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Non-league Football

Volume 558: debated on Thursday 14 February 2013

We have been clear, along with the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, that we expect the Football Association to reform the governance of the game as a top priority. As part of that, we expect the FA to show representative, accountable and strategic leadership and help develop football across all levels including the grass-roots, non-league and professional parts of the game.

I declare an interest as a director of Warrington Town football club, which would not exist were it not for dozens of donors and unpaid volunteers. Other non-league clubs are going bust, yet 50% of the money from our national team continues to be diverted to the professional game, which is really very wealthy. The Select Committee has mentioned that problem. Will the Minister update us on the progress towards fixing that allocation?

There is a fine dividing line here, because it is not for the Government to tell the sport how to allocate money that it raises itself any more than it would be for us to allocate the England and Wales Cricket Board’s broadcast income or the Rugby Football Union’s income from Twickenham. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the issue. If we can get the reforms at the FA that we and the Select Committee are pushing for, they will empower the board to take precisely the decisions that he advocates instead of relying on an arbitrary 50% split.

Non-league football is the bedrock of our beautiful game, and as the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) said, many community clubs face extinction. Bedlington Terriers, a community club in my area, faces a very uncertain future. How will the Government engage with the Premier League to ensure that the vast riches trickle down to assist the survival of non-league community clubs?

The Government are doing a number of things, and I entirely take the hon. Gentleman’s point. This is one of the key things that we discuss regularly with the Premier League, the Football League and the FA. The FA, of course, receives one of the largest whole sport plan funding awards of more than £30 million, which is there precisely for the development of the game and to encourage more people to play football. He makes a good point, and we will address it in the reform process.