Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:36 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Mann Lord Mann Non-affiliated 3:36 pm, 7th October 2020

My Lords, we have already heard reference to the good example of New Zealand, where in the forthcoming weeks the Bledisloe Cup between the All Blacks and Australia will be played out in Wellington. Tickets are on sale and a large crowd will be in attendance. New Zealand, the country which has been given many plaudits, has been perhaps the most efficient and effective at dealing with coronavirus.

The city of Birmingham’s partner cities in Germany are Frankfurt and Leipzig. Leipzig was the first Bundesliga team to take part in the German experimentation of crowds going to football matches in a safe, Covid-insured environment, and it has been doing so for around two months. The limitation is 20%. That means that in Frankfurt there will be slightly higher attendance than in Leipzig, while in Dortmund, the largest stadium in Germany, at 20% they are getting crowds of over 10,000, 11,000 or 12,000. We can view it on our televisions if we wish. I have done that to watch how the crowd is operating, and they are doing so with efficiency. The statistics are also there.

The statistics are also there in Hungary. Since July, crowds at outdoor football matches have been allowed, at a much higher density than in Germany, and Ferencvárosi, its leading team, has played repeatedly and successfully in the Champions League, with major matches coming up in the near future. The Hungarian Government have been confident enough to allow even away supporters to attend such matches.

We have major teams in the city of Birmingham; Aston Villa is having its most successful period for many decades. Some might say that they have benefited from the adherence to the two-metre rule by the Liverpool defence—which has also spread across the north-west of Manchester. One should commend those defenders for their approach.

However, I put it to the Minister that the morale to get us through to next summer in the city of Birmingham, like other parts of the country, would be greatly and safely enhanced if for outdoor sports there were consistency in who goes—that is, not with away supporters —defined bubbles within the crowd, which is what is happening in Germany, and the ability to use the contact tracing app should there be an outbreak. That would be a morale boost in every sense: a mental health boost well beyond those who managed to get in and be in attendance. We could and should have experimented this summer at Edgbaston in Birmingham, with a five-day test match with a well-defined plan within the outdoors to allow people to attend over the five days. I put it to the Minister that that could and would have been safely executed.

Frankly, my experience of going into town and city centres is that the organisation would happen in outdoor sports arenas such as Villa Park, St Andrew’s, Edgbaston and the Hawthorns, in the area covered by this government proposal. I do not demur from the Government’s approach in bringing this in, but flexibility in terms of outdoor venues will be essential. We should not hold back from emulating what New Zealand, Germany and Hungary have successfully done, particularly with the twin towns of Frankfurt and Leipzig as exemplars. If they can do it, we can—and safely. We will be also able to use their evaluation of their results to see how safe this will remain in future.