Orders of the Day — Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:13 pm on 3rd July 1985.

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Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw 7:13 pm, 3rd July 1985

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government should come up with the means to pay for that.

As I said earlier, in 1972 I introduced a Bill to establish a football betting levy board because football was going through a financial crisis. I still believe that that is the only answer to the problem. In 1968, horse racing was in trouble because people were watching the races on television rather than attending the meetings. They either went to the betting shop to place their bets or telephoned their bookies. The people running the tracks did not have sufficient funds for prize money or to maintain the stands.

The then Labour Government set up the Horserace Betting Levy Board, which takes a slight percentage of every bet. Members of the board include bookies, breeders, track owners, the Jockey Club, and so on. They plough back that cash into the race tracks to provide cheaper admission, to make the tracks safer, for better prize money and for better breeding. That has saved horse racing. If there is a bad winter with snow on the ground for two months and no racing, the sport does not die. That is the answer to the football problem.

The problem of booze is only one aspect — the main problem is safety in the grounds, and that cannot be achieved without segregation, which requires a great deal of cash. It is all very well to talk about the football trust. Without blowing my trumpet too loudly, that was something that emerged from the football crisis in 1968. At that time it was questioned whether the mark-the-ball competitions were legal. I understand that a Member of the House of Lords questioned their legality. I am not saying that a deal was stiched up between certain people, but the word went round that, if no one insisted that the competition was illegal, there would be some return of cash to football. I shall not go into the winks and the nods, but the system has worked well.

The problem is that, to obtain cash from the football trust, a club has to put money up front. It has to pay out all the money and then it gets a percentage back later. The small clubs cannot afford that, because they already live hand to mouth. There is a great deal of money in football. For example, the Spurs sponsored boxes bring in £500,000 a year — that is the club's income.