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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 James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate on the bill in support of next year’s European championship matches at Hampden. First and foremost, the hosting of the games by Glasgow and Scotland next year is a great opportunity. The way that UEFA has organised the tournament is different from previous tournaments in that, as Annabelle Ewing pointed out, it will take place across 12 cities, and that has given Glasgow the chance to host these four games. It is a great opportunity for football fans in Scotland to see some great matches up close.

I recently attended the Belgium v Scotland game at Hampden and, although the outcome was disappointing for Scotland, as we lost 4-0, it was great to see the Belgium team up close, and to see how good and skilful players such as Kevin De Bruyne are. I am quite sure that, come the championships next year, Belgium will be one of the teams competing to win the overall title.

Hosting the games is a great opportunity for football fans in Scotland; it will also be of great advantage to the Glasgow and Scottish economies. People will travel here from outside Scotland and outside the UK, which will boost the tourism trade not just in Glasgow but, as Claire Baker pointed out, in cities around Scotland.

It will also give us the opportunity to showcase Scotland as a country and Glasgow as a city that can hold such events successfully. We have seen that with the Commonwealth games and with the European championships last year.

We need proper legislation that supports all of that, because we need to ensure that the events run smoothly and efficiently so that people can enjoy them to the full and so that we can showcase the benefits of a major city for future events. From that point of view, the legislation is very necessary and, clearly, Scottish Labour supports it.

Some concerns have been expressed about the speed at which the legislation is being put through. Listening to Joan McAlpine talking about how the committee signed off the report just last Thursday, I was struck that it was only last week that we were debating the same committee’s report on the Glasgow School of Art fires. That inquiry took place earlier this year, before the summer recess. That shows the speed at which the committee has had to work on the bill. It is somewhat surprising that the Government was not proactive enough to realise that, along with working with UEFA, legislation was required for the championships.

Having said that, I think that the job of everyone—including the Government and Opposition parliamentarians—is to scrutinise the legislation and to make sure that it is fit for purpose.

Obviously, one of the main areas that the bill covers is tackling ticket touts. That is very welcome. I was interested in Stuart McMillan’s comments about ticket touts. He is right—ticket touts are scurrilous individuals who stop at nothing to profit from the great desire of sports fans, music fans and so on to get to events.

During the summer, I went to London with my wife and daughters, who were attending a pop concert in Hyde park—it was Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie. I was not at the concert; I was outside.