It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer.
The heartbeat of every football club is its supporters. From
I acknowledge the hard work of Accrington Stanley football club, which has paid its players without deferment, and has secured funding in the form of a loan to keep the club afloat. The team are back to playing, but huge costs are being incurred without income coming back to the club through fans, sponsors, hospitality or any other form of secondary income. That is obviously unsustainable. The club needs income, and there is a need for pressure to be put on the Premier League and the FA to get a bail-out sorted. There is enough money in football; it just seems to be poorly distributed.
In September the return of fans to football games was piloted for certain clubs. Up to 1,000 fans were welcomed using the Government’s stage 5 protocols and guidance. English Football League clubs implemented a wide range of measures to ensure that the spectator journey was built around maintaining social distancing. From those matches the University of Edinburgh conducted a study to show that more than 90% of people who attended were confident that the event organisers could deliver spectator safety. Having reviewed the findings from that study, I believe that the pilots were a success and that football clubs will be able to deliver a covid-secure experience for fans. I hope that the Government will reflect on those findings and work with sports clubs to give them a road map to allow fans back into stadiums as soon as it is safe to do so.
Throughout this pandemic, we have had our community centres, pubs, cafés, gyms, theatres and leisure centres threatened by these financially turbulent times. If we forget our football clubs, we risk cutting out the heart of local communities across the country. Once the pandemic is over, we will need community hubs more than ever. To let our football clubs disappear would be too big a blow for towns such as mine.