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Sport: Governance — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:47 pm on 4th December 2014.

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Photo of Lord Horam Lord Horam Conservative 3:47 pm, 4th December 2014

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, on her very successful maiden speech. She is now bringing her magic touch from West Ham United, so this is a golden moment for her and I hope she enjoys it. We will certainly enjoy her presence in this House.

I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Moynihan has secured this debate because we spend too little time talking about sport. When one thinks of the amount of time that the average person outside this House spends talking about politics—two minutes per week—and the amount of time that they spend talking about sport one realises that there is a certain difference in the balance between what people are talking about outside and what we are talking about inside. I am therefore delighted that we have this long-overdue opportunity.

I must say that I have no experience whatever of sport administration. It means that I have nothing to declare and have no experience of what goes on behind the scenes. Indeed, I am not good at sports, either. My golf handicap of 28 says it all. However, I am a lifelong, mad English sports fan. I was brought up, if I may say so, on royal jelly. I was born in Preston and therefore supported Preston North End when the incomparable Tom Finney was playing for that club. One way up the road in Blackpool were Stanley Matthews and Stanley Mortensen, and the other way, in Bolton, was Nat Lofthouse, the “Lion of Vienna”. If you add in Wilf Mannion from Middlesbrough, that was, more or less, the England forward line in those days—a long time ago, I hasten to say.

Subsequently, my parents moved from Preston and I began supporting Manchester United, which is still one point ahead of West Ham United in the Premier League. Then came the greatest moment in our football history, the World Cup of 1966, when we won under the managership of the incomparable Alf Ramsey. I always love that wonderful story about a local reporter trying to get a different angle on Alf’s victory. He called at his house the following day and asked, “Did Mrs Ramsey go to the match?”. Alf said, “No, she watched it on television at home”. “How did she greet you when you came back?”. Alf Ramsey looked at the reporter as if he was an absolute idiot and said, “Well, she shook my hand and said, ‘Well done, Alf’”. Those were the days. Since then, sadly, there has been little success, and I have to say, along with the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and others, that I blame fundamentally the members of the FA for that. They are the bosses; this is a results business and the results have been diabolical. As the noble Lord has just said, in Brazil, they were embarrassing. I do not blame the players. I think we have had the golden generations: the Scholes generation, the Beckham generation and so on. That was not made enough of. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, said it all in relation to the FA and FIFA. Nothing further can be said about that because his speech encapsulated what many of us feel about this situation.

Money is the root of the problem. Undoubtedly, money has helped our sports in all sorts of ways—cycling, sailing, Olympic sports and so on—and it has helped our sports grounds, football grounds and so on. Money has been beneficial all around the park but the truth is that it has all gone too far. As has been said by one or two noble Lords, it has reached a point where corruption and greed are rampant. The well-being of our players is in danger. Look at Qatar; a footballer could be killed if a competition is held in the heat of summer in that part of the world. Look at the Ashes being played back to back—again for financial reasons. It was disastrous from a cricketing point of view. Look at Brad Barritt’s face when he finished four rugby internationals on the trot. That is not the way to run things. It is being done fundamentally for financial reasons.

We need to rein back on all this and I therefore hope that the Government will listen to what my noble friend Lord Moynihan said. Administrators should try to get a grip on this situation. I do not know the answer—as I have said, I am just a fan—but something has to be done for the good of all sport, the good of this country and the good of international sport.