Sport in the UK

Part of Social Security – in the House of Commons at 9:03 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of John Grogan John Grogan Labour, Keighley 9:03 pm, 4th February 2019

My hon. Friend makes a great point. To be fair to the England and Wales Cricket Board—the cricketing authorities—I think it is now beginning to realise how much this has cost cricket since that summer in 2005, when the Ashes were, I think, on Channel 4. There was a spike in the number of people participating in cricket. I think the latest figures from Sport England suggest that there are now a third fewer participants in cricket, and that is because it has disappeared. A photo of Joe Root—despite the weekend’s results, perhaps the greatest living Yorkshireman—was shown to a group of schoolchildren not so long ago with that of a World Wide wrestler. Very few of them recognised Joe Root; they all recognised the World Wide wrestler, and that is because of the power of television. One good thing, however, is that some T20 cricket is coming to the BBC next year.

Finally, there is one commitment the Minister could give, either now or in the future, in relation to free-to-air coverage. There has been a lot of talk about bidding for the men’s 2030 World cup. The last time there was a bid for the World cup, the Government headed by Gordon Brown was pressurised by FIFA. It was insistent that for England to have any chance of getting the World cup we would have to scrap our listed events legislation as it applied to the World cup whereby every game would be free to air. But FIFA is now under new management and I hope Ministers will make it clear at the very start of the negotiations that if the World cup is to be in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, it will be live and free on free-to-air TV.