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International Sport

Volume 653: debated on Thursday 31 January 2019

8. What steps his Department is taking to encourage more international sport to be played in the UK. (908933)

My Department works closely with UK Sport and national sports governing bodies, as well as with local, regional and devolved partners, to ensure that the UK successfully bids for and stages a range of the world’s largest sporting events. We have secured over 100 major international sports events since 2012, and this will be an exciting summer, which will include the cricket world cup, the cycling road world championships and the netball world cup. Of course, we are looking forward to UEFA 2020, and not far off is the rugby league world cup in 2021.

Now that the FIFA bidding process is much more transparent, has the Minister considered the possibility of holding the 2030 World cup in England or in the United Kingdom, involving all the home nations of our nation?

As the Prime Minister said last year, the UK Government would support a bid to host the 2030 FIFA World cup. I welcome that transparency and the football associations are free to decide whether to pursue that opportunity. The English FA is already working with the FAs of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland to explore the feasibility of such a joint bid.

I am sure the Minister will join me in welcoming the fact that the 2021 rugby league world cup opening ceremony will take place at Newcastle’s St James’ Park. Does she agree that all sport played at St James’ Park should be played in the interest of the fans, not of finance, and that the Premier League would do well to learn that?

The hon. Lady, adorned in black and white, makes her point once again. It is a very exciting announcement for the cities involved, and it is right that she continues to stand up for her football club and for the great sporting prowess in her constituency. It is right that we send the message that Newcastle should continue to play its part.

Does the excellent Minister agree it is important to have international sport here regularly? Four American football games a year are now played in this country—two at Wembley and two at the excellent Tottenham Hotspur ground next year—but would it not be better if we had a permanent franchise so that we could have American football played here throughout the season?

The Americans are coming—on a trade level, on a footballing level and on a baseball level. We will see Major League Baseball at the London stadium, as well as more National Football League games. The Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers are coming, and we will be seeing more and more coming across from the stateside. I am sure my hon. Friend will be delighted to attend. Perhaps we could go together.

There are concerning reports this week that Six Nations rugby, one of the great annual sporting events that unites the nation, is about to be subsumed in a world tournament and disappear off to subscription TV. Will the Minister take steps to add Six Nations rugby to the listed events that must be offered live to free-to-air TV?

As the Six Nations approaches, the excitement fast builds. Such concerns have already been raised with me this week by the Secretary of State for Wales, and I have agreed to meet him and broadcasters. It is important that this area of sport, which we all enjoy, is available for everyone to see and to be part of. I will be taking those concerns forward.

On Saturday I enjoyed watching England’s under-18 schoolboys beat Australia at the excellent Stafford Town football club. Can we ensure that international matches in all sports are played right across the country, including in our great towns as well as in our cities?

That sounds like another bid. It is right that we should host international sporting opportunities across our great country. Perhaps my hon. Friend is bidding to be part of the future UK major sports events strategy, which is coming up shortly. We have seen that, with the announcement of the rugby cities, we are looking beyond London, and it is right that Stafford plays its part.