Football Governance

Alex Davies-Jones Excerpts
Monday 14th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab) [V]
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Diolch, Ms Elliott; it is a pleasure to serve under your chairship. I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) on securing this vital debate. It is also an honour to follow my good and hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana). Like her, I am a proud Liverpool fan. Football, and specifically the huge range of issues that the game has faced in recent years, is a topic that I know is particularly close to all our hearts. It is a privilege to speak in today’s debate.

Football is clearly beloved by many, yet far too often it finds itself in a huge mess. Widespread and meaningful reform is urgently needed. The structures in place at the moment are failing at all levels. Currently, clubs, including my beloved LFC, have a huge amount of power if they are in the premier league, yet shockingly it is absolutely clear that at that level no one is truly accountable to the supporters and their interests. And make no mistake, it is the fans—the ones who turn up come rain or shine, and win or lose, and who pour their hearts, and often their earnings, into the game—who should be at the very centre of the game’s governance.

I was pleased to see that some clubs, including Manchester United, have finally decided to engage with fans through a fans forum, but clearly, given everything that we have witnessed over the last few months, those forums should have been in place decades ago. The Government’s fan-led review of football is thankfully in the safe hands of the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), but we also must remember that sports clubs are not just a business, as other Members have said. These clubs are at the very heart of our communities. My area has a number of thriving local teams, including Tonyrefail AFC, Pontyclun FC, Ponty Town FC, Treforest FC and Church Village FC, among many others. They have all helped our local area through the pandemic and will be central to the recovery, too.

Alongside the big premier league teams, these much-loved clubs at grassroots level desperately need support. Indeed, we need only look at the situation that Wigan Athletic found themselves in last year for a stark reminder of how urgently widespread reform is needed. It really does not have to be this way. It will come as no surprise when I, as a proud Welsh Member of Parliament, invite colleagues to look across the border at the success that national league side Wrexham have seen in recent years. The takeover of the club was fairly unique, given the new owners’ links to Hollywood, but it is a model that others across the UK could do well to take note of. Soon after the deal was announced, the new owners launched their mission statement, which had transparency at its root. Met with overwhelming support from fans, Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds do not describe themselves as owners, but rather as custodians of the historic football club that they have the privilege and honour of guarding.

In short—as I realise time is short—it is absolutely vital that the Government use this opportunity and their fan-led review of football to make lasting, impactful change for a sector that for too long has remained unregulated. On a personal level, I will always stand ready to work with colleagues across the political divide for the good of the beautiful game. Diolch, Ms Elliott.