Football Governance Bill

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I am very pleased to finally be able to speak in today’s historic debate. A new independent football regulator is an important development, coming as a result of dysfunction in the game. I thank those who have worked hard to improve how football functions, including the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Dame Tracey Crouch) for producing the fan-led review, the Football Supporters’ Association and Fair Game. I thank Luton Town’s chief executive, Gary Sweet, for sharing his views on a number of occasions and, importantly, I thank members of Luton Town Supporters’ Trust and Loyal Luton, who have always been willing to meet me and tell me their views, because ultimately football is about the fans.

However, the status quo is failing fans across the country. While the premier league is arguably the most globally popular and commercially successful sporting competition, more than 60 clubs throughout the English league system have gone bust since it was established in 1992. The financial power at the top of the English game has distorted competition and powered unsustainable business practices as clubs scramble to be one of the elite 20 clubs at all costs. We all agree that the future sustainability of the pyramid is heavily reliant on securing a fair financial distribution deal between the Premier League and the pyramid system, not to mention preventing any potential re-emergence of the European super league plan.

We also have a multitude of examples that demonstrate the owners and directors test has not stopped dubious owners buying clubs and running them into the ground. We Lutonians sadly know the ugly side of the beautiful game better than most. Back in 2003, in response to Luton fans wanting to save their club, the previous Luton Town chairman, John Gurney, disgracefully said:

“If they expect me to walk away from Luton with nothing, I’ll make very sure there’s nothing to walk away from”.

This was from a person who had already recklessly suggested renaming the club, pushing for a merger with Milton Keynes-bound Wimbledon FC and, wait for it, attaching a Formula 1 circuit to a new 70,000-seat stadium on stilts. My personal favourite, which did see the light of day, was suggesting selecting the club’s next manager through “manager idol”, with texts costing 50p. That was all in the face of clear and vocal opposition from the fans. Thankfully, due to the work of a group of fans creating Trust in Luton, including one of its founding members, Gary Sweet, who is now Luton Town chief executive, control of the club was wrestled away from that disastrous ownership.

However, that was not the last time that fans had to step up to protect the club, as the fan-led 2020 consortium bought them out from yet further mismanagement after they went into administrative receivership in 2007. Unfortunately, the previous mismanagement led to a huge 30-point deduction and ultimately relegation to the national league. While it has not always been plain sailing, successes on and off the pitch since have enabled Luton Town now to compete at the pinnacle of English football—from non-league to the premier league. How did Luton Town do it? They ensured that they were a unified club from top to bottom, with a clear vision rooted in our Luton community.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if I may, I will take the opportunity to celebrate a significant part of our Luton football heritage through the period by wishing Alison Taylor, the landlady of the Bricklayers Arms, a well-earned and relaxing retirement at the end of the season after 38 years of service.

I fully support the creation of the new independent football regulator to protect and promote the sustainability of English football, and particularly to safeguard the traditional features that matter most to fans and communities. I will put on the record a few initial concerns with the functioning of the regulator, as set out in the Bill. First, the regulator will have the backstop power to intervene in the distribution of broadcasting revenue between the Premier League and the wider pyramid if needed. It is important that we explore that to ensure that the regulator can facilitate a just and fair financial distribution deal, including parachute payments, and including the ability to initiate any regulation.

The regulatory principles in clause 8(b) do not make reference to fans or fan groups—or indeed players or employees—as groups that the regulator should proactively and constructively engage with. When I worked for a regulator in the health sector, we directly engaged with patients, so why would the regulator not directly engage with fans, who are the beneficiaries of football? I also have reservations about whether the Bill is sufficiently free from any vested interests. Further clarity may be needed to ensure that a person with a conflict of interest cannot be on the expert panel board.

The Bill is supported by so many of us on both sides of the House, and this is a historic moment. The game is not just a business, but one with deep roots in the nation’s identity and communities, which is central to our global appeal. I look forward to supporting the Opposition Front-Bench team in taking the Bill forward.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We come to the Front-Bench speakers.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Thursday 18th April 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. To ask the hon. Member for Luton South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, what recent discussions the committee has had with the Electoral Commission on the integrity of election processes.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The committee has regular discussions with the Electoral Commission on issues relating to electoral integrity. The commission is working to ensure upcoming elections, including those in May and the next UK parliamentary general election, are well run and command public confidence. It continues to make recommendations to UK Governments and legislatures to further safeguard the UK’s electoral system, where appropriate.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her newly acquired responsibilities in this area. I am sure she brings the same diligence and independence of mind that her father brought to matters in this House for many years. We will be well served by her.

Spotlight on Corruption wrote to the National Crime Agency in December last year highlighting the dangers of UK elections being exposed to dirty money and foreign influence. The commission no longer has powers to raise prosecutions, but it can investigate. Will the hon. Lady use her offices to bring the Electoral Commission’s attention to the Spotlight on Corruption report and see what assessment it makes of it?

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I will bring the report to the attention of the Electoral Commission. The commission has said that it takes all possible steps within the current regulatory framework to prevent unlawful foreign money from entering UK politics, and it publishes information about donations to ensure transparency. It can sanction political parties that accept impermissible foreign donations. It works with the police, who can investigate unlawful foreign money entering UK politics through permissible donors. However, it cannot take enforcement action against organisations based outside the UK. The commission will continue to recommend changes to ensure voters can have greater confidence in political finance in the UK.

The hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—
--- Later in debate ---
Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. To ask the hon. Member for Luton South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, whether the committee has had recent discussions with the Electoral Commission on the potential impact of disinformation on the integrity of elections.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The committee has had recent discussions with the Electoral Commission on the matters raised. The commission recognises the risks posed to the integrity of elections by disinformation and misinformation. It runs campaigns raising awareness of the voting process, so voters have accurate information on which to rely. The legal regime that the commission regulates is focused on ensuring that political finance is transparent and that campaigner materials include an imprint showing voters who have produced the material. It does not have a role in regulating the content of election campaign material, but encourages all campaigners to undertake their role responsibly and transparently.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s answer. Recently, we have seen a decrease in the effectiveness of search engines such as Google, with material generated by AI, which is designed to produce only things that sound like information, poisoning the well, so to speak, with a marked impact on search results. With this automation of fake news and fake oracles, what plans does the Electoral Commission have to put out guidance on AI-produced materials?

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The commission encourages all campaigners to undertake their role of influencing voters responsibly and transparently, and indeed encourages voters to think critically about the campaign materials that they see. It expects anyone using AI-generated campaign material to use it in a way that benefits open and transparent political debate, and to label it clearly so that voters know how it has been created. Campaign material must also carry an imprint telling voters who has published and paid for it. The commission’s role is to ensure that the financing of campaigns is transparent. It does not have a role in regulating the content of election campaign material, such as preventing the use of deepfakes.

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Budget Resolutions

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Mr Deputy Speaker,

“The Budget is an opportunity for a Government to demonstrate their priorities, and what we saw yesterday is a Conservative Government content to oversee the managed decline of the economy”.—[Official Report, 16 March 2023; Vol. 729, c. 1049.]

It is nearly a year since I said those words about the Chancellor’s last spring Budget. What has changed? Quite simply, nothing. The Chancellor failed to announce anything that will significantly improve the lives of people living in Luton South and Bedfordshire. His Budget just lifted the lid on 14 years of Tory economic failure: a Conservative Government in their end days, bereft of ideas, lacking in vision, consumed by their own internal strife. We are heading for this being the only Parliament on record in which people will be on average worse off at the end than they were at the start. That should make Government Members feel ashamed.

I take issue with the Chancellor stating that the Conservatives bring down taxes, as the UK has its highest tax burden in 70 years and it will rise in every year of the Budget’s forecast period. All in all, what the Budget actually means for my constituents is that each household is now £870 worse off under the Conservatives’ tax plan. For every 5p given in tax cuts, 10p has been taken—giving with one hand and taking more with the other. The Conservatives followed that up by saying they had a plan to abolish national insurance contributions altogether: an unfunded pledge costing the taxpayer a gigantic £46 billion.

The reality is that the Conservatives cannot be trusted to run Britain. Public services are being run down, local government is on its knees and working people are battling the cost of living crisis, trying to make ends meet. Communities like mine in Luton and Bedfordshire know that that is not just the story coming out of the Budget; it is the continuing story of the Conservative party dismantling our communities and wrecking our economy over the past 14 years. For them, it is always party first, country second.

The biggest issue that my constituents contact me about is the lack of affordable housing to rent and council housing waiting lists, yet in this Budget the Chancellor has wound down the scheme for extra funding for the delivery of social housing and ended the policy of letting local authorities keep 100% of revenues from the sale of council homes to help them build more. That will heap further pressure on our already overstretched, underfunded local authorities, and it will do little to help families living in overcrowded, poor-quality, insecure housing.

As I said in my Budget speech a year ago, the Budget represented a huge opportunity to break from years of stagnation and unlock Britain’s potential, but that opportunity was well and truly ignored. I may sound like a broken record, but the reality is that we have a broken Government who simply are not up to the challenge. It is our job in this place to advocate for policies that enable our constituents to live a good, fulfilling life. That means a good job, a secure home, safe streets, quality public services and a thriving economy. The Conservatives have failed on all counts.

Enough is enough. People in Luton and Bedfordshire need a change in government. Instead of the chaos and recklessness under the Conservatives, Labour is ready to fight for the living standards of working people and to deliver a sustainable plan for growth. We will rebuild our ability to make, do and sell more here in Britain, so that we are less exposed to global shocks. We will strengthen the powers available to local communities to regenerate their high streets and town centres. Our plan also backs British business through a new industrial strategy to maximise Britain’s strengths in the life sciences, the digital, creative and financial industries, clean power and the automotive sector. That is the bright future that Luton, Bedfordshire and Britain deserve. It is time to quit the uncertainty and call a general election now.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting her particular concerns in West Worcestershire. We obviously share her desire to get great connections to everybody as quickly as possible. We are reviewing the voucher scheme and checking that it is working correctly at the moment and seeing whether it can be enhanced. I see from the figures that her West Worcestershire constituency is lower than average on gigabit connections, but we have an active procurement review under way and hope to be able to give her more details on that soon because we will be mopping up all the hard-to-reach areas of her patch.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins  (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

T4.   Under the BBC’s Digital First plans, the current “Look East” service based in Cambridge will be axed, meaning that news about my Luton South constituency will be covered by journalists in Norwich, some two-and-a-half hours away by car. Will the Secretary of State ask Ofcom to consider whether this would constitute a breach of the BBC’s charter obligations, which require it to ensure that all audiences are able to fully engage with major local issues?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am happy to take the matter away and come back to the hon. Member.

Channel 4 Privatisation

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Tuesday 14th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight).

“Channel 4’s public service model and remit, which are so vital to the continued strength of the UK’s broadcasting ecology, would not be best served by privatisation”.

Those are not my words, but those of the then Conservative Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport only five years ago. They still represent a wide consensus among the public: when the Government’s consultation last year essentially asked respondents whether they thought Channel 4 should be privatised, 91% said no and only 2% said yes.

The case for the continued public ownership of Channel 4 is overwhelming. It does not cost the taxpayer a single penny. It invests 100% of its revenue back into the channel to provide entertainment for the public, good jobs in communities and opportunities for the UK’s fast-growing creative industries. Its unique remit has allowed it to directly invest more than £1 billion into the UK’s independent production sector and work with 300 smaller production companies every year. Channel 4’s commissioning has boosted local economies across the country; it spends more with production companies in the nations and regions than any other public service broadcaster, and more than 50% of its commissioning budget is allocated to production companies outside London.

I remember Channel 4 first coming to our screens in 1982. It was an exciting prospect. It was fitting that its first show was produced by a regional production company, Yorkshire Television—it was none other than teatime favourite “Countdown”. Over nearly 40 years, Channel 4 has pioneered representation and diversity and showcased them to audiences across the UK and the world. Its focus on alternative voices and cutting-edge storytelling has created TV firsts such as the first female same-sex kiss aired before 9 pm, which was on “Brookside” in 1994. Recently, we have seen “It’s a Sin”, “Derry Girls” and a favourite of mine, “The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan”, all brilliant examples of what a publicly owned Channel 4 can still create.

Maintaining our world-class reputation in TV production and film-making is critical to our global Britain ambitions, but let us be frank about what the Conservative Government’s decision tells us: they are not serious about distributing economic growth, supporting small and medium-sized businesses or backing the UK creative industries on the global stage. As the National Union of Journalists has put it:

“It’s hard to see any justification for privatising Channel Four other than ideology. Channel 4 has achieved what it was asked to do and has proved a hit with viewers.”

The Government’s hollow justification for a change in ownership does not stand up to scrutiny. Channel 4 is thriving. It is the UK’s largest streaming service—nearly a third more than Netflix in 2020—while Netflix’s share prices have plummeted.

The benefits of a publicly owned Channel 4 are clear and obvious for all to see, and selling it off is an ideological act of vandalism. This ideologically driven attack on the future of our creative industries and on the principle of having public service broadcasters will create a Channel 4 that is focused merely on delivering profits to shareholders and not on creating diverse and distinctive content for the public. Privatisation would end the unique rights model that supports independent companies to grow. It would also threaten the future of Film4, which spends more on British film than any other UK broadcaster, investing £25 million annually in feature films that nurture diverse and new talent. This has created films such as “Trainspotting”, “Slumdog Millionaire” and “12 Years a Slave” and has collectively to date won 37 Academy Awards and 84 BAFTAs.

As well as the likelihood of losing the alternative, gritty, brave content we all love, the economic damage across the country would be substantial. As we have heard, EY analysis has found that £2 billion-worth of Channel 4’s contribution to the creative economy in the regions would be lost if the channel were privatised, and there would be a 40% decline in the regional supply chain contribution and a 35% decline in jobs supported in the nations and regions.

I also want to make the point that the timing of the announcement is curious. As has been mentioned, this proposal was not in the Government’s manifesto. The Government have prioritised selling off a proud British institution over tackling the cost of living crisis that is ravaging communities across the country. I look forward to the Minister telling the House in her wind-up speech why the Government are prioritising selling off Channel 4 over bringing down food, energy and fuel bills. How will selling off Channel 4 help my constituents to pay their bills? Or is this really a petty vendetta against a broadcaster whose news content the Conservatives do not like?

Unlike the Conservative party, Labour is proud of our great British broadcasters. We recognise the power of projecting British culture, values and creative excellence across the world in helping our country to prosper. If it were not for Channel 4, my younger self would not have discovered great new music by watching “The Tube”, discovered brilliant comedy such as “Father Ted” or felt represented by working-class drama such as “This is England”. Now, my middle-aged self would not be enjoying some of the best political commentary from the good people of “Gogglebox” or “The Last Leg”. Pushing forward with privatisation represents a complete disregard for the concerns of the creative industries and the public. Channel 4 ain’t broke.

Channel 4 Privatisation

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Wednesday 27th April 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is frustrating that I cannot set this entire question within the wider context of the reforms that we seek to make. Public service broadcasting is valued by the Government precisely because it provides the kind of content in which a lot of commercial operators are not necessarily inclined to invest. The challenge is to want to make channels continue to be PSBs. The reforms that we are introducing will provide people with a number of advantages in being public service broadcasters that we hope will mean that the important democratic content, which we all value, is retained in the future broadcasting system. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend and I am happy to continue to engage with him during the process, because he is a champion for the sector and has a number of important views that need to be considered.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Under private ownership, Channel 4’s output will be dictated by profit rather than public service, and I share the concerns about creative risk taking and the impact on diversity when commissioning content—would we see “Derry Girls”, “The Last Leg” and Mo Gilligan? Does the Minister agree that private ownership will dilute, rather than enrich, broadcasters’ programming?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is a fundamental misunderstanding that private ownership and being a public service broadcaster are at odds with each other. The whole point of what we are trying to achieve is to get capital investment and have a distinct public service broadcasting remit. We hope that that blend will sustain Channel 4 long into the future. It is important that those who are not in favour of privatisation answer some of the fundamental questions about the long-term trends that concern us as a Government.

Football Governance

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Monday 25th April 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It would not be a debate in Parliament about football without mentioning Accrington Stanley, so I am glad that that bingo item has been ticked off. My hon. Friend is right. As I said, we are continuing to put pressure on the Premier League to continue this dialogue and these conversations because we would like to see movement before the White Paper is released.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I am proud that Luton Town in my constituency has been at the forefront of calls for fan-led reform, particularly through campaigns such as Fair Game. As a Lutonian, and like many other fans, I have everything crossed that we will not just be in the play-offs but in the premier league this season. The Minister mentioned exiting the game. Many have the experience of devoting their lives to football—often at the expense of a proper education or other opportunities—only for that footballing career to end abruptly or to never really get started. That can lead often to severe mental health issues and shocking life outcomes. Can the Minister give further clarity over the expected White Paper’s plans to better protect the welfare of players exiting the game, in particular those leaving football academies at a young age?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady will be aware that I fought Luton South in the 2010 election, and Luton South fought back, as they say. I still have a great passion for Luton, which has gone up and down the leagues over many years. She is making an important point that my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) highlighted in her report and that I referenced in my statement. This is one of the areas that is primarily the responsibility of football to sort out, but we are keeping a very close eye on it. The welfare of players is paramount, and we have seen too many failures in the past.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Wednesday 26th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I certainly will. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, we are moving forward at an absolutely rocketing pace, but I will have a look at the situation in his constituency. I assure him that nothing sits on the Department’s table—it has all gone out to the providers and those going through the procurement process—but I will check on where things are up to in his constituency. If he could contact me with some details after the debate, that would be helpful.

Because the Government have made huge investments, at least 97% of premises now have access to superfast broadband, which is fast enough for a family to stream five different Netflix films in five different rooms in the same house at the same time.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The Secretary of State has just talked about the ability to activate fast broadband in five different rooms, but constituents in my Luton South constituency do not have five devices on which to watch five different Netflix films. Should the Government not be doing more on that basis?

Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are. The roll out of superfast broadband and gigabit broadband, in respect of which we have covered 65% of the country in just a few years, is levelling up in practice. It is about making sure that anybody who wants access can have it. We are working with Ofcom and the providers to look at left-behind areas in terms of levelling up and how we can increase access to laptops and—this happened particularly during the pandemic, in the first lockdown—how children in particular can access the internet so that they have the same equal access and opportunity as everyone else.

As we have upgraded our networks, we have invested more than £4 billion in our cyber defences since 2016, including by setting up the National Cyber Security Centre. As we all know, the nature of tech is incredibly fast-paced and constantly changing and growing. Monthly broadband usage has doubled since 2018 and continues to rise year on year. But the more we log on, the more open we are to cyber-threats, particularly as new technology—including cutting-edge consumer products such as smart baby monitors—is not always secure by design. To stay ahead of the game we need to keep investing in tomorrow’s networks and to secure ourselves against future threats, which is why we have introduced the Bill.

Let me explain the Bill’s impact in our telecoms networks before I turn to its measures on product security. In 2019, the Prime Minister promised voters a “broadband revolution” and vowed to deliver fast, secure and reliable broadband to everyone in the country. That was an important promise in 2019 but it is even more vital today as we build back from a devastating global pandemic.

We are delivering on our promise. Under this Government, nationwide gigabit coverage has jumped from just 11% at the end of 2019 to 65% today. We have set ambitious targets for the rest of the roll-out and aim to reach a minimum of 85% of homes by 2025 and to get as close to 100% as we can as soon as possible. We are constantly looking for ways to go further and faster with that roll-out. For example, we have already legislated to address the problem of absent or unresponsive landowners, who can hold up the deployment of gigabit broadband in blocks of flats, and we are currently consulting on proposals to amend the building regulations to ensure that all new homes have gigabit from the outset.

At the same time, we are working hard to improve our mobile phone networks, so that people can enjoy world-class connectivity not just when they are at home or work, but when they are out and about. We have agreed a £1 billion deal with the industry to roll out the shared rural network, which is already delivering improved 4G coverage across the UK. Both the operators and the industry remain confident that they will reach 95% of the country by the end of 2025, and we are aiming for the majority of the population to have the next level of cutting-edge 5G mobile coverage by 2027.

Racism in Cricket

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Tuesday 9th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The question about encouraging participation is a good one. My colleague the sports Minister, who deals with this on a day-to-day basis, in his dealings with various representative sports bodies and in the way he constructs funding arrangements, is resolutely focused on increasing participation in sports across all backgrounds in this country, both ethnic and social; there are other metrics and dimensions besides just ethnicity. That is an important piece of work that he is taking forward. On representation on boards, that is exactly the kind of question Cindy Butts’s review will be addressing. I hope she is listening to today’s proceedings and will take that as an idea for her review to carry forward, because I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there were catastrophic failings of governance over many years at Yorkshire county cricket club. That is why it is right that the chairman resigned and if anyone is left from that regime, they should resign as well.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

In my constituency, children are flourishing when playing local, grassroots, community cricket, through excellent programmes led by organisations such as Wicketz, which focuses on community cohesion. It is clear, however, that structural inequalities, particularly associated with race and class—as have been writ large by the issues and allegations at Yorkshire county cricket club—will place huge barriers in their way if they want to pursue their dreams and make it as professionals in cricket. What actions is the Minister taking to stamp out discrimination, in all its forms, within cricket and sport in the UK?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I set out already, the independent commission for equity in cricket, chaired by a highly respected anti-racism campaigner, is going into exactly those issues and I am sure it will be making concrete recommendations, which the ECB and the Government will be taking very seriously. In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is asking questions, as I have said. If the ECB, in its work, does not do what this House expects, the Government are prepared to act.

Football Governance

Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Monday 14th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott. I thank the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) for introducing this really important debate.

Many football clubs were created by workers at the heart of their communities. Luton Town, the club that I am so proud to have in my constituency of Luton South, was founded democratically when John Charles Lomax and George Deacon arranged a public meeting at the town hall on 11 April 1885 to form a town club. Lutonians opposed another group’s secretive plans to create a club and instead supported the transparent, democratic creation of the club that we are so proud of now.

As industry grew in Luton, so did the club, and that cuts to the heart of what football represents for so many. Sports clubs are not a business like any other; they are intrinsically linked to the communities they represent. Having met Luton Town Supporters’ Trust and Loyal Luton Supporters Club, what stands out to me most is how much they care about the club as a central feature of our town’s identity that should be celebrated.

The driving force of football is the comradeship among fans and communities, and at the weekend we saw an overwhelming display of heartfelt solidarity in response to Christian Eriksson’s collapse, and I wish him a speedy recovery. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] The principal—indeed, the only—concern of all fans across the world was Christian’s health, and to see the Danish and Finnish fans united in showing their support when the match restarted was truly moving.

Football transcends borders and communities, and fans come together through our shared love of the sport. I have experienced that first hand with the passionate Scandinavian Hatters from Norway and Sweden, who are an excellent part of Luton Town’s fan base, and I call many of them friends.

Measures must be put in place to protect and extend fans’ influence in their clubs.

The Labour party has called for reform of the governance of football for more than a decade. We need the Government’s review to be truly fan-led, in order to make this a watershed moment that reforms our game’s dysfunctional governance. We must put an end to the billionaire owners of the biggest clubs running our sport purely for profit—they clearly cannot be trusted to regulate themselves—and strict measures must be put in place to prevent any further attempts to create a European super league and to stop clubs such as Bury suffering the awful situations they have experienced.

As one of the vice-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group for football supporters, I support the Football Supporters’ Association’s “Sustain The Game!” campaign, which outlines a plan: to protect our clubs as community assets; to improve transparency, to ensure that everyone knows who owns their club and how they operate; to impose financial controls with teeth, to ensure that clubs and leagues are regulated; to strengthen the football pyramid, in order to safeguard its long-term sustainability; and to ensure that supporters’ voices are at the heart of their clubs.

The fan-led review needs to bring about lasting change through the introduction of legislation to create a thoroughly independent regulator. As Saving Our Beautiful Game has put it:

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to reboot the game and side with millions of fans during a summer of football.”

I hope to read an interim report from the fan-led review in July that lays the ground for systemic change in our game.