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Football Governance and Finance

Volume 574: debated on Thursday 30 January 2014

6. What plans she has to bring forward legislative proposals in respect of football governance and finance. (902289)

I will continue to work with football authorities to press for improvements in the game. They have made some significant changes, but my expectation is that they can, and will, make further progress. We will move to legislate if football fails in that task.

I am sure the Minister knows about the dispute between Coventry city council and Coventry football club, since I and my colleagues have made representations to her Department in the past. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on football governance from July 2011 found the Football Association in need of urgent reform and called on the Government to introduce legislation if drastic changes were not made. In April 2013, the then sports Minister stated that he agreed with the Committee and that his officials had started working up a draft Bill. Where is the Bill? Let us have some action.

I think some of these matters could be usefully pursued through Adjournment debates, and will probably have to be.

Football authorities introduced reforms in August last year, including smaller boards and a new licensing system to deal with ownership, financial matters and supporter liaison and engagement. A start has been made, but much more needs to be done. As I have stated, if more is not done there is always the option to legislate.

Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), will the Minister consider publishing the draft Bill and supporting documentation referred to by the previous sports Minister and place them in the House of Commons Library?

There is all-party support for the changes to football legislation mentioned in the Select Committee report and I urge the Minister to keep the pressure on. Otherwise, experience shows that football authorities think we have gone away. Football supporters want to see change.

Whether it is financial mismanagement that results in clubs losing their grounds, or bonkers owners trying to change team names or team colours, surely it is time for parliamentary intervention to protect the rights and interests of fans.

I agree to a large extent with my hon. Friend. Our hope is that football authorities will make the changes that need to be made, but if they do not, there is always the option of legislation.

Will the Minister join me in endorsing the Swansea City football club model in which the supporters trust owns 20% of the club and sits on the board of directors? Last year the club reported a profit of £15.3 million, following a £14.6 million profit the previous year. Surely that is the way forward for football governance.

That sounds a very interesting model and, of course, it is for football authorities to agree what works best. I think there is a place for all types of ownership, and supporters will always have the best interests of their clubs at heart. I am delighted that AFC Wimbledon, Brentford and Exeter City are now owned fully or partly by supporters. I have had recent meetings with Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation, and I look forward to working with them closely on a number of projects.