Football Spectator Attendance: Covid-19 — [Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:51 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) 4:51 pm, 9th November 2020

I pay tribute to Bath City Football Club. Bath is a city known for its rugby, but we have a thriving football club in the national league, and, since it has been in community ownership, it has gone from strength to strength, particularly because of its very strong community engagement. May I say, in the company of many men here, the women’s team is doing very well? The Bath club has become a community asset. Unlike the big clubs, it depends entirely on the income that it gets from fans coming to the matches on a regular basis.

As we have heard today, football is about bringing the community together and having fun. Even if it is socially distanced, it is possible. Indeed, the club had prepared very well over the summer to bring spectators back into the stadium. It is quite a big space that is not always full, and it could easily have managed that. It was particularly disappointed when it could not bring spectators back. The club is grateful for the financial support that it has received, but the game is not the same without the spectators. Football clubs are in a different financial position from the cultural sector. I understand that, but there has been a marked difference. I have been to four different cultural events, but not a single sporting event, and that is difficult to explain to people who enjoy sports more than cultural events. We have to recognise that.

I had a discussion with our local director for public health, and he says that the main issue is the uncontrolled spaces. Organisations and classroom teachers can control their spaces, but anything outside the classroom or a venue becomes an uncontrolled space, and that is the crux of the matter. The Government need to put their minds on the issue of travel. Although a survey found that most fans travel by car or on foot, it is important that the Government look at organisations such as STIG, the sports technology and innovation group that has been put together. It could be very helpful in assisting the Government to understand how fans travel to and from sporting events.

Hopefully, after the lockdown, people will be able to enjoy their sporting events again. I speak today particularly on behalf of Bath City Football Club, but I know that I speak on behalf of all sporting events across my city and across the country, so let us make sure that the Government get this right and look particularly at how fans travel to their sporting events.