. I bet the you would wish you hadn't been taxed so much!"

    I'm sorry Mr Cloak. You are very wrong. This is because Nadal will retire in his early to mid 30's a very, very rich man. He'll have plenty in the bank to live a comfortable life for the rest of his days. Additionally, he'll probably become a 'global ambassador' for a sports company, give talks and lectures, make appearances and do TV work. The millions will just keep rolling in. Oh, I know, it's a hard life.

  • Comment number 29.

    So Tiger Woods earns approximately $100m a year in endorsements. He plays in the Open for one week a year. Therefore he has to pay tax on 1/52th of this which is approx $1923000 @ 50% tax.
    Wow, HMRC receives $961000 from Tiger for this one tournament, even if he wins he's losing money, because his winnings will be taxed at 50% too!!

    The rule is even more unfair than that. HMRC pro-rate the earnings based on the number of events you compete in. So if Tiger plays in 20 events per year and one of those is in the UK 1/20 of the $100m would be subject to tax at 50% (c.$2.5m).

    HMRC are being very narrow minded about this rule. The actual tax take by them from sportsmen is actually pretty small (relative to total tax receipts) yet it is a big enough issue for individuals to stop them coming here. The ATP World Tour Finals will generate a significant amount of money to the local economy which will benefit HMRC to a far greater extent than the tax they would receive from individuals. The ATP may be forced to move it elsewhere if the players refuse to play here.

    Classic HMRC - chase every penny without considering the actual cost of what they are doing.

  • Comment number 30.

    Typical of modern day sports stars I'm afraid. Whilst the rest of the coutnry struggles with losing their jobs, not having pay increases, and paying tax at the correct, intended, rate, sports stars just want even more money and want to contribute less to the dire financial situation that the rest of us are in at the moment. The greed of these people is astonishing, how much money do they want, how much money do they think they are entitled to. If they are judging whether to play in a tournement purely on maximising how much they get and how little they pay to the host country, and not about the stadium, enthusiasm of the crowd and qauality of the facilities, then it is a sad endictment on them. They should feel privelaged to be so good at something they, I assume, used to love doing, which was playing tennis. Most people can only dream of having such natural talent

  • Comment number 31.

    27...The issue is not on paying tax. I am sure Nadal is quite happy to pay tax on his winnings at Queens, Wimbledon and the Masters as he would have earned it in the UK. What he is reluctant to do is pay tax on income he hasn't earned in the UK when he doesn't even reside here? That's like asking you to pay tax in Spain from earnings you made elsewhere because you go there on business for a few weeks a year. Would you pay it? I would think not, so why should Nadal?

  • Comment number 32.

    It's only a suggestion, but given that Spain has just been downgraded by S&P and half (who's kidding who?) virtually all of Europe is teetering on the brink of economic collapse, and top tennis players earn obscene amounts of cash far in excess of their worth to humanity, perhaps all the other European countries/governments should follow our example and up their taxes for those sportsmen who can best afford to pay. As I said, just a suggestion.

  • Comment number 33.

    #31 Absolute garbage.

    He is being sponsored to wear clothes and promote products. And if that requires him to do that in other countries, then he is subject to local tax conditions. If that wasn't the case, then all of us would be employed by companies "based" in the Bahamas.

    Would he have received the sponsorship money if he only ever played at home in Mallorca? No, of course he wouldn't. This was an international deal and should be treated as such. If it wasn't for his international career, he'd only have earned a fraction of what he earns now.

  • Comment number 34.

    #31 - Spot on. What puzzles me even more is this tax rule seems to be a unilateral HMRC/UK thing. Surely, Germany does not have this tax rule which is why Nadal will be playing there. Instead, the British public is deprived of being able to watch some of the best sportsmen (Bolt, Nadal).

    #33- Think you're missing the point. If every country agreed & implemented this tax rule, then the idea of the tax would make sense. You should remember that Nadal receives sponsorship BECAUSE he's a good tennis player. He can easily avoid UK tournaments, receive sponsorship money & still attract a big crowd in other countries. And he would still be an international superstar. I don't know if Halle was experiencing any problems with selling tickets. But now that Nadal is playing, I expect their ticket sales to be better.
    For you to compare Nadal's situation to company tax shows your naivety in tax matters.

  • Comment number 35.

    #33 I understand what you are saying but you are actually missing the point. The UK is the only place where he is subjected to this extra tax so he would still have his international career. He is free to wear his clothes and use his rackets anywhere else without being taxed on it. He is paying tax on the earnings in his home country so it's not like he's evading taxes. If you are a handyman and you were sponsored by Black and Decker in the UK but did some work on a house in France, would you be happy to pay tax in France for using the Black and Decker products there when you've paid tax on it in the UK already? Of course not, so again, I ask why should sportsment be double taxed in this case?

    The reality of the situation is that the HMRC are actually only hurting the country by having these rules as it will result in less top individual sportsmen coming to these shores. Bolt has already backed out, Federer skips Queens, Nadal is now following suit, the likes of Woods and Mickelson only play one tournament here now because of it and the list will only grow. If the whole world had the same rule then fair enough but when it is one country going solo the loss is not to the individual in the long run, it is to the country and their respective tournaments as the individual will simply take up options elsewhere.

    #32 I hear you also but unfortunately it would just mean that sportsmen would play exclusively in Australasia, Asia, Africa, South America and North America outside of the major tournaments as they won't have this extra tax in place.

    The point is this is their jobs so they are going to want to maximise their earnings while they can. We would switch jobs if we got a better offer so why shouldn't they go with what provides them with their best offer?

  • Comment number 36.

    #34...we're obviously on the same wavelength as have practically just said the same thing.

  • Comment number 37.

    Well done to Wee Nads. Telling the greedy 'British' Govt to naff off is something we all want to do!

  • Comment number 38.


    Why do you think Nadal is obliged to pay the UK government any extra? Yes, he should pay tax on his winnings and appearance fee but no more. For those mentioning greed, he is not the greedy one in this scenario. What he does with his money is his business and he should not be made to pay an unnecessary tax some GREEDY establishment.
    I am sure the tax Nadal pays for a year's winning at Wimbledon is already more than what some of you pay in a life-time.

    Phil Mickelson (Rolex) Tiger Woods (Nike), Kate Moss (Calvin Klein) might as well be charged for every country they visit for wearing their endorsements.

    Fact: if every country does as the UK, this tax will not be feasible. So the UK tax laws are not fair. All top athletes should boycott the UK for this tax law alone. It is hypocritical that the Olympics has an can only be because the government know it is a rip-off scheme.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm no tax expert (thank goodness! No offence to tax experts!) but what ever you think about Nadal/Federer/Bolt etc and their decisions to miss UK based events, the problem is the unfair treatment of individual sportsmen/women compared to team sports. The Champions League final only happened at Wembley last season (and next) due to the government giving substantial tax breaks to the players and teams. Otherwise they wouldn't have come. Same with the Olympics. It's a rule that is enforced whenever it suits, and that is not fair.
    As for Nadal's decision... (3 full stops noted!) fair play to him. He is already a Queens winner, so why not try and add a new title (Halle) to his records and make a bit of money doing so!

  • Comment number 40.

    I think some English people are overestimating the importance of Queen's as an event to non-English people. It is essentially a warm up event for Wimbledon.

    Nadal would be money grabbing if he skipped Wimbledon for tax issues but Queens, no. The only advantage to Queens over the German tournament for a player who isn't English is that it is nearby Wimbledon.

    Why would anyone want to be at a loss financially for zero benefit. It makes no sense, and isn't one bit greedy.

    Britain are lucky the Olympics are an amateur event. However this could adversely affect London's bid to host the World Athletics Championships.

  • Comment number 41.

    I think Nadal and others are totally justified in deciding what is best for them; any question of disrespect for fans arises more from the arrogance of the objectors than of the players.

    The tax situation is apparently a UK anomaly, if I am to have faith in the breadth of knowledge of all those who seem so sure that it applies to no other country. Clearly, it should be reconsidered in the light of the effect it is having. However, I cannot believe that Nadal's tax accountant is not able to persuade the Spanish tax authority that his endorsement earnings are to be reduced by the amount of tax he has paid on them in the UK.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think Rafa Nadal's game would greatly be improved if he grew a small moustache or some other facial hair, possibly a pencil goatee that links up with the sideburns?
    What do you think?

  • Comment number 43.

    Isn't the problem that these top athletes, who ear 10's if not 100's of millions a year, set up offshore companies to funnel their earnings through to avoid paying most of their taxes in any country. Just because many other countries are lax on this issue doesn't mean the UK should be. If only the HMRC and government could be so stringent in creating laws to deal with their corporate and city boy paymasters.

  • Comment number 44.

    #35: Federer's not playing Queen's is irrelevant to the discussion, as he usually plays Halle anyway. I'm not sure whether he's ever played at Queen's, but certainly not in recent years.

    #23: "grammer" - was that a joke?

  • Comment number 45.

    Completely unfair to Nadal, he works hard and earns money - just like anybody else does. That his chosen career path has lead him to be a millionaire, I think it's good for him.
    What I disagree with is that tennis players get taxed an outrageous amount of money. If footballers don't and other team sports, it makes the argument even more ridiculous.
    Aside from that tennis players actually don't earn that well compared to other types of sports say in comparison to golf (see BBC article on prize money, with commentry from Roddick). Tennis in the UK will continue to suffer in terms of producing qualify players as the popularity of watching tennis (bar Wimbledon) and getting involved diminishing due to the lack of stars attending other tournaments.
    I was considering going to Queens in 2012 as I'd love to see Nadal and other players and getting tickets to Wimbledon is like winning the lottery but now I'll have to think about it... sure Murray will be there but not as exciting to watch as Nadal!

  • Comment number 46.

    I saw Rafa on holiday 5 weeks ago playing scatch on the beach with his girlfriend, he doesn't drink or smoke and is a true role model........ he was great at scatch as well.

  • Comment number 47.

    Greetings from Raleigh, NC. I do taxes for a living over here and was also a tax adviser in the UK for 15 years. What the UK does is the same as what the USA does (Retief Goosen just lost in the US Tax Court over this very issue). Most jurisdictions will try to get their share of cross-border income like this and will either tax the whole amount, with a credit for taxes paid in other countries, or will tax a proportionate share.

    Basically, #33 above got it spot on.

  • Comment number 48.

    What Nadal decides is fine. He should no be branded this or that for any decision except perhaps sensible if he gains by his actions.
    # 47 comment is very interesting because HMRC is being portrayed as the sole taxation authority taxing international endorsement earnings and the like. Well now, it seems the USA do similar.
    My only enquiry to HMRC is why the taxation against individual competitors and not against individuals who compete in team sports?
    As for spectators missing out at seeing Nadal / Bolt / etc - live in the UK - maybe what 30K people overall. All who are that interested will watch the non-UK alternatives on TV.

  • Comment number 49.

    #48, the major sports in the USA have comprehensive agreements with the states as to how members of professional sports teams (including coaches etc) get taxed at the state level. All the states that levy income tax have signed on, I believe. So everyone knows where they stand before they start the season. The clubs know that their employees will get taxed once at federal level and once at state level and the states know they will get a fair share of the income. If US states can do it, so can, for instance, members of the EU.

    I have not looked at any of the UK's double taxation treaties for several years. If the real reason for Nadal's decision is, indeed, taxation, it tells me it is time to update treaties with as many countries as necessary.

  • Comment number 50.

    This is an indirect tax and why should nadal have to pay such a tax. Only his country of residence should tax him on this. He must get taxed several times on the same income. No one, no matter how rich, should lose money when doing their job. That isn't the capitalism way.

  • Comment number 51.

    HMRC want it every which way. When I worked in France for a year (twice) and paid all my dues there, I then had to pay tax on what I earned in France to the Inland Revenue in the UK. This is because in France the income tax rate is lower so you pay the difference here. This ignores the fact that in France you pay many other substantial deductions which are ignored here. Also no allowance is made for the cost of getting there or temporary accommodation. All grossly unfair in my view.

  • Comment number 52.

    #51, sounds to me as if you might have benefited from paying a competent tax adviser.

    #50, income tax is a direct tax. All that the UK is asking is for him to pay tax once, at UK rates, on his income earned in the UK. His endorsement income, as a previous poster succinctly pointed out, comes from him playing in tournaments, some of which are held in the UK. He is being paid to act as a billboard in the UK when he plays here, so it is reasonable that a portion of his endorsement income is taxed, in much the same way that a foreign company selling space on bus shelters in the UK pays tax on its UK profits. The method of calculating Nadal's UK profits is a rather broad-brush approach. The alternative is for Nadal to pay thousands extra each year for someone to do a precise calculation that would be near-impossible to do in any case.

    I previously posted that Retief Goosen had lost a similar tax case here in the USA. The BBC website won't let me link to it directly, but if you google goosen us tax court it will come up as the first hit. The decision is quite involved and technical in parts but a layman who reads it carefully can, at least, get a taste for the decision. Now I have to get on with my last tax return of the US filing season....


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