Before answering, may I pay tribute to Andy Holmes, the double Olympic rowing gold medallist who, sadly, has passed away at the age of just 51?
For reasons the hon. Gentleman will understand, my Department’s current priority is winning the 2018 football World cup bid. However, I will continue my discussions with the football authorities—and, indeed, Members on both sides of the House—in order to deliver on the coalition Government’s commitment.
The Minister has no doubt discovered by now that those at the top of football are as impotent as a room of eunuchs, that financially they have regimes that would make bankers blush, and that, with greedy footballers and parasitic agents, the game is being ruined. With that in mind, is it not time that the current Government—the last Government failed to do this—held a royal commission or some other inquiry, because the game is incapable of regulating itself?
As was clear in the debate in Westminster Hall a month or so ago, there is widespread cross-House agreement that the position we are in at present is not satisfactory. People know where we want to get to eventually, but the problem is that, because of the disparate nature of football club ownership, there is no one silver bullet that will deliver that. I have said that I will consult widely over the next six months. I will continue to do so, and during that consultation I will, of course, bear the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion in mind.
The Minister has always struck quite a helpful tone on the governance of football issue, but does he accept that resolving the recent situation at Liverpool football club, for example, owed nothing at all to the stewardship of either the premiership or the Football Association, and that, frankly, the regulatory bodies are now beyond redemption? By all means the Minister can consult, but will he make sure that he brings the regulatory bodies to order so that there is proper regulation that serves the interests of the supporters?
Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman that commitment. As I think he knows, this process started some while before May—indeed, Ministers in the former Government were crucial in that. There is a clear cross-House will for this situation to be sorted out. As I have said, we all accept that the current situation is not satisfactory, and we know sort of where we want to get to, but there is no one single answer that gets us there. I promise the hon. Gentleman that I take this issue seriously and that I will do what I can.
As part of any consultation, will the Minister look very seriously at foreign investment particularly in our lower league clubs? That is leaving many clubs in situations such as Portsmouth found itself in last week, as the directors and owners are not fit to run a football club and are just asset-stripping them.
I absolutely take that point, although I remember that we looked into this issue when in opposition and it was clear both that there were as many examples of good as of bad overseas ownership, and that for a long time some of the worst excesses were committed by English owners. This is not necessarily a nationality problem, therefore, although my hon. Friend makes a good point.