Professional and Amateur Sport: Government Support

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 30th September 2020.

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 12:45 pm, 30th September 2020

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. We have a fair degree of overlap in the intent of what we want to achieve. We want to return as soon as possible to the plan as articulated for months, but I hope she recognises that we have to press the pause button at this moment. We will return to opening as soon as it is safe to do so, based on medical advice. I do not think that that is too difficult for our constituents to understand.

On the broad principles, I repeat: those with the broadest shoulders will be expected to carry the greatest burden, which means that where possible we expect them to contribute to the financial support for clubs lower down, particularly in football. On other innovations, Alison McGovern will be aware that we have established the so-called STIG, the sports technology and innovation group, which is looking at some of the potential technologies to open sport perhaps sooner than having a vaccine. We will not pursue wasteful initiatives; we are very conscious of the need to ensure that public money is spent carefully. I assure her that we have conversations with the Treasury about those very topics.

On the issue of which sports can have fans in stadiums, the hon. Lady will be aware that the Football Association has produced guidance, and it updated some of that guidance only yesterday. The issue is to do with what is elite support and what is not elite—that can be taken broadly as a proxy for what is professional and what is non-professional. There is clear guidance there: non-elite sport can take place, and fans can go into those grounds, with restrictions of course—it is not an unlimited number. The guidance is for the governing bodies to produce, in this case the FA.

On the fan-led review—I am sorry that I forgot to respond to my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch earlier—yes, we wish to pursue it. It is a manifesto commitment and one of my top priorities. As soon as we are able to pursue it—we have had conversations before about this—we will do so. Unfortunately, events have got in the way.