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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:40 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:40 pm, 9th November 2020

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. We have had this conversation and others on many occasions; we agree on a lot, including the route, although we may disagree on timing to some degree. Pilots were pivotal; pilots have been very successful. They have been excellent learning points and learning opportunities, and that work has not been wasted, because it is helping to inform the decision making. We want to get pilots back and we want to get fans back in stadiums as soon as possible.

The hon. Lady keeps saying, “What’s the plan?” We have had a plan from very early on in lockdown; in the first lockdown, we had a plan, and it has been explicitly stated and is out there. Unfortunately, what we have had to do on a couple of occasions is press the pause button, but we want to get back to the plan as soon as we can.

The consequences of the decision not to allow spectators into stadiums from 1 October had financial implications. Therefore, we need to focus our support on those in the sector who are most in need as a result of that decision. We have worked with the sector over the past four weeks to build a bottom-up view of the impact that that decision had on football and on many other sports, and on their requirements. We are now in the final stages of discussions with colleagues in the Treasury and I hope that very shortly we will be in a position to confirm the support that will be available.

In addition to the support package, the Government have brokered a unique £10 million deal with the national lottery, so that the 66 clubs in the top two levels of the national league can continue to play behind closed doors. The allocation of funding to clubs has been decided by the national league. We understand that the league has used an approach that is broadly based on past attendance and will keep allocations under review.