Queen Elizabeth has been asked to help pigeon racing become recognised as an official sport.

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The queen — who is the patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPBA) — has been called upon by members of Northumberland’s Belford Pigeon Racing Club, after it emerged they may be taxed to continue with their hobby unless they gain sporting status.

The pigeon racing enthusiasts are facing the prospect of paying rates on a small shed where they store their race baskets to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), under new proposals to tax sports clubs and village halls.

The plans state clubs for officially recognised sports can apply for an 80 per cent tax break from the government and ask for a further 20 per cent reduction from their local authority.

Peter Bryant, general manager of the RPRA, said: “Pigeon racing is really suffering. To impose taxes on people just to store their baskets is crass.

“Obviously we will do everything we can to stop this from happening.”

The four Sports Councils of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, along with UK Sport, jointly decide which activities should be given official sports status in line with the 1993 European Sports Charter.

A spokeswoman for the Sports Council of England, known as Sport England which promotes sport in the community, said: “The 1993 European Sports Charter defines sport as all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.

“Currently, we do not recognise pigeon racing as an official sport.”

Some sports to have been officially recognised include arm-wrestling, baton-twirling and skipping.

Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Councillor Geoff O’Connell has vowed to back Northumberland’s pigeon racing club and is planning to raise the matter with HMRC and Berwick’s Member of Parliament (MP) Alan Beith.