Motion to Take Note
My Lords, it is an immense privilege to kick off this debate on the English Premier League. In securing this debate, I am grateful still to be able to declare a Premiership interest as a supporter of Newcastle United Football Club. I have learnt to cope with the disappointment over the years, but it is the hope that I cannot quite handle.
My purpose in seeking this debate was to highlight the incredible contribution that Premier League football makes to UK plc week in, week out. It is by far the most watched league in the world: 212 countries broadcast the Premier League, compared with the 193 member states of the United Nations and the 204 countries that sent teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games last summer. That is a real penetration rate. Some 1.46 billion people follow the Premier League around the world—70% of the total population of the televised sport market.
That market is growing fastest in a corner of the world where our economic interests are growing fastest: in Asia. Asia now accounts for 31% of the viewership of Premier League football. The Prime Minister, on a recent trade mission, mentioned the first time that he enrolled the substantial figure of the Premier League trophy as a member of his trade delegation. When he turned up to a dinner in Kuala Lumpur, he saw businessmen from all over east Asia, and he later said:
“I thought … all these people coming to have dinner with me, I must be such a big draw”.
He then realised that in fact they all just wanted to be photographed with the Premier League trophy. It is an immense draw and an immense asset for British business and diplomacy.
If we are in a global race—and we are—the Premier League represents a massive home advantage for British business and diplomacy: it is our Stretford End and our Kop. It is not surprising that the Premier League is at the heart of the GREAT campaign to sell British goods, services and culture around the world. When last year Monocle Magazine carried out its global survey of national soft power capital, the UK was ranked at number one. The Premier League was the driving force behind that extraordinary performance. When Populus carried out an international survey asking respondents to rank what made them view Britain more favourably, the Premier League out-polled popular music, the BBC and even—dare I say in the week of a royal birth?—the monarchy. Showing no hard feelings, Her Majesty awarded to the Premier League the Queen’s award for enterprise in international trade.
When the 22 first division clubs met on the morning of 27 May 1992 to resign en masse from the Football League, thus breaking with 104 years of tradition, not even they could have anticipated the global phenomenon that the Premier League has become. In its first season, it earned £46 million. Last year, it earned £1.28 billion and generated a further £3 billion for clubs through television rights. That is more than double the income of the Spanish and Italian leagues combined.
Part of what makes us British is that we sneer slightly at commercial success, believing that culture cannot really be culture if it is also popular. We slightly look down our noses at players with few or no qualifications earning £100,000 per week. However, the salaries simply reflect the success of the business in which they deploy their sublime skills. In that they are no different from those in any other enterprise, such as investment bankers or hedge fund supremos, except for the level of joy which they give to the public as they ply their trade. Furthermore, Premier League clubs also paid in excess of £1 billion in tax to the Exchequer last year.
With wealth comes responsibility, of course, and support for organisations such as the Football Foundation are a vital way of growing the game for the future. It would be good to see how more of that wealth at the top could trickle down to the grass roots and help new talent to grow.
People around the world do not just watch Premiership football, they also come to see it. VisitBritain announced in October 2012 that 900,000 football tourists came to the UK in 2012, contributing £706 million to the national economy. This compares favourably to the 590,000 people who turned up for the Olympics and Paralympics.
It is not just the staggering commercial success and sheer entertainment value through which the Premier League makes its contribution to the reputation of the UK around the world. It is also through its international engagement. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, chairman of the British Council All-Party Parliamentary Group, for pointing out to me the British Council and Premier League’s partnership through Premier Skills, which has helped 2,300 coaches and 400,000 young people in 20 countries around the world, including Afghanistan. It is no coincidence that the British Council has paired up with the Premier League—they both recognise that the Premier League’s global audience is earned because it is globally accessible. Clubs are owned by Russians, Chinese, Americans, Indians and Arabs, with managers from 11 nations and players from 65 nations, and they are all watched in 212 nations.
For those of us of an internationalist persuasion nothing warms our soul quite like the sight of sportsmen of many different nations and cultures playing on the same level playing field, under the same rules, demonstrating the same purpose and commitment, working together as a team in pursuit of common goals. We have Argentinean and English, Greek and Turk, Iranian and American, Ukrainian and Russian, Serb and Croat, Japanese and Korean, who all play in the league, for the same teams, demonstrating the unifying nature of sport and confirming—whatever the politicians or clerics might tell us—that we are all human first. It is the ultimate meritocracy as it matters not a jot whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, gay or straight; it does not matter how you look—as Wayne Rooney can tell us—but only how you play and what results you deliver.
The league is also becoming more religiously diverse. We are all familiar with the crucifix-kissing and heavenward-pointing finger of Christian players’ goal celebrations, but more than 40 Muslim players now play in the league, and when Demba Ba struck a thunderous volley for Newcastle against Manchester United, I almost converted on the spot. Seriously, however, that is why it is vital that that the Premier League is ruthless in ensuring that racism and all other forms of prejudice are trumped by respect for all those on the field and off, for that is the Premier League brand. All are welcome, worthy of respect and are subject to the same rules.
The Premier League is a great success story of which we can all be proud. It can be an immensely powerful resource for British business and diplomacy around the world, not just because of the game itself but because of what it says about how we believe the game should be played.
I am very grateful to so many noble Lords for registering to speak in this debate and I look forward to their contributions—and, in the spirit of the game, I will forgo my extra time and pass it on. I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on introducing this Motion. He has chosen an interesting title, which I would not normally associate with a debate on football in its broadest sense. However, to narrow a subject down to a particular league is quite unique and very welcome. Before I go on, I must say that I am sure that noble Lords in this debate who heard at Question Time that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, will be running a marathon for charity—and not for the first time—will want to wish him very well in that endeavour. This debate gives me an opportunity once more to promote an aspect of the work of the Premier League in so far as it makes a massive contribution under the aegis of the Football Foundation, and I declare an interest as president of that body.
As the noble Lord has already said, the incredible global success of the Premier League product has provided a colossal windfall contribution in both cash and expertise to the grassroots game here in England. Although in this Motion we are largely or at least in part referring to the international dimension of the league’s work, its impact on our domestic grassroots game cannot be underestimated. In the past year alone, some £45 million was invested in grassroots and community activities by the Premier League.
In addition, the contribution made by the Premier League has also attracted £418 million of funding from local businesses, housing developers, the project’s own funding foundation, as well as other sources. Furthermore, the Premier League’s payment to grass-roots infrastructure has helped to improve not just the health of the population but also the health of the economy. For example, if a local football club or school needs to build a new playing surface or pavilion, it thus provides jobs to architects, builders, electricians, plumbers, and so on. The boost to the health of the UK’s economy as a result of the Premier League’s investment in the Football Foundation can be exemplified through the research that has been carried out recently by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which showed the benefits to the UK economy in terms of the jobs, contribution to GDP and growth that result from that investment.
I have in previous debates referred to the major contributions made to the Football Foundation by the Premier League and, of course, the Government and the Football Association, which are partners. Together they have invested some £200 million each into the foundation’s funds since 2000. That has provided 1,664 new grass-roots sports facilities, including 402 new artificial pitches, 2,369 new grass pitches and 759 new changing facilities—I know this can be tedious, but it is very important to recognise the work that has been done—and thus has generated an enormous number of jobs and revenue to the Exchequer. The end of the statistics, I think. As an example, last season £1 billion of revenue to the Government was exclusively generated as a direct result of the Premier League, allowing more than £700 million to be spent in the UK economy. Almost 1 million foreign football fans came to the UK to watch Premier League clubs last season and 1,600 jobs and 843 community club projects were set up as a direct result of the Premier League funding. Together with the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Premier League Foundation also provides grant schemes from the television revenues generated by the league. Clubs can use this money to assist charities financially, such as Tottenham Hotspur’s funding of London’s disability sport-specific charity, Interactive, which is just one of a huge number that owe much to the funding by the Premier League.
It was in June 2000 that I stood on the lawn of No. 10 Downing Street with the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, launching the Football Foundation with representatives of the funding partners. Alongside me that day was Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League and one of the original trustees of the foundation. Now, 13 years later, he still remains a trustee of its board. During the time that I was chairman of the board, I cannot remember him ever missing a single board meeting which, given the sheer scale and reach of the Premier League’s operations, shows an amazing level of commitment. While I could list many quantitative examples of the benefits to the UK’s economy, community and culture that are created by the Premier League, I should remind the House that the impact of the Premier League spreads further than just money or statistics. Football, being a sport, is in its very nature something that has a huge impact that cannot be easily quantified. Unfortunately, you cannot quantify inspiration or the sense of community, education, tolerance and respect. It is, however, arguably the most high-profile football league in the world. The coverage of the English Premier League that is seen by young people inspires them to take up sport and, in this case, football. It takes them away from activities that could be unsavoury. The sport gives young people who are surrounded by crime an incredible opportunity to gain priceless life experiences such as learning the importance of teamwork, leadership, skills and, ultimately, discipline and hard work. Any young person can get on to a football field, whatever their background, colour or creed, and they can learn and flourish there.
The other aspect of the nature of the Premier League—
My Lords, I have a confession to make: I am not a football fan. It is an odd thing. What does Premier League football—this great, iconic game in this country—mean to me? My home city is Norwich. I still look for the result when it is announced on a Saturday. I still take that bit of time to find it. I might not take much time to watch the team play, but in a strange way the result matters. It is part of my identity. That tells us much about the importance of football in our society. It gets through to people who play another sport—in my case, rugby. It has a dominant position, which explains why the Premier League, when it broke away from all those years of tradition with all the gloom and doom that came with them, has gone on to be a wholly new, global thing.
How has football transformed itself? My memories of it as a young person were of something that you went to in order to shout abuse—often of a racist quality—at people and to get into fights. That was the general impression. The game at professional level has transformed itself after some very unpleasant experiences, and continues to transform itself. It now accepts its social role. Parliament is a slightly reactive body. There has to be a problem, it has to get reported and then we generally do something about it at some point after that. We now have interaction with the system, which has broken down the anti-social aspects of football and allowed this new thing to flourish. Now the Premier League has gone global and encourages huge amounts of expenditure.
What are the downsides of the changes that have happened from the world I grew up in? The idea of the local boy playing for his club and coming good is something that is now almost guaranteed not to happen because of the free and global market in players, and the international market structure. That has been used to explain the lack of competition for our national team. I repeated this argument once and somebody who knew something about the game said, “Don’t talk rubbish. The people who are beating us often have their players in our league as well”.
It is a huge, comparatively new thing. One of its downsides as a sporting event is that the championship is won too often by the same few clubs. Manchester United seems to have a timeshare on the championship with whoever else is coming along in the queue at the time. Greater diversity would be beneficial. However, as we look through the briefing, we discover that investment in other sports—for instance, the Olympics—and their competitors is important. So are the continuation of talent spotting, and support for the teaching of training techniques. The Premier League is showing the way here, and investing in sports science produced by other bodies. This movement is gaining momentum and reflects the world in which we live.
However, when things go wrong—we remember the disappearance of Leeds United and Portsmouth—it can be cataclysmic. A club, which is a great social entity that brings pride to a local community, can disappear. Under this system, I do not think that there is great enthusiasm for saying that you have a franchise rather than a place in a league with the possibility of promotion and relegation. It can all go horribly wrong. It can even cause losses to the Revenue, as it did in the case of Portsmouth and other clubs. If we look north of the border to another great icon of the football scene—Rangers—and the trouble it has got into, we see the need to temper the ability to strive for success with realism. It reinforces the point about management structures and the fact that things come with a preparation cost.
It is a romantic idea even if much of the romance is being stripped out by money. However, if you do not prepare, you will lose this thing that people have a relationship with. The managers of many clubs have been hounded out because they would not invest sufficiently in their club for their fan base. The English Premier League as it stands now does good works and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, has pointed out one of its activities. It is an icon of sporting activity. However, it has also shown that it needs management, investment and to be observed. The Government cannot totally turn their eyes away from it. To get the best out of it we have to live and interact with it. It cannot be left to itself but must link to its community. Politicians must make sure that it remains linked, too, to our structure. It is simply too big and too influential to be left to one side. We must to talk to and engage with it. Otherwise we will lose many of the benefits that are potentially there.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to contribute to this debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on initiating it and opening it in such an eloquent manner. I declare an interest. I am an Arsenal season-ticket holder and a lifetime member of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, and I am therefore a Gooner. I will do my best from now on to avoid references to my team and my favourite football metaphors.
As we reach the moment when transfer deals are won and lost, while the new season is rapidly approaching and the sad lack of achievement by our national squads is all too recent, it is a good time to reflect on the achievements of the English Premier League. There is no doubting the scale of the economic impact, which has already been mentioned by several noble Lords. Scanning through the Premier League submissions to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and Deloitte’s review, we learn that some of the vast amounts of money that have been earned have been reinvested in stadium facilities, playing squads and training standards in wider communities and grass-roots football. It is not only the football business that benefits from the Premier League’s financial achievements. Clubs have a significant impact on employment, GDP, national and local economies, and industries such as broadcasting, marketing, travel, tourism and hospitality, and on taxation revenues, as has been mentioned.
With the projected 25% increase in income from broadcasting, it is calculated that the revenue of Premier League clubs could hit £3 billion. We are looking at an institution in rude financial health, in spite of financial downturn, recession and austerity, whereas in the Spanish and Italian leagues the economic climate has dampened revenues. In fact, though the German Bundesliga is the most profitable league in Europe, the Premier League has the highest revenue of any league in European football. This is testament to its negotiating power, which is in turn due to its popularity and global drawing power.
While revenues continue to grow, the profitability of some individual clubs gives rise to concern and points to wider issues of financial sustainability, responsible ownership and accountability to supporters. Some clubs live beyond their means. The 2011 CentreForum report, Football and the Big Society, drew attention to the fact that several clubs were operating at a loss. Two significant issues were the financial solvency of some of the benefactors keeping clubs going, and these benefactors’ general suitability. Portsmouth FC has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. It ended up in administration with unpaid debts of £108.6 million, including £17 million owed to HMRC.
Beyond the Premier League in wider football issues, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has raised serious concerns about the overall governance of the sport, especially in the context of increasing commercialisation, a lack of adequate financial regulation and significant financial risk-taking. In its Football Governance Follow-Up report published earlier this year, the committee states:
“We see little evidence that clubs will spend significant amounts of the funding available from the latest broadcasting rights settlement on increasing their sustainability rather than on players’ salaries and transfers”.
The committee also questioned how the new regulations on financial fair play would be enforced. Commenting on football authorities’ responses to proposals for reform, John Whittingdale, chair of the committee, said:
“While some progress has been achieved, much greater reform in football is needed to make the game inclusive, sustainable and driven from the grass roots, where it should be … the financial risk-taking by clubs is a threat to the sustainability of football as a family and community-orientated game, which it should be”.
That last point is important because it goes to the heart of what support and allegiance to a football club is all about: the links and relationship to a club’s fan base and the club’s place in, and contribution to, the local community.
Of course, many football clubs have long-standing community engagement programmes and activities that are broad and inventive. For example, football is used to encourage participation in physical exercise, to contribute to a healthy living agenda, to promote community cohesion through initiatives that bring people together, and for tapping into interest in football to encourage young people to take up modern languages and so on. But, arguably, community engagement goes beyond developing and implementing specific projects. It is an ethos—an embedded practice that should inform the way in which a club relates to its supporters and local communities throughout its business. In Football, Ownership and Social Value, Supporters Direct stated that increased “ticket and kit prices”, along with a,
“sense of being ‘fleeced’ at every opportunity … have priced many out of the ‘people’s game’”.
The impersonal relationship, the cost of supporting a super-club and the influence of TV contracts on the timing of matches have put off many, especially families, from following FA Premier League teams.
Football has done much to tackle racism on the pitch and on the terraces, and homophobia, but still there is a huge amount to do. I hope that my noble friend Lord Ouseley will speak later on how progress is being made on tackling racism and other forms of discrimination. It is noticeable that although the women’s game is growing in popularity—in spite of a recent, temporary setback—and British-born players of African and African-Caribbean descent are gracing pitches throughout the country, when we look at managers and coaches and scan the faces in boardrooms throughout the game we do not see any of this diversity reflected. That problem needs urgent attention.
When we shell out for our tickets, we do not do so because we want to buy into a business plan or profit margins. Anyone who knows the joy and pain of supporting a football team knows that we support it because of the close relationship between the club’s history and heritage, in its values and ethos, and those of our own as fans.
My Lords, I join my fellow Peers in congratulating my noble friend Lord Bates on securing this debate. Amid a summer of sporting success, it is only right that we turn to football, a sport whose Premier League has become truly world class over the past two decades, even though as a nation we still eagerly look forward to a World Cup breakthrough to add to our recent tally. I shall focus on how we balance the interests of increasingly international club shareholders and owners in the Premier League with those of the nation at large and the communities and economies that they are linked with locally, and why it is of benefit to us all to do so.
We cannot ignore other aspects. Investors and new club owners, combined with the boost from commercial television and advertising income in these past decades, have presided over the professionalisation and increased global prominence of clubs that we could only have dreamed of when the sport was invented, making the experience whether on or off the pitch, at home or in the pub, that much richer. At the same time, footballing history reminds us that clubs initially were formed to provide a social function enabling local communities to enjoy leisure and fitness, and to build character. They acted as a linchpin of local society and local economy.
Today, there is huge potential for global football brands to further benefit the UK economically. I declare here an interest as a Manchester United supporter and as a non-executive director of the Manchester-China Forum. When conducting a survey for A Report on Growing East, which I recently co-authored, we identified how in China, Manchester is most closely associated with football, and that opportunities for promoting the city among Chinese investors and companies abound when the clubs and local promotion agencies can work together and co-ordinate their efforts. The very international nature of football today is able to not only bring investment but create relationships of a global nature that enable and fuel growth in our cities to help them develop trade, tourism, retail and infrastructure, thereby creating jobs.
At the same time, that very international nature brought about by foreign ownership and involvement is a huge benefit to the culture of many of our cities and towns, making them more diverse and interesting both on and off the pitch. Racism, which has historically been a scourge in football, has moved on significantly as a result of having players and supporters represented in our Premier League teams from all over the world and joining forces through campaigns such as that run by Kick It Out. Some would say that this has brought disadvantages in that local British players do not get as much opportunity to play in season. I have to disagree, because we cannot protect our British players from global competition since ultimately it will make them more competitive. However, we could do even more at the national level to identify and nurture a truly great set of national teams.
At this point, the debate over the national interest and the ownership of major football clubs in the UK can sometimes reach fever pitch. If we look at other sports where we have seen successes recently, they have come overwhelmingly from taking an increasingly scientific approach to developing individuals and teams, with lots of resources being put into growing a strong pipeline of competitive athletes. The onus is on the country or the national team to develop this, not always on the local club or association.
Similarly, in the UK we need to borrow from international influences and follow Germany’s example by vigorously bringing the youth development of players back into the centre rather than relying solely on our Premier League clubs. We could add a British free-market twist and charge clubs if they want to buy some of those players, developed in a national pool, for their squads. That would help pay back the nation for investing in them. Indeed, the young people themselves could be invited to agree to pay back from some of their future earnings, should they enter the Premier League and earn above a certain threshold. That could assuage concerns about the high salaries that footballers receive. Germany has 1,000 part-time scouts and qualified coaches looking everywhere for the talent it needs for the future. We ought to invest to a similar degree now that St George’s Park is in place and not rely primarily on clubs to do all the work, except to provide the market mechanisms to help make this endeavour sustainable.
I want to look at how this balance between foreign ownership and local needs plays out through an aspect that unfortunately is sometimes overlooked, but which is of the utmost importance: the role of fans. In recent years, there has been much talk and a few examples of exploring how fans could theoretically come together and buy out their clubs, in part or in full, to create structures more akin to that of Barcelona in the UK. I am very much in favour of such arrangements but we need to be realistic and perhaps opt for more partnership arrangements, in which fans could come together via a trust that would take a significant stake with voting rights—as with the John Lewis Partnership. This would still allow new investment to come in, yet give fans more of a voice. Ultimately, it seems to me that the Premier League model should complete a shift away from live spectator fees being the main driver of income for clubs to what is already starting to happen: having advertising and satellite viewing fees, combined with diverse merchandising income from all around the world. Fans who have a stake in their club financially would have a greater incentive to help generate followers and fans both in the UK and globally, creating a virtuous and, hopefully, less debt-fuelled circle.
In this regard, can the Minister say what plans there are in this area and whether any legal incentives could be put forward to make it easier to put such fan-led shareholder arrangements into place? With such ownership we could start to see a more holistic set of activities which many of the best Premier League clubs already engage in, but which can be hard to maintain, given financial and commercial pressures, and thus develop the social and cultural fabric of the local community. I will not go into the countless ways that clubs already get involved in helping local causes. My personal favourite involves clubs agreeing to host mental health and job clubs for men who traditionally find it hard to admit that they have challenges in these areas but will turn up to an activity at a football ground. Given that clubs are not used that much for games on weekdays, there is huge scope for them to be leveraged further for public and social benefit, such as through the successful aforementioned Premier Skills initiative.
Given these and many other examples, it strikes me that we ought to be looking at mechanisms whereby we can harness global football grounds for local benefit on the investment front. Where we do that already, we help to improve citizen well-being and save public money, and club money as well. Could we one day see impact bonds that would create, in partnership with clubs, their fans and stakeholders, ways to help save money locally while creating jobs and fostering well-being in citizens? Promoting cities for trade through clubs, a football investment bank, incentives and support for fans to jointly own their clubs and more partnerships to leverage football brands for social and public benefits are brief examples that demonstrate how, with a little creativity and leadership, foreign ownership of clubs and the local and national benefits from the Premier League’s international nature do not have to amount to a zero-sum game. Get the balance right, and we all win.
My Lords, I, too, am delighted to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate today. I should remind the House of my football interests. I am vice-president of the Football Conference and of Level Playing Field and am vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Football Group. I also declare that I am the occasional recipient of hospitality from the Football Association at its matches at Wembley.
The noble Lord, Lord Bates, and other noble Lords are right to draw attention to the immense success, in economic terms, of the English Premier League. I want to draw the House’s attention to a slightly separate aspect and make the point that this success has not been without controversy or consequences for the governance of the game and for the England national team. Two weeks ago, the Guardian published the results of an investigation into the number of English players performing at the highest level. Their findings, which relate to last season, show that only 189 English players featured in the Premier League and that as few as 88 of them appeared in more than half the matches. The top four Premier League clubs used only 29 English players between them. That is in contrast to top European leagues abroad. In Spain’s La Liga, for example, there were 332 Spanish national players, making 6,391 appearances in the season.
The absence of English footballers playing at the highest level is having a serious effect on the ability of the England national team manager to put together a credible side to compete in international competitions; a point which perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Wei, was referring to obliquely when he talked about the need for success at national level. The problem is particularly acute with young players. The England under-21 and under-20 national teams finished without a single win in their respective European Championship and World Cup finals this summer. A report in the Guardian on 12 July quoted Gary Neville, who is the national team assistant as well as a respected pundit on Sky, to suggest that,
“English football has reached a ‘tipping point’ with youth academies at the Premier League’s elite clubs flooded by foreign recruits and short-term demands in the domestic game effectively blocking the progress of local talent into the first team”.
Neville contrasted the situation with Barcelona, a club that he said,
“have seven or eight players who have come through their academy”.
The commercial success of the Premier League has also opened up the problems of governance within the Football Association. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in another place has published two reports into domestic football governance. It concluded in both of them that the FA,
“was in need of urgent reform”.
In the second report, the committee said:
“We were concerned that the leagues—and the Premier League in particular—had too great an influence over the decision-making processes of the Football Association”.
The football authorities responded to the report with proposals for reform, which the Select Committee said,
“failed to go far enough in addressing the crux of the governance problem … the structure of the Football Association led to delegation of too much responsibility away from the Main Board and towards committees dominated by the Premier and Football Leagues, and they also failed to provide the greater financial stability that the game needs”.
That was not for want of trying on the part of the recently retired chairman of the FA, David Bernstein, who not only brought stability to a much troubled organisation in the two and a half years he was in the job but struggled heroically, albeit ultimately unsuccessfully, with these issues of reform. It is an open secret that he largely shares the views of the Select Committee, including the conclusion in the summary of the second report, which said:
“We recommend that the DCMS make it clear to the football authorities that further progress on these issues is expected within twelve months. In the absence of significant progress, the Government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible”.
It is remarkable that a Select Committee with a government majority should come up with such a radical report. I assumed that the Government would respond by thanking it politely and then burying the report.
However, that was not so. Hugh Robertson MP, the Minister for Sport and Tourism, responded by letter on 30 April this year, saying that he agreed with the committee’s recommendation that, in the absence of significant progress with a licensing system for clubs, the introduction of a representative and balanced board and improved spectator engagement at club level,
“by the beginning of next season, we should seek to introduce legislation as soon as practically possible”.
He went on:
“I have already been given drafting authority by the Parliamentary Counsel, and my officials have started working up a draft Bill and supporting documentation, should football fail to deliver. This Bill will reflect the conclusions of your report”.
That is fighting talk. Perhaps the Minister will tell the House how the Government will determine whether football has delivered and whether they will publish the Bill in draft form and submit it to scrutiny by both Houses. How likely is it that the Bill will contain proposals for a regulatory authority, and for the establishment of a levy on those bodies in football which can afford to pay, so that organisations which currently receive funding from the Premier League will continue to do so? Will the Bill tackle the effect of the Premiership’s economic power on the rest of the game?
In my last minute, I will raise one further matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, gave evidence to the Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy on 3 July. She contrasted the provision of facilities for disabled supporters at the Olympic and Paralympic Games with the situation in most Premiership football grounds, which she described as,
“pretty shocking if you are a wheelchair user”.
She went on to say:
“There is a large number of clubs who do not allow disabled people to buy season tickets; they can be given tickets in one out of every three games, which means you cannot complain about your sightline, your accessible seating, toilets or whether you have to sit with away fans or home and away fans together”.
In response to questions, the noble Baroness agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that it should be illegal for football clubs to discriminate on the basis of disability and agreed with his analogy of clubs having to comply by law with safety requirements in providing disabled access. Does the Minister agree with that finding?
My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for initiating this debate and enabling the very interesting contributions that we have already heard on the Premier League and its contributions to our society and in a global context. From the outset, I declare an interest as the chairman of Kick It Out, which was set up in the second year of the Premier League. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for the contribution he made in supporting the start-up of Kick It Out through his work at the time with the Football Trust, which has been superseded by the Football Foundation, of which the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, who spoke earlier, is the president.
Kick It Out was set up at a time when racism was rampant not only in football but on the streets of Britain—1993 was the year that Stephen Lawrence was murdered. Football’s reputation was clearly in the gutter at the time, so it was very important during the Premier League’s second year that notable figures such as David Dein, who was at the Premier League at the time, took an interest in the formation of Kick It Out and supported the Premier League in joining the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football Association in enabling the challenge to racism, and to other forms of unacceptable abuse that were going on in football, to be taken up and supported.
I suppose that the Premier League owes its creation to many visionaries, who are probably all queuing up to claim credit for it. In addition to David Dein, I mention Greg Dyke, the current chair of the Football Association. He had the vision, way back when he was at London Weekend Television, in collaboration with others, to enable the formation of the Premier League, which has led to the successes that we have heard about. The noble Lords, Lord Bates and Lord Wei, and others have mentioned that success very eloquently.
With all its achievements and its high profile, there is an inevitable elitism about the Premier League. However, it is counterbalanced—which is really what I want to talk about—by admirable community programmes, some of which have been mentioned already, which the Premier League sponsors. With a focus on vulnerable young people and deprived communities, its contributions have been crucial for good community relations and social cohesion, but there is much more that could be done and must be done if we are to stimulate the next generation of young players, supporters, administrators and volunteers to be part of a sport that should be seen as a source for good, not just in the context of the riches it generates and the global position it holds but how it influences particularly the next generation.
That is an area in which I am most concerned that football must do more, particularly in boys’, girls’ and disabled football. In this regard, the programmes that support the mentoring, education and upskilling of individuals will be vital to freeing the game from racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic abuse, harassment, bigotry, prejudice and other forms of unacceptable behaviours and attitudes. We have heard of the transformation that has taken place during the past 20 years, but all those features still exist in English Premier League football and, indeed, right across the football terrain.
The Premier League’s programmes generate partnerships of joint funding. We have heard already of Premier Skills English with the British Council. There is also Premier League Reading Stars with the National Literacy Trust. Its Kickz programmes, in partnerships with the police, have attracted universal acclaim, with benefits for thousands of vulnerable young people. Its current pride and joy is the Creating Chances programme, which has attracted some 4 million young people who attended projects during 2011.
In spite of all the deserved acclamation, there are feelings that the relatively poorer sections of our community are unable to afford to go to Premier League football matches. In fact, they pay a disproportionate amount of their income in trying to sustain their interest in the Premier League. Their BSkyB contributions, as they go up, compete with the need to put bread on the table for their families and to deal with their essential costs of rent, transport and fuel against a background of decreased earned income. Such resentment is understandable when it is known that many Premier League clubs pay their players considerable sums of money that can only be dreamt of by the fans. Agents take huge commissions. An increasing number of clubs are foreign owned, and many carry huge debts, as we have heard, with their foreign owners bailing them out. Without that bailout many would be insolvent. There are different realities at play here.
While the Premier League continues to grow as a dominant force, it must never be overlooked that football’s past, present and future development in England relies on the responsibilities and duties of the Football Association, the oldest national football association in the world, currently enjoying its 150th year of existence. The FA is the national governing body for football in England, charged with running grass-roots football for the 7 million individuals who play the game across the country, with 32,000 clubs and 113,000 teams affiliated to local leagues in a variety of ways. The FA also relies on more than 400,000 volunteers, 300,000 qualified coaches and 27,000 trained referees to facilitate and enable participation in and enjoyment of football being played regularly across the country. I will not list the many achievements attributed to it, as time is running short.
Following a summit convened in 2012 by the Prime Minister about racism in football, the FA launched last December the English football inclusion and anti-discrimination action plan with the full support of the football clubs, the leagues, the PFA, the League Managers Association and Professional Game Match Officials Limited. One of the main goals of the plan is to widen football’s talent pool for coaching, refereeing, licensing tutors, adjudicating and decision-making. For football to achieve its diversity and equality goals will require all administrators, decision-makers, managers and power brokers in the game to accept personal and professional responsibility to pursue the right actions to achieve the equality outcomes. The present composition of boardrooms, senior management teams, coaching teams and administrators in the authorities and in the clubs illustrates that there is a long haul ahead to take the next generation of fans and players to a point when it can be seen that all forms of bigotry, discrimination and hatred in the game have been eliminated.
My Lords, I begin by apologising to the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, for trying to jump the queue a few moments ago. My enthusiasm must have got the better of me. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate, but perhaps I can ask him rhetorically why he did not get together with my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch to combine this debate with the one taking place later today on the contribution of the arts to the educational and emotional well-being of society. I think the two could have been put together and, as I cannot be here to participate in that debate, that would have served my own interests as well.
It is perhaps appropriate that I talk of serving one’s own interests, because that really was the basis on which the FA Premier League was started in 1992—there are no two ways about it. It was a breakaway from the Football League on the basis of seeking a greater share of television revenues and getting more of that for the top clubs. It is unfortunate that that kind of hubris has also manifested itself in the very fact that the competition is now called “the Premier League”. I am sorry but it is not the Premier League. The Premier League was formed in 1988, and in 1998 in Scotland. When the FA was formed in 1863, it had the right to call itself that because it was the first in the world, and when the Football League was founded in 1888, it was the first in the world to have that title, but “the Premier League” is not a title that this organisation has the right to use, and I wish that it would not use it. None the less, I think that is symptomatic. The organisation was formerly called “the FA Premier League” when it started, but the hubris to which I referred earlier has led to a break with the FA and a difficult relationship between the English Premier League, as it is referred to by all people outside England, and the FA. I think that has to be recognised.
I turn now to the specific subject of this debate, the question of the economic and cultural contribution to society of the English Premier League to the United Kingdom—the international aspect is different, and I will say a bit about that in a moment. The Premier League’s contribution is self-evident. Of course it is there; that is absolutely clear. A classic example is Swansea City, a club that got into the top level for the first time, I believe, in 2011. In that first season, a university study showed, it brought about a £58 million boost to the local economy of Swansea and the surrounding area. That, perhaps, is not surprising when you consider that, given where Swansea is, people who travel there for games probably stay there overnight and spend a lot in the local economy. There are many other examples of that, and it is very much to be welcomed. Swansea City is an interesting example because in 2003 that club had to win its last game of the season to avoid dropping out of the Football League entirely. Of course, it did win, and eight years later it was in the English Premier League, which I am very pleased about.
However, 20% of that club is owned by a supporters’ trust. It is the only English Premier League club that has supporters’ trust ownership of it, and it has a director on the board as well, which is important. To some extent, I declare an interest in two supporters’ trusts—not in the English Premier League—one in Dundee United, ArabTRUST, of which I was a founder member, and, in AFC Wimbledon, the Dons Trust, of which I am also a member. I would like to see more of that kind of ownership, as is the case at Swansea, with other English Premier League clubs. I know that it is difficult because they are much bigger than the Dundee Uniteds and the AFC Wimbledons of this world, but it is possible and I hope that clubs will look at some means of doing that.
The way in which the clubs have developed in the 21 years since the English Premier League was formed is in some ways unfortunate. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Bates, I have not welcomed the international ownership. He said that he is an internationalist. I am certainly an internationalist, but it has not always been for the benefit of clubs in England that some international owners have come in clearly knowing little about the clubs, the fans and the traditions, and sometimes knowing little, it would seem, about football. Blackburn Rovers is a classic example of that. It was a mid-range Premier League club. It had been in Europe. It had won, I think, the league cup under Graeme Souness, and it was doing reasonably well without ever seeking to repeat its feat in the mid-1990s of winning the championship. At the end of last season, having dropped out of the English Premier League last year under, I believe, Indian ownership, it very nearly went into the league below, but it just escaped doing so. That, I think, is down to bad management. The example of Portsmouth to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred, is well known. Now run, incidentally, entirely by a supporters’ trust, it has gone from the English Premier League to the fourth tier at League Two in four or five years. I pay tribute to the Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt, who has played a heroic role in saving that club and ensuring that the supporters are now able to run that club and, I hope, build it back up again. With the support base of Portsmouth, I see no reason why it should not rise up again fairly quickly. That is another example of fan involvement, which is very important. The role of an organisation called Supporters Direct is absolutely fundamental. It supports supporters’ trusts at all levels of the professional and semi-professional game. Much of what it does goes unrecorded.
Touching on points made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester about the international aspects of the English Premier League, I think it is incontestable that it has been damaging for the English national football teams—I use the plural deliberately. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, mentioned the women’s team; although not directly related to the Premier League, it had a rather bad experience last week as well. At all levels, the English teams are certainly underperforming.
Since the English Premier League came into being 21 years ago, there have been five World Cups and six European Championships. Germany has been in four finals, Italy four, Spain three and France three—England has not reached even a semi-final. That cannot just be coincidence. Equally, on the performance of clubs since the English Premier League came into being, in the 21 years before it started England was the best and most successful country in Europe. Since the English Premier League came into being, England is the third most successful, behind Italy and Spain, in terms of wins and places in European finals.
Is the Premier League the best league in the world? It is the best league if you look at the worth—the TV deal. It is a little unfortunate that the recently ennobled noble Lord, Lord Livingston of Parkhead, is not here because he played a major role at BT in getting a huge amount of money into the television deal that kicks in this season. In terms of worth, there is no doubt that it is the best in the world. In terms of excitement, that is subjective. My own view is that the Bundesliga in Germany is slightly better, but it is a very exciting league. The average crowds are 35,000 in England versus 42,000 in Germany, so it has some way to go there.
It comes back to the overall product that is available. Unequivocally, the number of foreign visitors who come to this country to go to an English Premier League match and then of course do other things such as shopping and going to the theatre is a real benefit. I am not denying that it is a success. We just have to remember how it was born and the ethos it has, which is not by any means always in the interests of fans or indeed clubs at a lower level within the pyramid.
My Lords, what a treat this is. First, I thank my noble friend for allowing me the chance to express my passion in the afternoon. It is interesting that as we discuss the Premier League in England, one Scot follows another. The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, is a neighbour of mine. I declare an interest that I am patron of a magnificent club six miles from my home that is known colloquially as Atletico di Forfar. In our local newspapers, the Forfar Dispatch and the Kirriemuir Herald, no doubt next week it will say, “Loons mentioned twice in the House of Lords”. We very much cherish the support of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who will speak later.
My noble friend has included in his Motion the economic aspect of the Premier League. I have received much briefing and many figures have been bandied about as to the actual visitors who come to England to watch the game. I recall the European Championships in 1996, when on wonderful summer evenings one would see football fans from all over Europe enjoying themselves not just in London but in great cities and towns throughout England, enjoying the very best hospitality and football and everything that is good about football in England—not just the Premier League.
As far as the economic aspect of the Premier League is concerned, it is also the worldwide audience, both with television and the opening up of satellite. Joined to that, anyone who looks at the accounts of the Premier League clubs will find that an enormous percentage of the revenue is from kit and what I call regalia. It is a major item in those clubs’ accounts.
As for the tickets, I am not sure what is paid elsewhere in Europe but I know that the last time I, as a mean Scot, had to pay to go to a match in London, it was £56. The team that my beloved team was playing was not purported to be in the top four so it was “only” £56. That is what I call “London rules”.
Taking the aspect of the players, your Lordships have spoken about the proportion of English players and international players. They are certainly la crème de la crème. I suspect that the Premier League in England has some of the highest quality, if not the highest quality, of players from all round the world in one league in one nation. As far as the managers are concerned, well, there are a good few of them.
My noble friend’s Motion also mentions the international aspect. As a Scot, I do wish England the very best in 2014. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, and I will know, the TTIN syndrome comes into play here. It is nothing to do with Tintin, the cartoon character, but I always call it the “Third Thursday in November” of the odd years, when it is normal that we hear once again that Scotland has not quite made it to the final of the upcoming international championships.
Perhaps the noble Lord might be going. I have not received my invite yet. I probably will be at Station Park, Forfar, instead.
My noble friend’s Motion refers to culture. I worry mildly about that. When I had more time to devote to sporting activities, having finally qualified as a chartered accountant under Scottish rules, I recall in 1967-68 large crowds singing happily, “We shall not be moved”. That was usually once their team was on top and they were putting a thumb to their nose at the television cameras and the great ones from the FA. I will not go into the culture north of the border. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, will know—the supporters of his club are known as the Arabs—that even in Dundee there is a religious aspect to it. Certainly, north of the border you have to be very careful what you do because the Scottish Government, I understand, are going to have cameras on the crowds, not just to hear the melodies you are singing but to lip-read the words you are using. I am not likely to do that at Forfar.
As far as the English Premier league is concerned, I find that wit, jokes and nice jests are very much appreciated. Indeed, my attempts at speaking foreign languages have been blessed by learning three particular phrases, at the grounds in England as well as abroad. One is, “New glasses”, another is, “White stick”, and the third is, “Guide dog”—normally aimed at any one of the three or four match officials. I can assure your Lordships that it goes down particularly well.
I thank my noble friend Lord Bates for introducing this debate because for me and, I suspect, the millions of spectators of the Premier League both here and around the world, football is fun. You can laugh, admire and commiserate but most of all you make lifelong friends. I support a club that is not in the top four. I was struck down in 2006 with a mild stroke. I spoke to one of the directors of this club and he said, “I am so sorry, are you desperately ill?”. Within one hour, you could not have got in through the door of my room because a vast bouquet had appeared. The card said, “From the manager and players of Everton Football Club”. There was a motto underneath, saying, “Get well, YB”—not standing for Young Boys of Bern, but “you something”—“We need you”. An hour later, another bouquet appeared from the youth academy to me, a mere supporter of that club. That is the link that binds us in the Premier League in England and, above all, what a marvellous job it does not just for economics but for relationships in England as well as all over the world.
I thank my noble friend and give every good wish to the Three Lions in 2014. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, will know, the Lion Rampant still rules.
My Lords, perhaps I could begin with a declaration of interest—or rather, I am afraid, lack of interest: I am not very keen on football. I am a sporting person: I love cricket, I love golf, I love rugby, I have owned legs of jumpers, point-to-pointers, pacers and greyhounds. Athletics is lovely; I am looking forward to attending the para-athletics on Sunday—but I can live without football.
None the less—partly for that reason—I felt that I would like to contribute to the debate. Although I agree with many of the points made by noble Lords about football’s contribution, there is another side to the case, and the House might like the opportunity to hear it. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for securing the debate, and we do have important common ground, because we agree that the Premier League has international economic and cultural significance. I shall not talk about the international aspect, but just on the economic aspect: yes, it is important, but we should not exaggerate. The total revenues of the Premier League amount to precisely one month’s economic growth, even at the present anaemic rate. It is not as if it is a mighty source of economic prosperity.
I had not thought much about the cultural impact—although one cannot help reading about it—until a researcher for the Premier League rang me up the other day to conduct an opinion poll. I was quite comforted by that, because firms and other organisations only conduct opinion polls when they think they are in deep doo-doo and want to do something about it. As the questions flowed, I felt myself more moved by the negative side of the Premier League than by the positive side.
One overriding overwhelming fact about the Premier League lies behind my dissent from the general enthusiasm for it today—the fact that it not only reflects but enormously magnifies one of the disfiguring sins of our present society: excessive greed. I will not go through all the cases that illustrate the greed of the people who buy up clubs on leveraged takeovers in the hope of making money, and then use them as instruments of profit, not of sport.
To give another example, I checked a website before the debate and found that tickets for Arsenal against Spurs were on sale for £285. It would take an adult on the minimum wage 45 hours to earn £285. Football used to be a melting pot, and its rituals were the privilege of every class, from the working people in cloth caps in the stands to the toffs in the boxes. Stanley Matthews got £15 a week, and tickets could be had for shillings and pence. Now, to go to a Premier League football match you need “loadsamoney”—or, of course, a mate or a business contact with a box.
That is reflected—although I do not necessarily blame them for this—by the greed of the players, and perhaps even more so by that of the agents. In economics we have a concept called economic rent, whereby people strip money from an organisation; large economic rents are generally regarded as rather a bad thing. Yet 70% of the revenues of football clubs go out in wages to the players. As a result, the clubs do not make much money, and as soon as they take more revenue, by putting up the cost of entry or by other devices, the agents and the players take the money from them. What sort of example does that set to our society? We are not even surprised when the Sun reports that a Premier League footballer has strayed from his wife, or been caught speeding in his very fast sports car. What example are we giving to young people, when the biggest rewards in society go to individuals characterised only by the gift of sporting skill?
To give another example, I hate it when a club changes its strip each year, putting the parents of young children under intolerable pressure to buy the latest strip for their kids—at the cost, sometimes, of things they really need to keep their homes going. How many Premier League players have gone through the hard work of studying for a degree? How many are out gays?
I do not criticise anyone who loves football; I am sure that it is a great game, even though I fail to appreciate it. But I dare to dream, as quite a lot of people do, and as those who, when Wimbledon Football Club went to Milton Keynes, dreamed of a new Wimbledon rising—AFC Wimbledon—and later realised their dream. I dare to dream of a Premier League stripped of its excesses, and therefore genuinely fit to hold its head high for its contribution to our national culture.
My Lords, let us hope that there is still time to convert the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, at least to the pleasures of watching our beautiful game. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for allowing us to indulge our passions, and wish him luck with his super-marathon.
The English Premier League will be 21 next month. By any measure, it has been an outstanding success. In the 1980s I scheduled ITV at the weekend. Deeply conservative, the then Football League, fearful that live coverage would undermine match attendance, would only agree to the televising of a small number of recorded games. The appeal of football on television at that time might best be described as meagre. Now we have a league which is the envy of the world. It earns far greater revenues than any other—its broadcast income is nearly three times that of Germany’s Bundesliga—and it attracts the world's best players. Week after week it offers the most exciting football. No other league wins such a gigantic global following. About 20% of the world's population regularly watch Premier League football.
Last year I trekked with my wife in Nepal, high up in the Himalayas, walking through villages with only limited and locally sourced solar and hydro power—villages scarcely changed in hundreds of years. Yet as we passed the kids were shouting out, “Wayne Rooney! John Terry! Steven Gerrard!”. Many foreigners do not just, as others have described, follow the Premiership on TV; they fly here in numbers to watch games in our stadia. I hear Icelandic and other languages, as well as Scouse, spoken in the crowd as I exit Anfield.
The Premier League has wonderful stadia, impressive community outreach, and ethnic and religious diversity in its squads and in its support, promoting greater community harmony. The founding principles of the Premier League were well considered, above all the relatively equitable split of broadcast revenues. This is in sharp contrast to La Liga, for instance, where Real Madrid and Barcelona take the lion’s share of revenues and leave most Spanish clubs impoverished by comparison. For the Premier League—this is critical—the consequence is that on its day, any one team can beat any one other team. Last season, for instance: Norwich 1, Manchester United 0. That had Delia beaming. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, might not have seen the game, but no doubt he too noted the result with pleasure. Sunderland 1, Manchester City 0; and then there was Harry Redknapp, who had a miserable season but one great consolation prize: Chelsea 0, QPR 1. The strength and unpredictability of the league is an important reason for its national and global success.
As well as its well considered founding principles, the Premier League also benefited enormously from the effective and early development by Sky in the UK of satellite subscription services and from the high quality of coverage that Sky has provided.
What should concern us about the Premier League? First, it is too early to call it a trend, but we performed poorly in the Champions League last year. While an equitable approach to splitting revenue brings evident benefits, there is a case for favouring the stronger clubs in the split of international revenues if they are to continue to compete with Europe’s best. Secondly, we need to be watchful that the rules of financial fair play are enforced here in the UK and evenly across Europe. We need, for instance, to guard against sponsorship at above-market rates as a form of hidden subsidy.
Thirdly, the FA and the Premier League need to ensure the prudent stewardship of clubs, which are community, not just financial, assets. Clubs should spend only what they earn. They should not pile on unsustainable levels of debt. The fans of 115 year-old Portsmouth FC did not deserve the long drop to the fourth tier of English football, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, reminded us.
Fourthly, in contrast to our club sides, and as many have observed in this debate, England’s national team has disappointed—1966 is almost half a century away. We field teams containing world-class players but which perform poorly. Who here remembers—maybe we would like to forget—our leaden, lumbering 4-1 defeat at the hands of a young and fresh-faced but untried German team in the 2010 World Cup? In an era where we have seen our athletes and our cyclists shine, the FA and the Premier League need to work together to identify how English football can match those achievements and compete at top international level, as the noble Lord, Lord Wei, observed.
One contributing factor may be that our premier clubs can outbid other leagues for the best global talent, squeezing English players in the process. Perhaps I may add to some of the pungent comments made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner: last season in the Bundesliga, 50% of squad players were German nationals. In the Premier League, the equivalent was far lower, at 37%. Fewer than a third of the players representing Premier League clubs in the Champions League last season were English.
While we should strive to do better still, let us give thanks, on behalf of the one-third of the population for whom the Premier League is a critical part of their everyday lives, for the intensity of experience that it brings us and, on occasions—and hopefully next season for me with Liverpool—for the sheer joy and jubilation.
My Lords, I speak as an occasional supporter of Forfar Athletic and as a season ticket holder of Birmingham City. The noble Lord, Lord Birt, talked about the joys. Supporting Birmingham City mainly teaches you to come to terms with the disappointments of life—except for one game against the Arsenal.
It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, is right that we should celebrate the magnificence of the Premier League. The excitement is clearly palpable; the statistics quoted by the noble Lord are indeed impressive. I have no doubt that he is right about the contribution that it makes to the image of our country and to its coffers. He is right, too, to celebrate some of the successes. However, there are also some downsides and I thought that some of the points put to the House by my noble friend Lord Lipsey were very pertinent.
I share with a number of other noble Lords real concerns about issues to do with governance in football that go beyond the Premier League to other league clubs as well. I commend the fantastic work in this area of Supporters Direct. Its concern is that so many sports clubs are being put in jeopardy because of vested interests, poor financial management and inadequate standards of governance. This has been backed up by the CMS Select Committee, which has done some magnificent work in this area. It has real concerns about the ownership of clubs and about the fact that the ability of league authorities to investigate ownership issues seems to be very limited and at risk.
The Select Committee found, for instance, that while the Premier League was able to invest more in procedures and specialist assistance to find out the identity of the ultimate owners of some of the clubs, the Football League was not in such a good position, relying only on information provided by the clubs themselves which is then checked against records in the public domain. Remarkably, neither league is prepared to provide to fans the information that it holds and put it in the public domain.
I mention this because it is extremely relevant to the plight of two clubs in the West Midlands. They are not in the Premier League at the moment—so I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me—but they have been and aspire to be again, although when is a matter of some conjecture. I refer noble Lords to Coventry City, who won the FA Cup, remarkably, some years ago. On Saturday, thousands of supporters marched through the city centre protesting at plans for the club to play its home games at Northampton Town, 30 miles away. No wonder the fans are angry at the contemptible way in which they have been treated by the club owners. I refer noble Lords to a debate in the other place on 12 March in which Mr Bob Ainsworth raised this issue and talked about the financial difficulties of Coventry City. He said:
“Five years ago, when it had lost its ground … and most of its assets, the club was sold to the hedge fund Sisu … Sisu specialises in acquiring distressed assets, and under Sisu the club’s ownership is multilayered, opaque and partly offshore in the Cayman Islands”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/3/13; col. 63WH.]
It is clear that the interest of supporters is right to the last as a priority.
My own club, Birmingham City, is owned by a holding company based in Hong Kong and registered in the Cayman Islands. We have a major shareholder, Carson Yeung, who is at the moment on trial in Hong Kong on charges of £60 million of money laundering. The holding company, Birmingham International Holdings, was censured by the Hong Kong stock exchange for breaching rules in September 2012. There have been major delays in presenting the audited accounts of the club. Very recently, the Birmingham Mail reported that the parent group of Birmingham City has been told to demonstrate its plans to sell the club or it will not be allowed to trade on the Hong Kong stock exchange again. Stock market chiefs demanded to know what plans Birmingham International Holdings Ltd had for the club and how it was going to deal with “management integrity concerns” regarding Mr Yeung, who, as I have said, is now standing trial for money laundering.
While this dreadful ownership problem has been going on, the club has been relegated, the players have been sold and there is real concern about the future. The supporters, who turn up through thick and thin—or thin and thin, as it sometimes is—seem to be considered least. They are the heart of the club yet they are treated with absolute contempt by just about everyone concerned. What are the football authorities doing about this? Can one turn to the authorities to intervene? The answer is no. They do not intervene and they do not disclose information about ownership. They do not seem to respond to the needs of the supporters at all.
What is the Minister going to do about Birmingham City? More generally, the Select Committee recommendations are right in relation to ownership and the involvement of supporters on the boards of clubs in the future. The Minister for Sport has made some excellent responses to this issue but the football authorities are completely unable to govern themselves. That has been staring us in the face for years. I do not want to see statutory regulation in sport but in relation to football they are not going to be able to sort it out for themselves. They cannot see that their interest, first and foremost, should be the supporters or the interest of the national team. I am afraid that the time has come for statutory regulation.
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for securing this debate. I am originally from Birmingham, which is renowned for its two leading teams, Aston Villa and Aston Villa Reserves. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, will appreciate that. I declare an interest as a founder member of the Independent Football Commission, which helps to regulate the professional game. I am a patron of Aston Villa and I have enjoyed playing for the parliamentary soccer team and the Aston Villa former players’ team, which plays for various charitable causes. The fact that for a week after playing in those games I found it difficult to walk did not detract from the pleasure of taking part in them.
I want to focus on the issues around diversity. The Select Committee's report, Racism in Football, recognised that, despite recent high profile racist incidents, progress is being made in tackling the issue. It referred to the Premier League working with organisations such as Kick it Out. I have had the privilege of presenting awards on behalf of Kick it Out before Premier League matches at Villa Park. I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, and his colleagues at Kick it Out, which has been campaigning against racism in soccer for more than 20 years
The Premier League still has some way to go on diversity. There is currently still only one black manager in the Premier League: Chris Hughton at Norwich City. It seems a waste of talent and experience that great black former players such as John Barnes, Cyrille Regis, Viv Anderson, Garth Crooks, Les Ferdinand, Vince Hilaire, Ricky Hill and Luther Blissett did not get the chance to establish themselves as top managers.
With professional football employing more than 10,000 people in the UK alone, the issue of diversity is of growing importance and the Premier League has the resources to lead the way. In big cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, the population from which many of the Premier League clubs draw their fan base, and their youth team academy players, is increasingly from ethnic minorities. Yet the profile of the coaching, backroom, office and other staff employed by these clubs does not reflect the diversity of the cities they are based in. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, referred to that point.
It is a proven fact that diversity brings to any organisation more creativity, vitality, different approaches and a wider customer base. So the clubs themselves are missing out. The Professional Footballers Association now has a very articulate black chairman in Clarke Carlisle. I hope that he will be able to help keep this issue alive as the Premier League continues to attract such worldwide attention.
There is an ongoing issue of Asians and their relationship with soccer. Thousands of young Asians play and watch the game around the country every weekend, yet there are only seven British Asian players in professional football. The most recent study revealed that there were only 10 Asian players at Premier League academies. That is simply not good enough. There are popular myths that Asians are interested only in cricket and hockey and that cultural differences remain a barrier to them playing in the professional game. However, Asian players such as Michael Chopra and Zesh Rehman have played in the Premier League and dispelled that myth. Perhaps more clubs need to follow the example of Chelsea with its Asian Soccer Star initiative and be more proactive in reaching out to that community.
About a quarter of those attending soccer matches are women and the number of women playing the game is increasing. We have just seen the World Cup in Germany and the European championships are taking place in Sweden as we speak. We now have the semi-professional FA Women’s Super League, but many of its players struggle to get sponsorship. As the Premier League is awash with money, it could help the women’s game to develop. The professional football awards started in 1973, but it was 25 years later, in 1998, and after a High Court action, that a female football agent, Rachel Anderson, won the right to attend the awards. That is surely disgraceful. It was another 15 years later, in April this year, that the PFA awarded its first ever Women’s Player of the Year award to Kim Little. That is too slow progress.
The committee also found evidence of homophobic abuse. It highlighted the concern that,
“too little practical action has been taken to address it”.
This requires a campaign, directed at fans, players and managers, to challenge homophobic attitudes and behaviour. One remembers the tragic suicide of Justin Fashanu, who found life intolerable as a gay footballer.
The Premier League has been a global success and we have heard evidence about the revenues from television contracts. Soccer is about finance and romance. The noble lord, Lord Addington, used the word romance. The Premier League attracts huge finances, partly through the undying love affair fans have with their clubs. It has the resources to champion diversity. In many ways it has won the financial game but it needs to do more to win the race in relation to diversity.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Bates for initiating this important debate. The English Premier League and the clubs that comprise it have real cultural and economic significance.
Looking at the gender balance of today's debate, your Lordships’ House might think that football was still very much a male preserve. I inherited my Southampton gene from my mother, who remembers cycling with her brothers to Southampton, by way of the Hythe Ferry, from her home in the New Forest during the war. My brother and I are season ticket holders and, if your Lordships’ House did not have such a strict dress code, I might even prefer to wear my 125th anniversary shirt, to make my support even more visible. I am mindful of the point made by my noble friend Lord Taylor about the women’s game. It is noticeable that most of the clubs in the EPL have been developing their women’s game but it needs to go much further.
I will focus on skills, and the importance of developing the next generation of English players, so that perhaps we might once again hold up the World Cup. The statistics look worrying. In 1992 76% of the starting 11 in the top league were English. By 2009 it had fallen to 37%, and it rose marginally last year to 39%. Last year, Southampton and Norwich—which my noble friend Lord Addington will be pleased to hear—were the only two clubs with more than 60% English players. Fulham had the fewest, at 15%. No wonder we struggle to win games at the highest international level.
There are some shining examples bucking this trend in the Premier League, and Southampton is one of them. Indeed, it has a long history of developing its youth; I remember Mick Channon coming up through the youth team into the main team in the 1960s. Today’s Premier League stars who are graduates of the Saints academy are Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. More recently, I have delighted in watching James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw, both of whom have been with the club since they were eight years old. Southampton’s Football Development and Support Centre is unusual in professional football in that it looks after pre-academy, academy and professional squads together at Marchwood. It is particularly important because it provides a seamless pathway that supports young players from the age of eight right up into the first team.
Southampton currently has the enviable position of being the supplier of the highest number of players to the domestic international squads, particularly England, over the past season. We have had an England player selected for every competitive squad, from the under-17 squad to the national team and the Olympics.
For me, what is impressive is the satellite academy at Bath University, also unique in the academy system in football. Bath’s global expertise in sports medicine, psychology and technical performance is balanced by Saints’ long experience in growing its own talent. I believe that it is a groundbreaking model that should be not only protected but duplicated in the wider game.
The English Premier League academy courses are rated by Ofsted as outstanding, and are all deemed to be one institution. We should celebrate this fact. Southampton academy scholars have a 100% pass rate, achieving predicted or even better grades in their formal exam results. Through the Bath academy, they are given the opportunity of three pathways: academic, including degree courses at Bath or elsewhere; vocational, learning to coach; and football, via the Southampton academy, and a chance of playing with other professional or semi-pro clubs. This is vital because, as I am sure your Lordships are aware, very few will make it to the top flight. The Daily Telegraph said in 2009 that fewer than 10% of those,
“who join a Premier-ship academy will … make it into the first team. Most won’t even become professional footballers”.
Southampton’s principles are to develop those young footballers to their full potential but also to ensure that alternative routes are available to them, which they will need at some point in their careers, whether at the age of 18 or 25 or when they retire as players. They will have important and relevant skills that ensure that they will not be on the scrapheap. To pick up on my noble friend Lord Taylor’s point, it will also provide the next generation of black and ethnic minority managers in the English Premier League.
I want to speak briefly of another important economic aspect of English Premier League clubs, and that is, to use the title of the EPL report, Using the Power of Football to Positively Change Lives. It is not just about enabling youngsters to participate in football in their communities, although that is important. There are many projects where those heading for offending or disengagement have a chance to rethink and develop themselves in ways that they did not think possible. I was particularly impressed with the English Premier League’s scheme to take young boys to northern France to visit the battlefield sites, combining that with playing football at the same time, giving young lads who have come from backgrounds where offending might be a real possibility in future to think more broadly about the sacrifice that our grandfathers and great-grandfathers made.
Andrew was one such person from Southampton, who had a real problem with his start in life. When he started with the Kickz programme, which is one part of the Southampton foundation, based in an antisocial behaviour hotspot, his youth inclusion officer and local police constable agreed that he was hard to engage with, did not respect the police and had serious anger management problems. Through the programme, Andrew has learnt to channel his anger. His inclusion officer has said, “A spark came alive in Andrew that made him want to achieve and go further in his life”. Using football as a vehicle, Andrew has turned his life around and is now working towards going to university.
Throughout the English Premier League, there are many committed and excellent clubs and staff training the next generation of outstanding footballers. Just as important are the initiatives to support those who do not make it into other roles and those for whom football can turn around their lives. Each of these strands is vital to our economic well-being, both in our clubs’ local areas and nationally, and I am proud to say that my club, Southampton, leads the way in all three.
My Lords, it is a joy and a pleasure to take part in this debate. Like everyone else, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate. It provides me with an opportunity to marry together two of my passions: football and the Co-op.
I take myself back to a date in 1948 when I was standing at the general office counter of Newgate Street Co-op. It was dividend day, and paying out the dividend in Newcastle, as in many other cities and societies, was a very big day. There were queues, and I was there in a line with 10 other colleagues paying out the dividend. All of a sudden I looked up and there in front of me was Jackie Milburn, who of course was, like Wayne Rooney, or whatever name you care to conjure up, a god on Tyneside at that time. He stood there, and my colleagues acted almost as if it was the gunfight at the OK Corral; they waited to see what would happen next. I said, “Mr Milburn, can I help you?”. He said, “Yes”. He pushed his passbook through the counter and said, “How much can I get on this?”. I looked at it and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t pay you anything”. He said, “Why not?”. I said, “Because it’s in your wife’s name and you must have an authorisation note”. “Dear, dear, dear,” he said. I said, “Look, there’s a form. Get her to sign it and come back tomorrow; it’s not your day tomorrow, but I’ll pay you then”. He did, by which time everyone in the general office knew what was going to happen. He pushed his passbook through and said, “Well, I’ve come back. How much can I get?”. I looked at it, and there was £7 and 17 shillings in it. I said, “You must retain three shillings for your membership. I can pay you £7 and 14 shillings”. He said, “That’s a week’s wages”.
In 1948, the rigid rule was that if you played for a first team in the First Division you got £8 a week, and in the off season you got £6 a week. I paid him his money and, as he was going away, I said, “Mr Milburn, you and I know that one of these days Newcastle is going to get to the Cup Final at Wembley”. He said, “Yes, we are, one day”. I said, “I’d like to be able to write to you and ask you for a ticket, if you can get me one”. He said, “You do that, bonny lad”. If someone calls you “bonny lad”, you know that he is a Geordie. I said to myself, “I’ve got a chance”.
In 1951, Newcastle got to the final. Incidentally they won, as they did in 1952 and 1955; they won three times in five years. So off goes my letter to Jackie Milburn, and I said, “Dear Mr Milburn, you might remember me as the lad who paid your wife’s dividend. I enclose a postal order”. The postal order was for three shillings, 15p, for a standing ticket at Wembley. Three days later, an envelope dropped through my letterbox with the Newcastle logo on it. Inside was my postal order, my stamped addressed envelope, a three-shilling ticket and a compliment slip that simply said, “From wor Jackie”—Tyneside for “our Jackie”. He was owned by the town.
That is an illustration of me being known as football daft. I remember being on my dad’s shoulders at the Gallowgate end in 1933, when I was seven. He took me there when Hughie Gallacher, who was one of the main people then, returned while playing for Chelsea, and there was a great crowd.
When I used to go round Edmonton schools, I always had a trick. Some time in the talk I would say to the boys and girls, “Hands up those who support the Spurs”. Half the class would put their hands up. “Hands up those who support the Arsenal,” the other half put their hands up. They always used to say to me, “Mr Graham, who do you support?” and I would say, “Newcastle United”, and they would all boo. They had learnt how to be passionate about football, and they still learn.
It is about time the Government took their courage in their hands and did not listen to people like me who always tell them their priorities are wrong. We are waiting for them to set up a Select Committee, an interparliamentary committee, a Royal Committee or whatever. I know, and noble Lords know, that we are not governed by the British league or the British system—it is a global system now—but it is ridiculous that one man performing well commands £250,000 a week for playing and jibs at accepting that because he thinks he can get a little bit more. There ought to be some rules and regulations governing the size of transfer fees and level of wages. It will not be easy. It always puzzles me that people are willing to starve themselves, if what we hear is correct. I asked Lee, my driver who brought me in this morning and supports Spurs, how much he paid for a ticket the last time he went to Spurs. He said £50. He said if he was to take his two children with him it would be £100. The ordinary fan cannot find £100, but the ordinary fan does and is prepared to pay a lot more. They ought to be stopped from ruining an aspect of the game. I am over my time. I will sit down now.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate, which I hope has lived up to his expectations. Certainly we have had fantastic contributions from all round the Chamber. Any debate which attracts my noble friend Lord Graham to speak must be judged a success.
The Premier League is the football world’s leading revenue-generating club competition, with revenues last year of more than €2.9 billion. The nearest rival was the Bundesliga, with nearly €1.9 billion. It is a very successful economic entity. VisitBritain says that more than 900,000 football-watching visitors spent nearly £700 million attending games, so it attracts a wide amount of inward investment as well. It is an economic success and one that can be built on and developed. The Premier League can genuinely argue that it provides huge social, economic and cultural benefits to the UK and, as we have heard, it is a major soft-power element. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, mentioned the link with the British Council, and with football being a global operation this will be increasingly important as we go forward. There is much to celebrate but, as we have heard, there are a number of concerns. They are about long-term financial sustainability, the effectiveness of diversity policies, the way in which the Premier League deals with its supporters, whether sufficient money is reinvested in grass-roots football, how talent is developed and how communities which support clubs are to be supported as they go forward.
As my noble friend Lord Faulkner said, the success of the Premier League comes with some downsides: for young talent, for the other leagues engaged in the game and, of course, for the national team. Then there is the matter of the DCMS Select Committee report on governance and related matters in July 2011 and the Government’s response, which was presented to Parliament as long ago as October 2011. As has been said, it is not for the Government to run football or indeed any other sport. Sports are best governed by modern, transparent, accountable and representative national governing bodies able to act decisively in the long-term interests of the sport. That is not what we have here. As my noble friend Lord Faulkner pointed out, the Government are on record as saying that the DCMS Select Committee’s report,
“lays out in stark detail the way in which the existing structures, governance arrangements and relationships have failed to keep pace with the challenges and expectations surrounding the modern game”.
I hope the Minister will be able to enlighten us as to what is going on in this area.
We have a number of concerns about the way in which the current arrangements are set up. It must be important to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Premier League and, if that is to be the case, debt has to be brought under control. Financial fair play, which was referred to by a number of noble Lords, provides an opportunity for clubs to bring their spending under control. However, as it strictly applies only to clubs involved in European competitions, we will need to see continuing monitoring to ensure that loopholes are not being abused.
It is astonishing that Premier League net debt last year was £2.4 billion; £1.4 billion of this came from interest-free soft loans from owners. The huge level of spending in the top tier also puts pressure on the lower leagues to keep up. The Championship has a net debt of some £0.9 billion. That is worrying as the lower professional leagues have higher wage-to-revenue ratios than the Premier League and do not have the same level of income from broadcasting.
Several noble Lords raised the issue of wages. If wages are to continue to spiral out of control, particularly with increased TV rights money becoming available, the Premier League is surely in danger of perpetuating a culture of greed. The wage-to-revenue ratio in the Premier League was 70% last year. Of the big five leagues—England, Germany, Spain, France and Italy—only Italy has a higher ratio than this; the Bundesliga has the lowest ratio of 51%.
As the noble Lord, Lord Birt, reminded us in a very powerful speech, British football owes much of its success to the fans and the local communities that support the clubs. Therefore, it is only fair that any increase in income for the Premier League ought to result in increases in funding for those who play—about 7 million people—at grass-roots level. Does the Minister agree that the Premier League should, at the very least, give 5% of its income from broadcasting rights to grass-roots sport, as it has committed to do, and ensure that there are mechanisms in place to make sure that is delivered?
Supporters are the basis under which all football and indeed, all sports operate. Clubs must be willing to engage with supporters’ groups, particularly around issues such as ticket prices. In our 2010 manifesto we committed to making it easier for fans’ groups to gain stakes in clubs. As my noble friend Lord Hunt pointed out, Supporters Direct is a really important organisation in this area and its financing needs to be sorted out. As we have heard, there are interesting and important plans for greater involvement of fans in football clubs and I would be grateful if the Minister could say what the Government are planning in this area.
On diversity, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, praised the diversity policies of the Premier League and there have been some notable successes but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lords, Lord Ouseley and Lord Taylor, pointed out, much has been achieved but much more needs to be and could be done in areas such as harassment, bigotry and homophobia and in ensuring diversity in all levels of the game, particularly in coaching, the backroom and boardroom. In that respect, I felt that the points made in relation to the women’s game were very important and I hope that these will also be picked up. My noble friend Lord Faulkner drew attention to the unacceptable position of disabled supporters at many clubs, something which clearly needs attention.
To return to my opening point, I believe that the Select Committee report, as has been said, was a very good one in the range of issues it raised. It is interesting that when the Government responded in October 2011, they believed that there were three immediate priorities:
“the creation of a modern, accountable and representative FA Board”;
agreement to implement a licensing framework to be administered by the FA; and agreements to change the decision-making structures within the FA, particularly,
“in relation to the Council”.
The government report goes on:
“We expect the football authorities to work together to agree proposals, including plans for implementation, by 29 February 2012”.
That deadline has of course passed. What is the timetable now?
Finally, the Government say that they are,
“fully committed to ensuring that the changes put forward by the football authorities make a lasting and substantive difference. If that does not happen the Government will introduce a legal requirement”,
on the FA,
“to implement the appropriate governance clauses by the swiftest possible means … the Government will seek to secure, using all available channels, appropriate legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.
Time has moved on. If that is not the current plan, what is plan B?
My Lords, I join in the thanks to my noble friend Lord Bates for the opportunity to debate the considerable contributions that the Premier League has made to the United Kingdom in its 21 seasons. I pay tribute to him personally for all he did for the Olympic Truce, and for his continuing, active support of charity and sport.
I mean no disrespect to Scotland, nor to the noble Lord, Lord Watson, nor my noble friend Lord Lyell, if my reply is focused on the English Premier League. It is easy, when considering the Premier League, to become ensconced in the passion: the league table, the transfers, the occasional controversy on or off the pitch, and the sense of community that supporters enjoy following the pinnacle of English football. Although for some it was controversial at its inauguration—a breakaway group of clubs striking out against the formative traditions of the sport—the league has come to be woven into not only our own culture, but that of over 900 million Premier League fans worldwide. It has even encouraged the participation in this debate of my noble friend Lord Addington and the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey.
There can be little doubt that the global profile, ambassadorial activities and work supporting overseas investment bring not only corporate benefits for the league and the constituent clubs, but a raft of broader benefits felt by the country at large. Premier League clubs drive significant tourism across the country, with an upward trend of fans coming to watch top-flight football. The league is supporting the “Great” Britain campaign, to which my noble friend Lord Bates made reference, with focal points for soft diplomacy across the world. In the past week alone, officials in Costa Rica, Vietnam and Bulgaria have been reporting back on the leverage that engagement with touring Premier League teams can provide. The Premier League also drives charitable initiatives abroad such as the Premier Skills programme, developing English language and social education through the medium of football.
The Premier League is, of course, just one tier of our domestic football programme. It is the height of league performance, and its profile extends to the far reaches of the globe. However, it is part of the bigger picture of the contribution that football as a sport makes to the UK. For example, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Premier League and the FA jointly fund the Football Foundation, and have spent £780 million over the past 10 years, investing in grassroots facilities. The Football Association invests upward of £43 million each year in supporting the grass-roots game, as the national governing body. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, made reference to this, and we recognise the match-funding that the Football Foundation attracts and the excellent projects it supports.
The Premier League-level investment in grass-roots football therefore provides a welcome addition, for which it should be commended. In the past month it launched a joint project with Sport England to expand two community programmes. Both the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, and my noble friend Lady Brinton made reference to the Kickz programme, which will be expanded to get a further 30,000 young people from disadvantaged areas into sport. Premier League 4 Sport, which has already engaged 60,000 young people, will now offer a broader range of sports while continuing to support the training of volunteers, competition delivery and qualifications in sport.
It is not just the financial support which contributes to the success of football at all levels. Across England, approximately 400,000 people volunteer in the delivery of over 140,000 football clubs and teams, many giving up innumerable hours to support their local community clubs. Many noble Lords have made reference to these activities and their contributions. Supporting the sport of football means, to many, far more than watching their home team, and has developed into a strong culture of volunteering.
That is not to say that the Premier League, and English football more widely, do not have their share of issues, some of which have been acknowledged here today. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner, Lord Lipsey, Lord Hunt and Lord Stevenson, all referred to governance issues. The sums of money reported in the business of football jar in the current economic climate. The will of the ownership is not always consistent with the wishes of the fans. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, made reference to possible revenue of £3 billion. This wealth should surely bring with it a share of responsibilities. The noble Lords, Lord Lipsey and Lord Graham, mentioned the cost of a ticket to see a match. This, of course, seems to contrast with the enormous wealth that the sport generates. The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, raised concerns that 70% of the revenues go to the wages of players who may not all be the finest role models for the young.
Governance has been a concern to Members of both Houses for some time. As has been mentioned, a Select Committee has twice considered the matter. The Minister for Sport and Tourism has acknowledged their findings, and a response is expected from the football authorities. I am assured that this is a matter taken very seriously across government, and if the football authorities themselves cannot effect change then we have pledged to act. The Government will continue to press football for change but will move to legislate only if football cannot improve, as my honourable friend Hugh Robertson has indicated. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, raised considerable concerns about this. The Government will of course be working with the new chair of the FA, Greg Dyke; he has only been in post for two weeks, so it is perhaps early days to expect results, but I am sure he will be working on this too.
I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, made a cri de coeur for Birmingham City, but the Box seemed to think that it was also on behalf of Coventry City. It was both? Excellent. Actually, that is not excellent, because they are both in need of support. Although the plights of individuals clubs are not matters in which Ministers would wish to intervene, the Government are aware of the impact that ownership issues have had on the fans of Coventry City. The Minister for Sport and Tourism has met with local MPs. He has raised their concerns with the Football League and is in contact with them.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, my noble friend Lord Addington and the noble Lord, Lord Birt, all brought up the plight of Portsmouth. We welcome the role of the fans and the supporters’ trust in developing a community-owned club to continue in its place. We certainly wish them well. My noble friend Lord Wei also commented on the possibility of more fan ownership of clubs. Of course, in the case of Portsmouth it would not have been possible without the support of dedicated fans and, indeed, the valuable assistance that Supporters Direct provides. There are many ways for fans to become engaged in ownership, and Supporters Direct is guiding them in the development of trust and the exploration of options. That might seem like a way forward.
My noble friend Lord Wei also raised foreign ownership. It is a fact that the global appeal of the league will continue to attract foreign ownership and the football community must capitalise on the benefits of this. The Premier League is international in its operation and appeal and it is true that a great deal of global talent is attracted to our competition.
The implementation of the FA’s youth review seeks to break the mould in English football and develop more skilful players at grass-roots level. This is where the Premier League and England players of the future reside. The new skills-based approach will be rolled out in the 2013-14 season. The noble Lords, Lord Birt and Lord Faulkner, referred to the small number of English players in the teams. My noble friend Lord Taylor also mentioned the small number of British Asian players.
From these foundations, football now has a clear strategy to give our brightest youngsters the best possible opportunities to develop. The FA supports an elite pathway through professional clubs and the FA England teams. Representative teams from under-16s to under-21s are all based at St George’s Park, the national football facility. Professional clubs provide the feeder system for these teams and the new elite pathway, which has extensive interaction with schools and will provide players for our future squads. As part of the elite pathway, there is close co-ordination between the professional clubs and the Football Association’s leading charter-standard clubs. This ensures that the entry and exit points of the professional game support continuing player development, allow young players to keep playing and potentially allow for their return into the professional structure, should their future development allow it.
My noble friend Lady Brinton raised the question of football academies. As she says, not every academy player will make the Premier League and it is vital that supplementary training prepares them for this eventuality. The best examples of integrated training do indeed leave youngsters prepared for a future outside of football. As she says, Ofsted has rated as outstanding the Premier League in its best practice report of April 2012, noting that apprentices could,
“achieve their footballing potential while also developing their academic and personal skills”.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, raised the links between sport and modern languages. Of course, she chaired a committee which reported on European sport. We have also been involved in APPG meetings where sport and languages have been associated. We think that that perhaps will be wider than the vocabulary that my noble friend Lord Lyell was claiming to possess in this respect, perhaps reflective of the language that the noble Lord, Lord Birt, recalls hearing at his local game. Inevitably, with its international flavour, sport encourages the learning of languages.
The noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, also referred to the programmes for literacy and numeracy. These have had a powerful effect, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Training also extends to the work of many Premier League clubs to engage disaffected individuals back into education. It is one of the many positive ways in which the power of football can influence hearts and minds and, as my noble friend Lady Brinton says, can transform the lives of many young people.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, raised concerns about disabled access to Premier League stadiums. This will be noted in our ongoing engagement with the sport. I think that the example he quoted obviously should be shaming to the game.
On diversity, the joint inclusion and anti-discrimination action plan for English football has set clear targets across the game and is now reporting significant progress in initiating its work against discriminatory behaviours. A better understanding of equality and inclusion in the environment of football is being created, ensuring that it is open to a wide and diverse talent pool. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for the work that they have done against racism. I note their concerns that there is not an ethnic mix at the top of the managerial and professional tree. The statistics do not read well, but we welcome the work that bodies such as Sporting Equals—funded by Sport England—are doing in partnership with clubs such as Liverpool, as well as the work that Kick It Out and Showing Racism the Red Card, mentioned by noble Lords, have been carrying out successfully to encourage greater diversity of coaching staff at all levels. This is a key part of the Football For All strategy. Against this backdrop, the access needs of a diverse fan base must not be forgotten.
As we commemorate the Olympic and Paralympic legacy one year on, some have noted the successful inclusion of British football teams in the London 2012 Olympic Games. It did immeasurable good for the profile of the women’s game, setting a record attendance figure of over 80,000 at the gold medal match. It offered many more thousands of spectators the opportunity to enjoy watching Olympic competition, and incoming Olympic tourists the opportunity to enjoy visiting the hosting cities outside London.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, drew attention to the challenges that women face. My noble friend Lady Brinton pointed to the lack of gender balance in this particular debate. I suppose that it is just as well that my noble friend Lord Gardiner was double-booked on this occasion, as I have been able to raise, at least slightly, the participation rate. We also note that the Women’s Super League is expanding to two leagues in 2014 and that many participating clubs are affiliated with Premier League sides, enjoying the facilities and expertise provided, including a new side from the Manchester City stable. Although it may not yet attract the same funding as the men’s game, the relationship between the two is improving.
We entered Olympic football as Team GB for the first time in 52 years, but the merit of any future Olympic participation in men’s or women’s football must be left to the football associations and the BOA. Team GB Football more regularly appears in the Paralympic roster and squads will no doubt continue to represent us with pride in Rio 2016 and beyond. We must not forget other British football squads, such as those who attended the recent World University Games, or Universiade, which is now one of the world’s largest multi-sport events. Following a successful campaign, in Kazan, Russia, the British men returned with silver and the women with gold, with a squad featuring many players tipped for full international duty. Through their successes I have no doubt that both teams, and the wider squad of athletes and support staff, have done much for the global face of British sport.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, raised the issue of broadcasting rights, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, I believe. There was the suggestion that a proportion of that income should be given back direct to the sport. I will write to the noble Lord on that as I do not have a direct answer for him at this time. However, I rather suspect that this will be something for football governance and it will not be for the Government to interfere.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, also mentioned the lack of diversity in sport at board level. I believe that the Government hope to work with the sport very closely to ensure that board level is more representative of the diversity of people who take part in and are interested in football.
Is the Minister aware that when the Olympic Select Committee took evidence from the Football Association, its representative was asked how many women were on the council of the Football Association and the answer was that in a council of more than 100 people there were three women?
I was not aware of that. I wish that I could say that it surprises me. We should take note that that sort of representation does not reflect the way in which football is supported and should not be tolerated in the 21st century.
We acknowledge the Premier League’s efforts to date in addressing issues of governance and other issues that would better enhance their undoubted success and hope that they continue this work for seasons to come. Noble Lords have raised a number of key issues that they see fit to be addressed. I include in that the trickling down of their wealth, one of the comments with which my noble friend Lord Bates began this debate.
The contributions that the Premier League makes to the UK significantly go beyond its remit of delivering the top tier of domestic competition. Beyond its place domestically, close to the hearts of so many, the world has embraced our league as its own. It is from that privileged position that it can continue to showcase the very best of what the UK has to offer globally. There have been some amazing contributions from around the House in this debate. I renew my thanks to my noble friend Lord Bates and thank all noble Lords who have contributed their wide-ranging expertise to this stimulating and productive debate.
My Lords, I think that the Standing Order and the clock permit for a few minutes of post-match analysis of this debate. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. I particularly thank my noble friend Lady Garden of Frognal for the very comprehensive way in which she summed up the debate, responding to the points raised.
As I sat and listened to the debate, I felt that if Alan Hansen were here, he would say, “The thing about that debate is that there was quality everywhere you looked on the pitch”. There was immense, rich experience coming through: the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, with the Football Foundation; the noble Lord, Lord Birt, with broadcasting; the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, with the Kick It Out campaign; the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, with the National Football Museum; the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie; and my noble friend Lord Taylor of Warwick, who is still playing. I felt that it was an excellent debate from that point of view, and it brought out into the open passionate football fans from all different corners, from Southampton to Forfar Athletic, the team of my noble friend Lord Lyell, to recognise the national game.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, gave us a little tutoring on how the Scots are worried about the performance of England at a national level. I believe that we should take that advice with a little caution. Some of us were watching last month when the English national team gave a fantastic performance in the Maracana in Rio against Brazil to draw 2-2. The truth will be found out next month when Scotland comes down to Wembley for the 150th anniversary game.
Several noble Lords referenced community value and community ownership of our clubs and what this evokes within each of us. I was drifting away on the melodic tones of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, when he talked about “wor Jackie” and the Newgate Street Co-op—I was dragged back to my roots also.
I will make just a couple of brief points. As a fellow-member of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, for raising the evidence given by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, to that committee. We were all quite shocked to hear her observations about how inaccessible many Premier League football grounds are. I encourage the Government Front Bench to consider dispatching the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, to each of the Premier League football grounds to carry out an audit; if that would not sort them out, I do not know what would.
Some unbelievers crept in for the debate, perhaps ahead of the debate that will follow on atheism; the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, embarked on a heresy, but made a very valuable contribution to the debate, as did my noble friend Lord Addington. I will make a brief point about the number of players, which is that yes, 30% of the players who play in the Premier League are from England and eligible to play for the English national team. However, that does not reflect the true picture. If you take into account the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh players, we move up to 40%. If we followed the example of rugby and the British Lions and had a team of that nature, we would be on par with what is happening in Germany. Perhaps we ought to look at that. Why do the national teams not succeed? That is another debate, and I do not want to embark on it. It is probably because we over-obsess about past glory in 1966 rather than future glory, and perhaps also because for some of the players the greatest pinnacle of success is winning the Champions League medal rather than a World Cup medal. Again, we shall see.
I will make one factual correction for the record. Noble Lords will not be surprised, from my stature, to learn that I will not be running 500 miles for Save the Children’s work in Syria, starting in London on Saturday and finishing in Enniskillen on 9 September, but will be walking it—and at a measured pace. However, that pace will be sprightly during the first half of the walk because I have to get to Manchester for 17 August, when Newcastle plays Manchester City in the opening game of the season. How I perform thereafter will very much depend on that game. This is a good-news story for Britain.