I meet the football authorities on a regular basis to discuss a variety of matters, including to ensure that grassroots sport and community projects are better supported than ever before.
It is only four years ago that the then chair of the Football Association, Greg Dyke, announced that there would be a massive investment in expanding the number of all-weather pitches in our major cities. Just four years on, we are told that we will have to sell Wembley stadium to finance investment in grassroots sport. Is the Minister confident that the FA will use that money for that intention, given the lack of progress it made on the previous plan, which it set out in 2014?
The FA has been putting a significant amount of money into grassroots sport over a number of years, and the hon. Gentleman will be well aware that I have negotiated more than £100 million a year of investment into grassroots sport from the premier league, which is double the previous amount, and I am confident that the FA, regardless of whether the sale of Wembley goes through, will continue to invest in all-weather pitches.
Coalville Town football club is an excellent non-league team offering opportunities to participate for men, women and a plethora of youth teams. What funding is available for Coalville Town and other non-league football teams in my constituency to continue to improve their facilities and their offering of sports participation to my communities?
Non-league football is incredibly important in the pyramid of football and many colleagues support their own constituency football clubs, and rightly so because often more vibrant football is played at community level. I would encourage my hon. Friend’s football club to look at Football Foundation funding and talk to Sport England about further investment in its facilities.
I do not know whether the Minister saw Gary Neville’s evidence to the Select Committee, but I thought he made a compelling case about why there is no need to sell Wembley stadium. Why can we not take up his suggestion and use a levy from agents’ fees, from which millions of pounds are going out of the game, to fund the grassroots, instead of selling Wembley?
Not only did I see Gary’s evidence, but I was sat behind him throughout it and gave evidence subsequently to the Committee. I look forward to reading the report when it comes out.
The FA has made it very clear publicly and to the Committee that it does not need to sell Wembley stadium for financial reasons. It thinks this is a good opportunity to invest in the long term for grassroots football. This is a deal for the FA to negotiate, and we are working, as public sector funders in the stadium, to make sure that if we are to consent to a deal, we do so under the right circumstances.