Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich 4:19 pm, 8th October 2020

I begin by thanking the ministerial team and the Treasury, who are trying to strike a very fine balance between the use of public money and asking the private sector to play a role, too. Everything is being done under the constant need to ensure that the sector plays a role in reducing the spread of coronavirus.

It is welcome that the Government have prioritised allowing local sports to continue. Dozens of groups across Crewe and Nantwich are helping to keep people fit and active, and that is so important for our physical and mental health. I recently visited Cheshire Blades FC and saw how happy all the players were to be back on the field. When visiting LS Gymnastics Crewe Academy, I heard at first hand just what a lifeline gymnastics is to the young members of that club. I welcome the sports recovery package announced at the end of September. The Government have worked with Sports England to provide £195 million-worth of support for community projects. The £9.5 million pitch preparation fund is also a huge boost for smaller local clubs, helping them to prepare for when they might get back to playing matches.

To illustrate some of the challenges still facing the sector, I want to provide two local examples, which are, of course, by no means the only ones. Crewe Lyceum Theatre is a tremendous asset to Crewe. It is a genuine cultural draw from across the region. It has been putting on plays and performances in my constituency for more than 130 years, and plays a crucial role in bringing the community together and supporting the local economy in the town. I can think of only one other time when the Lyceum Theatre was so threatened—when it was almost entirely consumed by a fire in 1910. The culture and arts sectors were relieved by the announcement of the £1.57 billion support package, but the challenge is getting it to those who need it the most. I was pleased to hear that £3.46 million is being given to 135 grassroots music venues, but the majority of the package is yet to be allocated. We need to make sure we get that money out as soon as possible.

My constituency is also home to Crewe Alexandra FC, which is at the heart of our local community, where people of all ages and background come together to support their local club. Though not technically in my constituency, I should probably also mention Nantwich Town FC, which is facing similar challenges. Crewe Alex’s leadership put an enormous amount of effort into getting its venue covid-secure. They were very disappointed with the decision to put back the return of spectators into venues. If fans can accept not being able to be back watching the sport right now, they need to be confident that it will make it through to the other side of the pandemic. The gate money it receives is absolutely vital for its financial future. As I said, it is about striking a balance—asking some of the bigger players in the family to help provide financial support. I appreciate those negotiations will be challenging, but we needed a decision yesterday really. I press Ministers as hard as possible to try to come to some conclusions, so that football fans know that on the other side of the pandemic there will still be a sport for them to go and watch locally.