It is a pleasure to follow John Mann.
I grew up in the shadow of Wembley stadium and its twin towers. I followed my local football club and I ran a Sunday football team. I am, of course, a fanatical football fan—my father helped to set up “Match of the Day”, so I think that I can speak as a true football fanatic. I am a season ticket holder—home and away—for my favourite team.
The reality is that football in this country is in the hands of the Premier League. It has the power and the finance, and it has sold out to the TV companies, which now dictate when games are played, which days they are played on and what time they kick off. Of course, huge amounts come in as a result.
At the same time, as we have heard, grassroots football across this country is not seeing that money transferred down to it, because premier league clubs are keeping the money to themselves. The FA does not do its job in representing grassroots football, in controlling the game, and in making sure that the money flows from the top to the bottom so that we can develop the young players—male and female—right across this country who we all want to see playing the beautiful game positively and in the right way. Without a change, we face stagnation in our national game and our England football team being unable to win trophies—we would all like to see them win trophies—and we do not have the quality of football that we would all want.
Wembley stadium has always been our national stadium. It is the shrine to which we go for FA cup finals, League cup finals, internationals and other events. However, it is now being transformed, with not only Tottenham playing there for a year, but Chelsea potentially playing its home matches there for three years. That, to me, is wrong, because it is an abuse of our national stadium, which should be kept for those all-important matches that fans want to see. If it is turned into a stadium for clubs to use for perhaps four years or longer, is an abuse of our national stadium and we should not allow it. However, the FA, which is in charge of that national stadium, seems to be an amateur in dealing with high finance in football. We should encourage professionalism in the FA, as well as reform to it so that the situation does not get ever worse. I will conclude with this statement: it is important that the FA understands that if it does not transform itself, Government action will be required.