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Football Matches (Prime Minister's Visits)

Volume 901: debated on Sunday 2 March 1975

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister on how many occasions during the past year he has been invited to pay official visits to football matches.

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend is attending the European Council Meeting which opened in Rome yesterday and is continuing today. I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend receives numerous invitations to football matches played under a variety of different codes, and during the last 12 months he has been able to accept on five occasions.

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Prime Minister, when he is next able to accept an invitation to a football match, kindly to descend temporarily from the directors' box into Spion Kop and go outside the ground, both before and after the game? When he sees the disgusting behaviour of a section of the crowd, as he undoubtedly will, will he consult the Home Secretary, the Attorney-General, the Minister responsible for sport and all the football clubs, not just Leicester City—unfortunately, we are not clear of this trouble, nor is anyone else—to see what can be done to curb football hooliganism?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is never reluctant to leave the directors' box. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Minister of State responsible for sport and recreation set up a working party to look into the question of crowd behaviour. It has already issued a number of recommendations to league clubs and will shortly be reviewing the progress that has been made. In cases where its recommendations have been fully implemented, the frequency and seriousness of incidents has been substantially reduced, and the measures taken by British Rail and the traffic commissioners have eased the problem of transport to matches.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's reply to his first "First Division" question; I hope that he avoids relegation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government are likely to designate Category 1 grounds early next year under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act? As the question of finance is critical, may I ask what progress the Government have made with the Pools Promoters Association on the provision of finance from which clubs can help to improve their grounds?

I hope to stay in the "First Division", along with my own team, Leeds United. The Pools Promoters Association and the Football League have already established the Football Grounds Improvement Trust to assist clubs in meeting the requirements of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act and in generally improving their facilities.