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Sport: Governance — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:17 pm on 4th December 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Heyhoe Flint Baroness Heyhoe Flint Conservative 3:17 pm, 4th December 2014

My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to follow such an eloquent speaker. It is the first time in our sporting history that, as a Wolves fan, I have been able to speak not through gritted teeth when Wolves were playing Birmingham City, saying, “Well, you caught us on a good day but well played”. That certainly was well played. Karren—if I may be so familiar in these surroundings—was referred to as the “first woman in football”. Within this House we have somebody who not only understands 4-4-2 but probably also understands the complexity of HS2, as well—and even knows the offside law.

The noble Baroness omitted to say that, at the tender age of 23, having taken over as CEO of Birmingham City when it was receivership that, when she actually sold the club—or collectively the club was sold 16 years later, and it was publicly documented—it was sold for £81.5 million, which is not too bad on the CV. She has been Small Business Ambassador to the United Kingdom Government, author, columnist and, most importantly, an aide to the noble Lord, Lord Sugar. I remind the noble Baroness that according to Chamber etiquette you are not allowed to cross the Floor and point to the noble Lord and say, “You’re fired!”.

She was honoured with a CBE for entrepreneurship and services to women in business in 2014 and listed as 10th in the Guardians 50 most influential women in sport. The depth and knowledge of her maiden speech is to be most admired and demonstrates her great experience in sport. We welcome her to this House. I am sure that she could have been called the noble Baroness, Lady Brady of the Boleyn Ground, West Ham, but we know that now West Ham are the main concessionaires for the Olympic Stadium, it is in extremely safe hands, and the legacy retained will be good.

Moving into extra time, I speak in favour of the Bill before this House, and declare my interest as a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board. I shall try to present a sort of case study in line with what the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, has done for football. As with all governing bodies, cricket’s responsibility is to promote and develop the game at all levels. In recent years the ECB has invested a huge amount of resources in modernising structures to ensure that we can effectively support and develop cricket at all levels. Cricket is for everyone, from the able bodied to those with disabilities. The chief role of our governance is to be inclusive and open, and to work to promote the interests of players, coaches, volunteers and spectators.

The Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Moynihan is particularly pertinent at this time, and for that we thank him most genuinely. It is a true reflection of the type of legacy for sport that we seek from the 2012 Olympics. The interface between politics and sport can help to drive improvements in governance that will have a direct benefit on the health of sport, and of our nation. But there is a never-ending list of regulatory issues and challenges for sport. The Bill clearly defines what governing bodies can expect from the Government, and what standards the Government expect of national governing bodies to merit funding.

One must not understate the contribution sport makes to the British economy. The relationship between sport and business is intrinsic and, as has already been mentioned, the principles of good governance in business apply equally to the world of sport. The Chancellor reminded us yesterday that we still face tough economic times, but I would like to mention the fact that in 2010, for example, sport’s gross economic contribution to the nation was £20.3 billion. It currently employs 440,000 people and is ranked in the top 15 British industries.

The ECB now has two female independent board directors—not a bad percentage. The other is Jane Stichbury, a former chief constable, who provides strategic support to our anti-corruption unit. Good governance in women’s and girls’ cricket has led to a 507% increase in the number of cricket clubs with women’s and girls’ sections—an increase from 93 to 565. Sky Sports and BBC radio are to broadcast live all seven women’s Ashes matches next summer, and women’s cricket now has a stand-alone sponsor, Kia Motors—and there are no backhanders there that I have to declare, I have to declare. Professional contracts for centrally contacted players now make the England team one of the highest paid national teams in the world. When I played cricket —here we go, back to the dark ages—we had to pay for our air fares, our blazers and the rest of our kit. Once I was given a free pair of cricket shoes with three green stripes on the side, and was branded as a professional by our committee.

Good governance promotes diversity and inclusion, and the proud achievements of the ECB incorporate blind cricket, deaf cricket—no problems with the umpires there, I am sure—and cricket for those with learning disabilities. These teams have triumphed variously throughout the world. We have embarked on a programme of engagement and development across the South Asian communities to help drive participation in five major cities.

As has already been mentioned, match fixing poses the single biggest threat to the future of sport, and we must guard against that by means of my noble friend’s Bill. We must have confidence that the sport that we are watching is open and fair. Let us not forget the fans—the consumers. I am pleased to see that there is a deterrent in the Bill aimed at those who seek to use the web as a conduit for ticket touting. Those who rip off real fans by acquiring tickets with the sole objective of trading them on for huge profits have, ironically, no interest in protecting the future of the very sports they wish to exploit.

It is my hope that today’s debate will stimulate further discussion that will lead to better policy, and thus better governance, in sport, with full government recognition of sport as a catalyst to build the “three Hs”—a healthy, happy and honest nation.