I would like to begin by sending all our best wishes to Cardiff City FC and its fans, who sang continuously throughout the match against Bournemouth on Saturday, in memory of Emiliano Sala. There is no doubt that he will for ever remain in their thoughts.
With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to put on record my disgust at the situation of Hakeem al-Araibi, the footballer who fled Bahrain and appeared in court today in Thailand, facing forced extradition. The Opposition strongly urge the Government to lean on Thailand and Bahrain with maximum force to drop those charges. The United Kingdom has a proud history of assisting those fleeing political persecution, and we should not stay silent on this matter.
Supporters should always be at the heart of sport. Sport should be run in the interest of fans, not the privileged few, which is what I want to focus our debate on. In a world of ever-growing commercialisation, fans are rarely part of the decision-making process; instead, money talks. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our national game—football. The premier league has undergone a transformation in the past three decades, and without a doubt is now the best sporting league in the world, admired around the globe. Wherever we travel, whether Hollywood Boulevard or refugee camps in Bangladesh where I have worked, premier league football shirts are commonplace. It is incredibly moving to know that the UK football scene has such an incredible fan base, which we must nurture.
Fans are desperate for small changes: they want a better atmosphere in stadiums; they do not want to be at the mercy of billion-pound TV deals; they want a say in how their club is run; and they do not want their children to be bombarded with betting adverts. Those form our pledges for supporters, because we believe that fans must have a greater say in the sport that they love.