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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 Richard Lyle Richard Lyle Scottish National Party

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the stage 1 debate on the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill.

I have a confession to make. As many colleagues throughout the chamber know, I am not a football follower. Indeed, when I am asked who I support, I answer, “The players,” because for me it is about the sport and not the teams. I am speaking in the debate because I support the sport and I support Scotland.

I recall vividly, probably because it was my first football match and I was 12 years of age, a time when I attended a football match with my father. It was Rangers v Real Madrid. The memory that strikes me most is that of being separated from my father in a sea of people—in those days, there were very few seats at football stadiums—and the feeling that that left me with.

Stadiums have changed since then, and my experience is a far cry from the experience that many people enjoy today. In fact, football is now an opportunity to bring people together. Although there are well-known and much-discussed issues, there is now much that is good in Scottish football. Families can enjoy matches together and sit in stadiums while they cheer on their favourite team. Indeed, the Scotland women’s team’s recent matches—especially the Hampden park game before the team’s departure for the world cup—were fantastic family-friendly experiences.

Glasgow is set to host UEFA matches: I know that our venues will give visitors a very warm welcome. Glasgow has become one of the world’s top cities for major sporting events, and Euro 2020 will build on its successful hosting of the Commonwealth games in 2014 and the European championships last year. We have seen the benefit of those events. Hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth games was estimated to have added about £740 million gross to the Scottish economy, and the 2007 UEFA cup final at Hampden resulted in estimated gross expenditure by visitors of more than £16.3 million.

As well as bringing thousands of people into the city and increasing trade for shops, restaurants and hotels, such tournaments help to showcase Scotland as the outward-looking and welcoming nation that it is. It is therefore very much to be welcomed that Glasgow is one of the 12 host cities for Euro 2020, with an estimated 200,000 people expected to visit the city during the tournament.

I turn to the substance of the bill, the purpose of which is to help to ensure successful delivery of the championships by meeting commitments that are required by UEFA on protection of commercial rights for event sponsors during the period of the event, and by prohibiting ticket touting. The bill covers four main areas: ticket touting, street trading, advertising and enforcement. Four new offences will be introduced. They are, largely, modelled on similar offences that were introduced for the Commonwealth games in 2014. That action underpins the Scottish Government’s determination to support fair access to tickets so that as many fans as possible can enjoy the games.

I listened with interest to James Kelly’s point about ticket touts, who force people to sell their tickets to them and then sell them on at inflated prices. That is a sad reflection of the kind of behaviour that goes on today, so we should try to solve that problem. It is therefore to be welcomed that there will be a new offence of selling a ticket for above face value or with a view to making a profit, which will be committed whether the transaction takes place in person or electronically and will be punishable by a fine of up to £5,000.

It will also be an offence to trade in one of the three event zones without appropriate authorisation. The aim of that offence is to protect UEFA-approved vendors during the hours of operation of the event zones. Committing that offence will be punishable by a fine of up to £20,000.

Furthermore, it will be an offence to advertise in one of the three event zones without appropriate authorisation. The aim of that provision is to protect UEFA-approved sponsors during the hours of operation of the event zones. That offence will also be punishable by a fine of up to £20,000.

During the committee’s evidence-taking sessions, it was asked whether buskers and charity collectors will be allowed to operate in the designated fan zones. The Scottish Government has committed to creating exemptions to allow such activities to continue during the competition. That is to be welcomed, because it will allow our incredibly talented individuals to continue to share their talents with visitors.

Some people might wonder why we are required to introduce legislation for such an event. However, is not unusual for the organisers of major sporting events to require host cities to introduce specific legislative protections. The last piece of major events legislation in Scotland was prepared for the Commonwealth games in 2014—and we all know how fantastic they were. Therefore the bill is not unusual; it is designed to ensure that the championship events run smoothly, and that we deliver an excellent experience for the people who come to enjoy the beautiful game.

I wish the organisers the best of success in the coming days, and I hope that all our visitors enjoy their time in Scotland.