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Football Governance

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 22 March 2012

4. What consideration he has given to the response from the Football Association, Premier League and Football League to the Government’s response to the report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on football governance; and if he will make a statement. (101301)

Before I answer, I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in sending our best wishes to Fabrice Muamba for a full and speedy recovery.

In their response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry, the football authorities have proposed plans for a smaller FA board, a club licensing system, the establishment of an FA regulatory authority and a closer working relationship between clubs and supporter groups. I welcome all those moves, and I would like football to implement them as soon as possible.

May I, on behalf of the whole House, endorse the sentiments expressed by the Minister about Fabrice Muamba? I thank all the medical and club staff for their timely intervention in saving Fabrice’s life. The unity of support from fans across the country has been impressive and demonstrates the best of British values.

What action will the Minister take if the working parties recommend that further powers are needed to remove barriers to the co-operative status of football clubs?

We have decided to pass the initial report generated by the DCMS Committee back to it for further consideration and ask for its recommendations. I would not want to give the hon. Gentleman a firm commitment before I have seen the Committee’s recommendations, but I am absolutely determined to ensure that supporters are better represented and have a more central role in the running of their clubs.

Does the Minister agree that the proposed FA regulatory authority needs to have real teeth and that there should not just be a rebadging of rules that have failed, in some cases, to identify the ultimate owners of clubs or to protect communities from the impact of a club’s insolvency?

Fans’ organisations are concerned that the response from the governing bodies does not go far enough. We will have achieved nothing if we do not create greater opportunities for fans to become involved in the governance of the game. Football’s governing bodies have indicated that they are prepared to co-operate and work positively with the Government’s expert working groups. When does the Minister intend to set up those working groups and when does he intend to have them report back by?

I think that the debate has moved on as a result of the football authorities’ response in terms of a licensing system and an explicit commitment to supporters’ liaison officers. There has been a very considerable movement as a result of the Select Committee’s work. As I said, I want to wait to see what the Committee has to say. We will absolutely take on board its recommendations and also look at means to incentivise club owners to make shares available to fans.

14. The key issue is supporter ownership of clubs, which is absolutely crucial. At AFC Telford United, we have a superb model of club ownership by supporters. What more is the Minister’s Department going to do to model, with clubs and owners, new structures for supporter ownership of clubs? (101313)

I pay tribute to the work done at AFC Telford, which is a model of that sort of scheme. This is not an entirely easy problem to grapple with, because no two club ownership models are the same. Unlike, for example, the Spanish model and many other European models, the models in English football are very different from club to club and from division to division. We have to find ways to incentivise owners to place their shares in public ownership.