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Sport: Governance — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:22 pm on 4th December 2014.

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Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 4:22 pm, 4th December 2014

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate. His great interest in the well-being of sport, both at home and internationally, is demonstrated in his wide-reaching Bill. It is an exceptional catalyst to debate the sporting landscape and how we might enhance it. I am particularly conscious of the immense experience your Lordships bring to this debate. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to do justice to all the issues raised in my noble friend’s Bill and by your Lordships, given the time. I shall, of course, respond in writing to any outstanding points. I also congratulate my noble friend Lady Brady on her truly exceptional maiden speech. She brings to this House a range of experience, but today I particularly welcome her as a robust champion of sport.

This Government are committed to promoting good governance. The DCMS works closely with our public sector partners such as UK Sport and Sport England to ensure that the highest standards of governance are operated in the various national governing bodies for sport. The Government decided in 2012 to retain UK Sport and Sport England as two separate entities, but with a shared reform agenda, closer working and a move towards collocation, which happened successfully earlier this year. We do not claim that the system cannot be improved, and a joint triennial review of both bodies was announced on 21 November. Its conclusions will be reported next summer.

Sport England and UK Sport have robust systems in place to oversee the use of public money invested in the national governing bodies. UK Sport’s governance principles ensure that it will invest only in sports that demonstrate the required standards of leadership, governance, financial management and administration. Sport England’s whole sport plans are an example of obligations already placed on national governing bodies as a condition for public funding. National governing bodies must demonstrate strategic planning, conduct skills audits of their leadership and appoint at least 25% independent board members. They should also target a minimum of 25% women on their boards by 2017. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, raised this important point; we are working on this with governing bodies. National governing bodies must produce for Sport England solid evidence that links this good governance to their sport; a governance, finance and control framework; reviews of performance against award agreements; participation targets; a payment-by-results process; and proactive action planning. Sport England’s Active People survey measures the number of adults taking part in sport across the UK.

Boards are undoubtedly becoming more diverse. Sports are becoming better governed and better able to understand their fans and the interests of their potential participants. But there is very much more to do.

Great Britain’s haul of 65 Olympic and 120 Paralympic medals at London 2012 is a proud achievement, with 30 sports winning Olympic medals and putting us third in the Olympic medal table. We were third also in the Paralympics in the most competitive era of Paralympian sport. But we must not rest on these laurels.

Increased participation remains a major principle of Exchequer funding. My noble friend Lord Addington made the case for participation and the enjoyment to be derived from it. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, raised the essential matter of volunteers and described what an example they are.

Basketball is an increasingly popular sport, with a 7% increase in men and women’s participation in the last year alone. My noble friend Lady Heyhoe Flint mentioned the increase in number of girls’ and women’s clubs in cricket and the enormous contribution that sport generally makes to the national economy. I am very mindful of what my noble friend Lord Marland said about the serious situation for county cricket clubs and I am sure that that will be on the agenda when the Minister for Sport meets the chairman of the ECB shortly. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford promoted the interests of rowing so robustly, and the importance of how elite and grass roots are connected throughout the process. I want also to mention cycling. A report published today states that the Tour de France in the UK boosted the economy by £150 million, of which £102 million was in Yorkshire. I think that so many of these successes have been inspired by the exploits of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Netball participation is increasing; boxing participation is increasing.

The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, asked how disabled people can be encouraged to be active. Sport England has made this a key part of its strategy, with £171 million being invested to increase activity, and 42 national governing bodies have specific targets for increasing the number of disabled people playing sports.

My noble friend Lord Moynihan rightly drew attention to the importance of cross-government working, as did the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. It was also important that my noble friend Lord Jones of Cheltenham spoke about health and sport. The Department of Health is embracing the value that sport adds to a healthy lifestyle, as indicated by its Change4Life programme, and the DfE recognises that education and sport must go hand in hand and the key role that sport plays in the development of young children.

I am particularly mindful of what the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, and my noble friend Lord Moynihan said about playing fields. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Work and Pensions are jointly considering access to sports venues for disabled people. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport recently approved a £1.9 million programme to be undertaken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to increase access. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond is closely involved with this. A joint DCMS and Department for Work and Pensions survey will be launched this month to ask disabled sports fans about their experience visiting stadia, and the evidence from the survey will help to inform future priorities and analyse the performance of professional Football League clubs.

My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond spoke about inclusion. The Minister for Sport has pledged to raise inclusion and accessibility for spectators with disabilities with relevant organisations in the course of her regular meetings. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, spoke powerfully about accessibility, and I know that the Minister of Sport is looking forward to meeting the noble Lord tomorrow to discuss those matters.

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority is also working with the disability access charity, Level Playing Field, on a proposed revision of the accessible stadia guidance to ensure that it is relevant, up to date and shows best practice. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority maintains spectator safety at football matches. We have explored whether there is a legal basis for including disabled access into its regime, but unfortunately legal advice confirms that that is not part of its statutory remit.

It is probably best if I write to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, about some of the points he raised, but I assure him that all the points about equality and access are being considered very strongly. I know that we all agree that football clubs must address that much more rigorously than they have to date. I am very mindful of our exchanges in this House about many football clubs which ought to be doing better.

Football engenders great loyalties and rivalries, as the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and my noble friend Lord Horam rightly emphasised. Since 2010, this Government have sought to work closely with football authorities on a wide range of governance issues. As a result of that partnership, there has been a toughening of ownership tests, improved financial transparency and stronger rules to ensure that clubs are sustainably run.

The Minister for Sport regularly meets the football authorities and continues to press for improvements in governance. Although we welcome progress, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and your Lordships’ House that the Government expect more to be done.

It is immensely valuable that my noble friend Lady Brady brings great experience in the successful running of top-level football clubs, and I would very much welcome her insights in this area. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has brought forward a wide range of recommendations for the sport, including that the Government should establish an expert group to look at barriers to supporter ownership. We have now established such an expert group to explore supporter ownership and engagement, in partnership with leading fan organisations and the football authorities. It is absolutely right that my noble friend Lady Evans of Bowes Park spoke about the fans—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, also made. They should be better respected in all the arrangements of football clubs.

We must also not be complacent in confronting the challenges that sport faces. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, highlighted match fixing and other corrupt practices. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked what the Government were doing internationally. Clearly sports and Governments are acting because they identify a need for change. Countries across Europe are addressing issues such as good governance in sport and match fixing. The UK supports the EU principles of good governance in sport. The Council of Europe, the advisory organisation promoting co-operation between European countries in areas of legal standards, has created a legally binding convention on the manipulation of sports competition.

The Olympic movement recognises the need for good governance. Following the 2002 Winter Olympics, the IOC addressed fundamental shortcomings, thereby becoming more transparent, open and independent.

Quite a bit has been said about FIFA. The UK has set a standard on what it expects in sporting governance, and international bodies should not be treated differently. The DCMS Secretary of State said exactly this in his recent letter to the FIFA president, Mr Blatter. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, spoke about FIFA and I think that we would all agree that one of the best ways for FIFA to show its commitment to transparency and accountability would be to release the report compiled by Michael Garcia. That would be at least a first step in what FIFA should do if it is to have any credibility at all on this matter, or indeed more generally.

The UK and our outstanding sporting tradition, and the significance of our place in the world of sport, is borne out by the number of major events secured since the 2012 Games. Events next year range from the Rugby World Cup, the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow and the EuroHockey Championships to the Canoe Slalom World Championships. In 2016 there will be the Track Cycling World Championships and European Swimming Championships; in 2017, the World Championships in Athletics. There will be many more at the Olympic stadium and across London, and across the United Kingdom.

The importance of sport in our national life is undeniable. Be it in greater participation or by hosting major events across the country, we must seek high standards of governance at home and abroad. Improvements can and must be made. In hearing from your Lordships who have such experience, this debate has been of enormous assistance and I shall ensure that the Minister for Sport and many other colleagues across departments hear of it in full.

We all agree that there is very much more to do. The Government clearly have a key role to fulfil in all this but I believe that, today and beyond, there can be no doubt that we are all in my noble friend Lord Moynihan’s debt for providing this opportunity to debate the many challenges which face sport at home and abroad, given the enormous contributions that sport provides across the world for young people and for people of all ages and abilities. We must work together to ensure that we can find the best way of meeting the challenges and opportunities for the benefit of all.