Sport in the UK

Part of Social Security – in the House of Commons at 9:44 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 9:44 pm, 4th February 2019

That is noted, Mr Speaker. Thank you for calling me to speak in this debate, and it is a pleasure to have a short time to make some observations about the varied role of sport in Torbay. Sport is the life of the constituency I represent.

It is worth starting with Torquay United who, bluntly, after some rather lean seasons have recently been enjoying more pleasant times for them and their fans. A potential move from Plainmoor—the historical stadium still has a terrace, on which I sometimes stand—to a new stadium is being debated. One thing that disappointed me when we met the club, which will be of no surprise to anyone at the local paper, is the lack of even the most basic details about exactly what it plans to do. It is right that the council has indicated it will engage constructively, but councillors have been right to resist a formal agreement until the plan is much clearer on a range of issues, including whether the indicated site, Nightingale Park, can be built on. Surprisingly, that issue has not yet been rectified.

Speaking of new stadiums, the Minister will know that my background is in Coventry, where the Ricoh arena was built. I have heard the comments this evening about whether people should again be able to sell alcohol in the stands at football matches, or whether we should revert to new forms of standing. I would give the cautionary tale that many Coventry City fans will recall an infamous FA cup fixture at Hillsborough a couple of years before the disaster that followed. Many of those fans feel they had a pre-experience of the disaster, and the lessons were not learned. Any changes to the rules that were brought in after the disaster must be carefully considered and evidence-based—we should not just debate what might sound good on the Floor of the House. I am confident the Minister will follow the approach I suggest.

I have a great deal of time for a raft of voluntary sports clubs in Torbay. Paignton rugby football club, the Cherries, are doing a great job of getting more youth teams playing and getting involved in rugby. Cary Park tennis club is doing a lot of work on the intergenerational experience of sport by having days for grandparents and grandchildren to come and play on its new facilities. The clubhouse has been expanded, and the club is making tennis very accessible. I am sure the club would welcome you, Mr Speaker, if you fancied popping down for a game.

We have Barton cricket club, where Agatha Christie kept score under a tree that we have sadly lost in storms over the years. The club is still there and is still playing a vital part in the local community. The former editor of the Herald Express, Jim Parker, has dedicated decades to supporting the club.

When most people hear about rowing, they will instantly think of a lake, but the guys and girls at Paignton and Torquay rowing clubs go out on the sea, which is a remarkable spectacle.

Finally, I pay tribute to the army of volunteers across Torbay who help to make many of these clubs function by giving up their time to help people develop towards their goals, and only for the satisfaction of knowing they have made a difference to local people. Without them, the sporting life in our bay would be a lot less and our community would be a lot poorer.