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UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

I support the bill and agree that Glasgow is one of the world’s greatest cities for major sporting events. Euro 2020 will build on the outstanding success of the 2014 Commonwealth games and last year’s European championships. We must also remember a few of the events that have taken place not just in Glasgow but across Scotland. The UEFA champions league final took place in 2002 and the Europa league final in 2007. At Murrayfield, we had the Heineken cup for rugby in 2009 and the champions cup in 2017. This year, the

PRO14 grand final took place at Celtic park. There was also the Ryder cup in 2014 and the Solheim cup this year.

It is clear that Scotland organises, hosts and delivers successful championships and sporting events. Our reputation is high and that is something that we should be proud of. That success is hard won, but it is even more challenging to maintain it. Next year is a huge opportunity for us to shine once again and show the world that Scotland delivers. Four matches are being played at the national stadium in Glasgow—that is four occasions when Scotland as a nation has an opportunity to prove once again that we are a world-class location, and four occasions when the festival of football comes to Scotland. Those matches will be sell-outs and the atmosphere will be electric; hopefully, Scotland will get through via the nations league play-off next spring so that we can participate on the pitch as well.

Today, it was announced that Glasgow has been named as the European capital of sport for 2023. It is the second time that the city has achieved the title, the first being in 2003. That will build on Glasgow’s place among the world’s sporting elite cities, whereby it was ranked the fifth-best sporting city in the world at the SportBusiness ultimate sports cities awards.

I know what it is like to follow the men’s team at a major championship, because I went to see the Scotland v Norway game at the world cup in France in 1998. Little did I think that that might be the last time that we would participate in a major championship.

The bill will play an important role in maintaining the highest levels of delivery. As we know, it is relatively short and is based on the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008. As colleagues have mentioned, it covers four main areas: ticket touting, street trading, advertising and enforcement. Each of those areas is important in its own right, and it is vital that they are properly considered; I believe that they have been, thus far.

At any sporting event, one of the main causes of frustration for legitimate sporting fans is the issue of ticket touting. When I was at the world cup in France in 1998, I bumped into quite a few ticket touts. I do not say this lightly: I genuinely believe that ticket touts are among the scum of the earth. They seek to profit at the expense of real sporting fans and their greed has absolutely no limit. The only thing that is important to them is the size of their wallet or their purse. It was important that the committee looked at the issue. In the limited time that was available to us, the committee scrutinised the bill thoroughly, and the recommendations that we made in that area in our stage 1 report were unanimous.

Regardless of which team someone supports in one of the four matches in Glasgow—many people will simply go along as neutrals—if they encounter ticket touts, it will annoy them deeply. In addition, the last thing that we want to see at major championships is empty seats. Unfortunately, ticket touts lead to that happening, because they charge so much money that people cannot afford a ticket and real fans are priced out of going to games. Therefore, I genuinely welcome the measures in the bill to tackle such scum, and I welcome the minister’s reply to the committee on the issue.

The Scottish Government has made it clear from the outset that it wants the bill not simply to protect the integrity of the championships, but to be practical and deliverable. I know that colleagues are sceptical about the involvement of big multinational companies, but their sponsorship of sporting events is just a fact of life. I mentioned some of the sporting events that have taken place in Scotland. They would not have happened without major multinationals putting in the money to bring them to Scotland. That is just a fact of life, whether people want to accept it or not.

I also welcome the Scottish Government’s approach to street trading, including the exemptions for buskers and charity collections. On the face of it, busking might appear to be a low-level issue, but it helps to bring the festival of sport to the wider world. We cannot put a value on that, albeit that an individual busker might try to.

I welcome what the Scottish Government said in its response about advertising and the issue of enforcement officers and the associated powers. Colleagues across the chamber have raised the matter already, but I welcome the fact that the Government is prepared to lodge amendments in this area at stage 2.

When it comes to the delegated powers in the bill, we must consider the impact of Brexit. I highlight the fact that, whatever the outcome of the Brexit chaos is, it is crucial that the Scottish Government acts as quickly as possible to introduce the relevant regulations, so that the whole event can take place in the way that we want it to. Clearly, Brexit will have a negative effect on our economy, so let us do whatever we can to ensure that these championships are successful in continuing Glasgow and Scotland’s great reputation.

I whole-heartedly agree with other members’ comments regarding consideration of a framework bill in the future. Also, there is the issue of engagement with the local community around Mount Florida in particular; it is important to make sure that they feel part of the festival of football rather than feeling that it is something that is happening to them.

Members should make no mistake: next year will be a huge festival of football. The sporting, cultural and economic effects will last for many years to come, and the memories will never die—they will last forever. I fully support the bill and I look forward to its parliamentary progress.