Non-league Football

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 14th February 2013.

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Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South 9:30 am, 14th February 2013

What steps her Department is taking to encourage the development of non-league football clubs.

Photo of Hugh Robertson Hugh Robertson The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

We have been clear, along with the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, that we expect the Football Association to reform the governance of the game as a top priority. As part of that, we expect the FA to show representative, accountable and strategic leadership and help develop football across all levels including the grass-roots, non-league and professional parts of the game.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

I declare an interest as a director of Warrington Town football club, which would not exist were it not for dozens of donors and unpaid volunteers. Other non-league clubs are going bust, yet 50% of the money from our national team continues to be diverted to the professional game, which is really very wealthy. The Select Committee has mentioned that problem. Will the Minister update us on the progress towards fixing that allocation?

Photo of Hugh Robertson Hugh Robertson The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

There is a fine dividing line here, because it is not for the Government to tell the sport how to allocate money that it raises itself any more than it would be for us to allocate the England and Wales Cricket Board’s broadcast income or the Rugby Football Union’s income from Twickenham. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the issue. If we can get the reforms at the FA that we and the Select

Committee are pushing for, they will empower the board to take precisely the decisions that he advocates instead of relying on an arbitrary 50% split.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

Non-league football is the bedrock of our beautiful game, and as David Mowat said, many community clubs face extinction. Bedlington Terriers, a community club in my area, faces a very uncertain future. How will the Government engage with the Premier League to ensure that the vast riches trickle down to assist the survival of non-league community clubs?

Photo of Hugh Robertson Hugh Robertson The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The Government are doing a number of things, and I entirely take the hon. Gentleman’s point. This is one of the key things that we discuss regularly with the Premier League, the Football League and the FA. The FA, of course, receives one of the largest whole sport plan funding awards of more than £30 million, which is there precisely for the development of the game and to encourage more people to play football. He makes a good point, and we will address it in the reform process.