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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:32 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 5:32 pm, 9th November 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and to speak in the debate. I congratulate Jonathan Gullis on introducing the debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee.

Members have spoken at length about the various aspects of why football is so important. They have shared their considerable experience across the House in advocating for our national game. I congratulate them all. I was outed earlier by Karen Bradley as a supporter of the red side of Merseyside, which drew one-all with Manchester City yesterday. It is fair to say that I have experienced frustration over the past months over the football team that I support.

Notwithstanding that, it has been a great honour to see the amazing work of football clubs across the United Kingdom. I could not be prouder to have seen their activism, whether delivering food parcels or former players ringing older supporters with dementia to give them comfort. I honestly believe that football has done itself proud, as we have heard from hon. Members this afternoon. That must not go unrecorded by the House. I thank colleagues for making those points and for arguing that it is crucial that, as soon as is humanly possible, people can get back to supporting their football team in the ground. It is so blatantly obvious to me that that is important that I do not think I need to add to what colleagues have said.

I want to raise two points briefly. Sport in general and football specifically were quite shocked that they would not be able to continue with pilot schemes and that supporters would not be able to return in October. I worry that they have been left hanging a bit. That is a problem. I know that the Minister will talk about the science group that is trying to tackle this, but some of his colleagues put it really well this afternoon: we need more of a plan than that. If the science group by itself represented enough of a plan, I am not sure we would be here this afternoon. We need to work on this matter together.

Secondly, there is an underlying problem: football, by law, is treated differently from other sports. That situation risks exacerbating the problem, rather than working towards undoing it, as I think we would like to do on a cross-party basis. All the problems have been described: the effort that football clubs have put in to comply with the covid regulations—