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Grassroots Football

Volume 648: debated on Thursday 1 November 2018

7. Whether he has made an assessment of the implications for grassroots football of the failure of the proposed sale of Wembley stadium. (907401)

I am about to explain. The Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), has been visiting the United States this week for meetings, including a White House roundtable on doping in sport, and she is travelling back this morning.

I can tell the hon. Member for Bolton North East (Sir David Crausby) that, over the next four years, almost £100 million of public money will help to build and upgrade artificial and grass pitches, encourage greater participation and enhance coaching programmes. He will also be aware that football is benefiting from £100 million a year up to 2019 from the Premier League, and I have begun discussions about ensuring that investment remains at least at that level for the next three years.

Football’s coffers are overflowing, except of course when it comes to grassroots football. The Football Association reports that one in six matches is postponed and one in three pitches is inadequate. In fairness, more money is coming in from the professional game following Government pressure, but it is nowhere near enough, and we still have only half as many 3G pitches as Germany. If we are to remain even close to the forefront of the game, we need to do much more for children’s football—

Order. We just need a question. That was far too long. We need a question with a question mark. Thank you.

Will the Secretary of State put even more pressure on the Premier League to dig deep in its pockets?

15. At 3 o’clock on Saturday, Sporting Khalsa will be taking on the mighty Hucknall Town in Willenhall. What else can the Secretary of State do to support such grassroots football in my constituency? (907410)

I am not available for selection, but there is a huge amount to be done to encourage people to participate. We have talked about facilities, but this is also about people: those who play, those who coach and those who encourage. We need to do more on all those things.

Grassroots football, and football in general, will be improved by greater financial transparency, so what are the Government doing to ensure that club owners cannot sell part of a club’s assets without clearly reporting it?

As the hon. Lady will know, rules already exist around the handling of money in relation to criminal activity, and it is important that we have as much transparency as possible. I will consider her specific point and, if she will forgive me, get back to her on it.

What has been the impact of the reduced rent to small clubs arising from revisions to the electronic communications code? That did not happen on the Secretary of State’s watch, and it was not intended, but it has been a disaster, has it not?

I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend. With the electronic communications code, we have attempted to ensure that property owners cannot prevent the roll-out of new infrastructure that is needed to ensure that this country has proper coverage for mobile and broadband, and that will have to continue. We of course want to ensure that people are properly remunerated, but they cannot hold the whole process to ransom.