Monday 14th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott.

I want to begin by congratulating England on their win against Croatia. This group of players showcase the very best of a multicultural, socially conscious country. Sunday’s goal was assisted by a player of Jamaican and Irish descent, and finished by a striker who was born in Jamaica and raised in a diverse borough in north-west London. However, what is special about this team goes beyond the pitch—from Raheem Sterling, who was recognised this week for his anti-racist work in sport, to Marcus Rashford, who has ensured that millions of working-class kids have been fed during the holidays.

It is not just the players. In response to boos by supposed fans and to Conservative MPs who said that they would boycott the team, the manager has been clear that we have a duty to stand up for our values, so I would like to commend Gareth Southgate, the players and the vast majority of the fans, who backed the decision to take the knee.

Our clubs are not just businesses; they are part of our communities and the social fabric that binds us together. The European super league debacle showed once and for all that clubs should not be the playthings of billionaires, but that was not the beginning of the problem. Football has been going down this trajectory for a number of years, as can be seen in the ever widening gap between the clubs at the top and the rest of the pack. In a single season, the premier league clubs made combined operating profits of £900 million, compared with the combined losses of more than £400 million for the 72 clubs in the championship, league one and league two. Financial unsustainability for these clubs is now an ever present danger. We know this also from Coventry, where financial challenges prevented the Sky Blues from owning the stadium that they had helped to build, repeatedly forcing the team to play home games outside the city. I am pleased to say that next year they are returning to Coventry, but the underlying problems remain.

The European super league plans might be gone, but billionaire owners will continue to put their greed before our clubs and our communities. Instead of tinkering around the edges, we need to address the problem at its root. That means taking ownership out of the hands of the out-of-touch elites and giving it back to the fans, and that is what the 50+1 rule would do, as it does in Germany, where no teams were part of the super league plans and where ticket prices are significantly lower. Football was created by the working class, but it has been stolen by the rich. It is time that we took it back.

Julie Elliott Portrait Julie Elliott (in the Chair)
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I call Alex Davies-Jones.