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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:02 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley Chair, Procedure Committee, Chair, Procedure Committee 5:02 pm, 9th November 2020

Thank you, Mr Stringer. Of course I do not mind at all. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I pay tribute also to my hon. Friend, and constituency neighbour, Jonathan Gullis. I can absolutely attest to what he has said about the value in the community of Port Vale and Stoke City, who support local activities and community events in my constituency of Staffordshire Moorlands, too. They are incredibly important and, indeed, vital parts of our community.

I thank the Government for allowing elite sport to continue during this lockdown. To be clear, nothing that I am about to say is regarding what is happening today, in this lockdown; it is to the time after the lockdown that I think we need to look. However, I will just make the point that there was a match yesterday at the Etihad Stadium and my son and I are utterly convinced that, if we had been there, we would have got the Blues over the line and had a victory—I say sorry to Alison McGovern, on the Opposition Benches, for that. But we could not be there, and we accept that. We were pleased that we were able to watch on television even if we were not able to help our team to get that victory.

My hon. Friend the Minister will know that I have referred before to my community club, Leek Town, which is a step four club, so has been able to have spectators. It is clearly unable to play any matches at the moment because of lockdown, and it fully accepts and appreciates that, but could I repeat this question to the Minister? When we do get out of lockdown, can we not have a one-size-fits-all answer to this? There may well be clubs that can fit in more fans. They need to have other revenue streams. They are not asking for a Government bail-out. They want the chance to run and to make the money that they would normally make. This one is a volunteer-run club. It wants to have hospitality again—no prawn cocktails; it is entirely Staffordshire oatcakes. It would like to be able to have that hospitality back and have those income streams.

May I make a point about another elite sport? I am the treasurer of the all-party parliamentary group on Formula 1, and it was brilliant to have two F1s this year at Silverstone, but when we spoke to Silverstone recently, it said that the lack of fans was soul-destroying. It is such a big spectator event—all outdoors—for household groups travelling together. When Lewis Hamilton took the record for the most F1 wins in Portimão, Portugal, there were spectators flying the Union flag which, I am sure, was important for him and the fans.

Finally, on grassroots sports, I co-signed the letter from my hon. Friend Damian Collins, who is no longer here. We need grassroots sports, not just because they are important in themselves, but because they are a pipeline for elite sports. We heard recently from the rugby authorities that there is a real worry that we will not have that pipeline of young players coming through, which will have an impact on our national teams and on the mental health and wellbeing of many.