Football Sponsorship Levy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 7th April 1998.

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Labour, Lincoln 3:35 pm, 7th April 1998

For some, it is.

Lincoln City football club has spawned three websites, two fanzines—The Deranged Ferret and The Yellow Belly—an all-weather pitch, social and leisure facilities which we can all use, its own band featuring Ringo the drummer, in case anyone wondered where he went to, and a plethora of sponsorship deals ranging from those with big companies such as European Gas Turbines and the Lincolnshire Echo, down to sponsoring the boots of the club's longest-serving player, Grant Brown, which I do.

If you were fortunate enough to come to Lincoln on a match day, Madam Speaker, you could enjoy the nationally acclaimed and now legendary hot pork rolls. There is a whole economy, industry and community based around the local football club, which gives so much back through its community programme, its education programme and its charity work.

As David Kilpatrick, chairman of Rochdale football club, has said: How far do you want to be obsessed with always being the biggest and the best? There is a place for doing what you do at your level to the best of your ability, and I don't see anything wrong in that. Let us not forget the career opportunities and the hopes and dreams offered every year by the smaller clubs to hundreds of talented youngsters. The super-rich teams cannot fill their sides with overseas talent for ever.

There will always be people who want to support a successful and famous team, but what is support? Is it buying the latest replica kit and the glossy club magazine, seeing the team on television, but rarely, if ever, watching it because it is too expensive; or is it watching the local team through thick and thin and feeling part of that club? The passion felt by supporters of smaller clubs is more heartfelt, not less. A spectator is just as likely to see an enthralling encounter in the third division as in the Premiership.

For football to remain vibrant and solid in the local economy and community, there must be strength outside the Premiership. Mr. John Reames, chairman of my local football club, warns bluntly and correctly that the future of football as we know it is at stake right now. I ask hon. Members to support the Bill to serve the millions of people in hundreds of constituencies throughout the land for whom football, our national game, and all that goes with it, is key to their communities and lives.