Motion to Take Note
My Lords, during the 1980s there was ready acknowledgement that sport and politics were uncomfortable bedfellows: that sport was a recreational activity, principally for amateurs to be enjoyed in leisure time, and that government responsibility was limited to a total departmental budget of less than £50 million. In the 1990s, that perception changed. Sponsorship, television rights and the world wide web fuelled a burgeoning market which, by 2004, generated an economic impact of €407 billion and employed 15 million people in Europe. Yet politicians left the world of sport principally untouched by legislation.
Since then, the world of sport took flight from the sovereignty of Parliaments. FIFA, the IOC and international federations designed their own lex sportiva. They built frameworks to control doping in sport through WADA, while their own governance of sport became accountable to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Sport had become so powerful a universal language that the international federations found themselves able to determine legislative changes in countries keen to benefit from the sporting gold dust of hosting the Olympic Games or the World Cup, securing legislation and providing open- ended multibillion dollar guarantees to which Governments would often bend the knee.
At the same time some politicians, many of whom are participating in this debate, have taken a more visionary approach—not least the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, who could not be more welcome in your Lordships’ House. They saw the value of sport in the promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle to combat obesity, the value of competitive sport in schools and the opportunity that sport created to divert the socially disenfranchised off the escalator to crime.
In summary, nothing short of a tapestry of government and political objectives became woven into the world of sport, while sport and recreation has now become an important contributor to virtually every department of state. As my noble friend Lord Holmes said at the governance of sport seminar organised on Monday by Slaughter and May, there is no separate world of sport. Not surprisingly, the moment has arrived when the worlds of sport and politics need to find an alignment to create a mutually acceptable legal framework to protect the sportsmen and the fans who increasingly call for improvement in governance, both nationally and internationally.
It was for that reason and at this time that I wrote the Governance of Sport Bill, a Bill intended to stimulate debate on a range of issues central to the development of sport in the United Kingdom. As time available before the 2015 general election means that the Bill will not make progress through all its parliamentary stages, I hope that today’s debate will attract the attention of those responsible for the task of drafting manifestos and developing sports policies for the future.
The autonomy of sport is important but it must be earned; it is not a right. Governments, either directly through Treasury support and financial guarantees for major events or indirectly through lottery funding, have significantly increased investment in the sector. We need to address the consequences of this generational change. We also have a duty to capture the imagination and inspiration of a nation looking to Government to deliver a sports legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games—a legacy that is still capable of transforming the sporting landscape of the United Kingdom in terms of facilities and opportunities, especially for children, both able-bodied and disabled, in all our schools. In this context, the Bill endorses the all-party consensus of the work of the House of Lords Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy, which sought far-reaching reforms to secure the sport and urban regeneration legacies required in the future.
I also sought to draft a Bill which would bring professional management, accountability and transparency to the organisations that run British sport. The need for good governance in professional sport is no less and no more than the requirements for FTSE companies. It is essential if we are to protect the interests of athletes in the future. Only by demonstrating good governance in sport can Government and British sports administrators use their influence internationally to good effect. Only through the introduction of best governance to international federations will the problems that have already beset the IOC, FIFA and Formula 1 in this century be consigned to history.
In that context, I believe that we need to promote the interests of supporters and spectators. Supporters should have seats on the boards of their football clubs, thus ending years of disfranchisement. We should strengthen the opportunities for disabled access to sporting venues, in line with the guidelines of the International Paralympic Committee. We need athletes charters, ensuring that the voices of our sports men and women are heard and that the many concerns they express are acted upon by governing bodies of sport that are truly fit for purpose. We should look to Government to become more directly accountable to Parliament for the formulation and delivery of sports policy, principally but not exclusively through the Department of Health and the Department for Education, the Home Office and the DCMS. We should also look to Government as an enabler and to the Minister responsible to have the influence to co-ordinate policy from the centre.
Specifically, I believe in the increased accountability and transparency of governing bodies of sport which are partly, wholly, directly or indirectly in receipt of public or lottery funding. We should introduce legislation to implement wider application of the Equality Act, while acting against the continuing unacceptable and outdated discrimination against women in certain clubs, despite the welcome steps taken recently by the R&A at St Andrews. I am of course of the view that we should place the interests of sports men and women at the heart of all aspects of sports policy by including a proposed new single entity overseeing government and lottery funding in sport. It should: have the mandate to empower governing bodies of sport but not to micromanage their activities; require better protection for athletes at risk of concussion and injury; and address the disillusionment of an increasing number of athletes, who feel that the fight against doping has lost direction and momentum. Those who knowingly cheat fellow athletes out of selection and career opportunities by taking performance-enhancing drugs should face criminal charges, as they do in Austria, France and Italy; it is now proposed in Germany and parts of Australia.
There needs to be recognition that the World Anti-Doping Agency should move away from the unacceptable premise that athletes are guilty before being proved innocent to a globally fair, effective and just system which respects athletes’ rights and ensures that their voices are heard. WADA needs to be an effective global body in the fight against doping in sport, but it cannot be until its rules are universally applied, until monitoring is the same in every country and until the regulations set out in the new code which comes into force in January, particularly on intent, emerge from what I predict will be years of legal wrangling and lengthy hearings.
I recommend that Government should be directly and effectively accountable to Parliament for decisions regarding the future of British sports. For example, there was the withdrawal of substantial lottery support from a wide range of Olympic and Paralympic sports in 2014, including basketball, synchronised swimming, water polo, weightlifting, football for the visually impaired, wheelchair fencing and goalball. I support those who argue that there should be a presumption in favour of equal prize money, requiring event organisers to explain publicly their reasons for not giving equal prize money to men and women.
I hope that future Governments will require an annual report to be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State for Health, setting out policy objectives to deliver a proactive health agenda through the promotion of sport and physical activity programmes to tackle obesity and enhance healthy lifestyles, and suggesting measures to be introduced to increase participation—male and female, able-bodied and disabled—in active leisure pursuits.
I also hope that future Governments will require an annual report to be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State for Education, documenting the state of physical education and sport in schools in England and Wales, while setting out policies and financial support to improve facilities and opportunities for all young people. It should include the consideration of: a longer school day; the need for improved teacher training provision in sport and recreation; and strengthening the role of Ofsted by requiring its inspections to cover the quantity and quality of physical education, physical activity and sport provided during and outside school hours. It is also incumbent on Parliament to introduce a wide range of measures to improve safety for cyclists, as well as delivering measurable targets for boosting cycling across the country, ensuring cycling networks for commuters and auditing road projects in order that they become cycle-proofed.
The report in February 2010 from the Sports Betting Integrity Panel, known as the Parry report, was a seminal document. We should bring UK legislation in line with the leading countries of the world in the fight against match fixing, bribery and corruption, regarded by the former IOC president Jacques Rogge as the greatest threat to the integrity of sport in the run-up to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. We should, with cross-party support, continue to challenge the £1 billion fraud industry by ticket touts by always placing the interests of the consumers, the sports fans, first.
I hope that we will further protect playing fields from being lost to development, and that sports facilities under threat are secured to meet the sport and recreational needs of both current and future generations. In my view, this should lead to a presumption in favour of the maintenance of the status quo, in the absence of compelling evidence to support the loss of sports facilities. We should go further in helping the governing bodies of sport. We should give them the ability to generate income through the extension of intellectual property protection at major sporting events. These are some of the building blocks for a true sports legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They build on the experience of London 2012. We should consider regulating advertising and trading within the vicinity of major sporting events, enhancing the protection of logos of the governing bodies of sport and thereby increasing income generation for the benefit of the athletes that they represent.
I hope that the next Government consider a wide range of additional measures, including the merger of UK Sport and Sport England into a new entity—called, let us say, Sport 2022, a proactive, forward-looking body, as its name suggests, providing light-touch regulation to governing bodies of sport but assisting them with the implementation of sports policies presented by the Government to Parliament for approval over the next two Olympic cycles, including recognition in the Bill for the application of British Cycling’s “aggregation of marginal gains theory” across all sports; an obligation to set out the progress made on urban regeneration, inside and outside the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; and the importance of a lasting and far-reaching sports legacy throughout the United Kingdom.
The overwhelming majority of these measures can be implemented through voluntary agreements, which is preferable to legislation. There is an urgency for action and a commitment to design and implement a comprehensive sports policy. The DCMS must lead and be without reproach in its own governance if it hopes to win the respect and support of the sports agencies, Sport England and UK Sport, which in turn need to lead by example if they expect to see improvements in the governance of the governing bodies of sport. At each and every level, open, transparent and foolproof policies should be implemented to ensure that no conflicts of interest exist and that the toughest of action is taken if they do. Sports administrators should not be making personal fortunes out of the business of sport. Inevitable conflicts of interest arise, and if it would be unacceptable governance in a FTSE 350 company, it must be unacceptable around the boardrooms of sports governing bodies and international federations.
Governments and sponsors should engage openly and consistently with international federations of sport, particularly, at this moment in time, with FIFA. Only with a co-ordinated international approach will such an approach be successful. A co-ordinated international approach to governance is critical if we are to defend the interests of sports men and women both here and abroad. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. His introduction of the words “lex sportiva” is a major insight into some of our current problems and, at the risk of embarrassing him, I express my complete support for everything that he has said. I also welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Brady. I think that Karren will probably find, after she made her maiden speech, that this is a much more tolerant environment than any that she has met in football.
Football is not the only sport with a poor governance standard. The DCMS report was scathing and it was right to be. The IOC and Salt Lake City spring to mind, with doping in many sports. Often it has taken the world-class sponsors, which no longer accept that their brands should be associated with criminality, to intervene and sometimes force change.
All sports are expected to have good governance and regulatory underpinning; it underpins fairness, competition and real transparency. This has always been essential. Fair betting, competitive integrity, child protection and ensuring competition between athletes rather than the chemistry labs that sometimes stand behind them have always been in the regulation of sport. When it fails, we are angry because sport provides us with the context for many of our values. We can because we care about those strong values—that is the basis—yet so often we fail.
I had the honour of being the first independent chairman of the Football Association in almost 150 years, a post flowing from the report by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, on the decades of governance failure in that organisation. I have discussed this with David Bernstein, who was the second independent chairman and, in my judgment, a quite exceptional one. These are my words, of course, but I believe that he and I are on the same page, based on the experience that, unusually, we have come to share.
The FA’s council is huge and unwieldy. It is nothing like our country or even like football. It is elderly, male and almost entirely white. Its labyrinthine committees mostly impede change if they humanly can. Its board is unrepresentative and dominated by vested interests. The Premier League is of course a great commercial success in many ways, but board decisions in the FA are largely the decisions of the Premier League. The conflict of interest there lies in the overwhelming economic power and the positions that it occupies in the board structure. The necessary strategic oversight to build a better England team or help the 5.5 million local players is not there, and it is designed not to be.
The board is not independent or transparent because, from the start, it was designed to be none of those things. None of whatever we regard as important—the rights of fans, levels of debt or fit and proper persons, so woefully neglected at Portsmouth and Leeds—is addressed by the Football Association. Noble Lords may be thinking, “Surely the Burns report dealt with just this”, and quite right, it did. However, almost none of the report has been actioned. I was repeatedly told that there was no appetite to action it. Goodness knows how hard David Bernstein laboured to do it, but he also found it difficult to achieve change.
Could the FA change? In theory. Will it? No, certainly not. Will it resist? Certainly it will, and we should insist. A sports law should be setting out the basic governance and transparency standards rather on the model of a FTSE 350 company, which I wholly support, including a majority on its board of independent directors. If the FA will not change, I suspect that it will be necessary to appoint a commissioner to do the regulatory job right across the whole of the sport, as many sports in the United States have found to be such a decent model. The alternative, I am afraid, is a sporting embolism —a blockage in an otherwise healthy system, caused by clots.
Having mentioned clots, I turn to FIFA. Candidly speaking, you could not make it up: systematic corruption over decades, overseen by a group who have been there through those decades; World Cups awarded by a committee, nearly half of whom have been compelled to go and some of whom jumped just before that point; whistleblowers and investigative journalists disregarded; and no embarrassment quite enough to prompt any action. A senior United States lawyer is appointed to investigate but not to see the people who have already been exposed as corrupt, nor to review the huge Sunday Times documentation. Mr Garcia writes a long report that is not to be published. A German lawyer employed by FIFA writes a summary. Mr Garcia denounces it four hours later as inaccurate and defective. Still, no one wants to publish the actual documents. Candidly, I was surprised to be criticised for not helping Mr Garcia, although I was restricted to a sub judice restriction because I was being sued by a member of the FIFA executive for suggesting that there might be corruption in that organisation.
It would all beggar belief—but there is not quite enough disbelief, in a way. The England 2018 bid team apparently also has a secret dossier with potential evidence of widespread corruption. When asked by Mr Justice Dingemans, and I think by the Select Committee, it said that it had no further information. I must tell your Lordships that I would have loved to have seen it. It would have gone immediately to John Whittingdale and his committee, who would have been the people to judge whether it was appropriate to move further—not those who did not want it to be seen.
Again, I believe my thinking here is very close to David Bernstein’s. I will just say about FIFA that it needs root and branch reform. Its culture will not be changed by tweaking the processes—culture is always stronger than processes. Mr Blatter and the old school must go. His intention to run again is bad for sport.
I beg the noble Lord’s pardon. I have one or two concluding sentences.
The Swiss Government and the major sponsors should be involved, and the bids for the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 should be rerun. If England has anything to say about vote swapping which is not to its credit, let us come clean as well, and not advocate to others what we are not prepared to do for ourselves.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, can have 30 seconds of my speech for that.
When I knew that we would be debating sport and governance in sport, I first had to have a little think about what exactly we mean about governance. Is it the structure of governance, the governance of sport itself or an approach? Fortunately, I was let off that hook a little by my noble friend Lord Moynihan, who expanded on that point. I felt that sport is far too important to be left in those little tight groups we have heard about already—the “blazerdom” of the old. Indeed, Will Carling may have had a very great career in rugby, but when he lobbed that grenade about “57 old farts”, he probably did more to change rugby union than anything he did on the pitch. That body now has to look out.
We are in a post-lottery funding age—post public money going in. We have a greater opportunity to demand to know what is going on, and it is checked, than we have ever had in the past. We have a culture of the amateur running things. They recruit their funding from their membership, with a little sponsorship from outside. That culture is effectively now a previous stage of evolution. We have gone on to something new and different. We must make sure that everyone knows what is going on if we expect everyone to give support. Even if you do not directly take public money, as my noble friend Lord Moynihan said, if sport is seen to have a direct link to health and to be an important part of the education system, you are still a part of that system, so government should be prepared to intervene when necessary. We can argue for ever about when that necessary point comes, but everybody agrees that it is there somewhere.
What do we expect to get out of this? We expect a sport that people can enjoy, either as spectators or, more importantly, as participants, so the mass of the population have access to it in a way that is not totally confined to—let us say—pressing a button on a remote control and watching an image on a screen. We are inclined, in this new professional era, to put too much emphasis on that process of watching as opposed to the process of participating. I hope that we can have a degree of focus on allowing people to participate and feel that what they are doing is being rewarded and valued; and, when it comes to governance, making sure that that process is enabled to happen is the first thing we should ask any governing body—or any person who runs and controls sport—to do. What is the duty and interaction between those who are on the front line in this—those who provide the basis? Professional sport needs you to take part to find its talent.
All that interaction has to be looked at, but we must never forget those people I have heard described by professional sportsmen as the “weekend warriors”. My comment on that was, “Great. These are the people who allow you to function, so I’d change your language”. If those people are allowed to get out there, take part and give you the basis for what you do, you must support them. I remember that I promised to give the House back a few seconds. If we are to do that, we have to make sure that everything we do affects beneficially those at the bottom, on the ground. If we do not support those at the bottom, ultimately, regardless of whatever we do in a committee room, or however much we pay and hone those at the top, we will fail.
My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has secured this debate.
When I hear the word “governance” I think of openness, transparency, diversity and equality, but also monitoring, evaluation, ticking boxes and lots of paperwork. Sadly, as the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, so eloquently explained, most of the time the international federations receive media attention because of an absolute lack of good governance. The worst offenders are blasé, arrogant and wrongly believe that great performances on the field of play allow them to behave completely unacceptably behind the scenes.
Back in 1996, I sat on the English Lottery Awards Panel, which had the privilege of allocating £20 million per month to capital projects and which challenged outdated rules of membership. When the National Lottery Act changed, I moved to UK Sport. At the time many national governing bodies were well meaning, but funding forced them to modernise. Unfortunately, a few still need to move forward. We need to find ways—whether through changing their lottery funding or through other methods—to encourage them to behave better. National governing bodies have many responsibilities; protection from concussion is one, but also they influence how physical literacy is taught in schools. Education and sport must work much more closely together. While there are examples of good practice, teacher training at primary level needs to be revolutionised.
A recent report showed that in 30% of sports men are paid more than women, and I cannot even begin to describe the unparliamentary language used to describe me when I suggested that there should be greater equality. In business it is accepted that a diverse board is more successful. Why, then, do six national governing bodies still have no women on their boards? Only 49% have met the 25% target. Can Her Majesty’s Government say what work is being done in this area? Perhaps it is time for a Title IX equivalent.
National governing bodies also have a responsibility to develop disability sport at all levels; it is not an add-on. Disabled children must have access to physical activity in schools—they cannot be sent to the library. I was recently told about the case of a young wheelchair user who wanted to play badminton but was rejected by the club because she was told that her wheels would mark the floor. Wheels do not mark the floor any more than trainers—that is simply discrimination.
I would also like to see those who host major events take disability access as seriously as LOCOG did in 2012. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, is in his place and commend his work. At the Games, I was actually able to sit with my family and had a line of sight, which, if you are a wheelchair user, is not as common as you would expect. I also commend the work of Level Playing Field, which does excellent work in this area to highlight the lack of accessibility within Premiership football clubs.
I have worked with some really exciting and innovative organisations but have also had the experience of sitting on the ill fated UCI Independent Commission to look at the case of Lance Armstrong. Here was an international federation that made the pretence of wanting good governance. I was going to say that it invested rather a lot of money, but in fact it spent it on doing nothing. The commission did not receive a single document from the UCI. Cycling, and all sports, deserve a federation that not only says the right thing but does not ignore its responsibilities. Perhaps the best thing to come out of the commission was that it led to a change in leadership—which was not what we set out to do.
What we cannot forget is that most people in sport are volunteers. They had the biggest influence on my own athletics career, but we expect a lot from them; we expect them to revalidate their coaching awards and to do child protection, first aid and health and safety. Join In recently produced some research in which it assessed that an estimated 45% of volunteers within the 150,000 sports clubs in England are engaged in governance roles, such as committee members. Sport would not survive without these people. The research report, Hidden Diamonds, found that each sports volunteer generates more than £16,000 of social value every year, which equates to a staggering £53 billion of social value when it is scaled up. Governance volunteers are among the most active and giving, and 70% of them give their time at least once a week. These people should be praised, encouraged and thanked. It would be wonderful if those involved in sport at the highest level behaved like some of the people working at the grass roots because, without them, sport as we know it would not exist. I look forward to future debates on this subject.
My Lords, it is a great honour to speak for the first time in your Lordships’ House. I want to begin by thanking your Lordships for the wonderfully warm welcome I have received from all sides of the House. The assistance and, above all, patience shown to me by noble Lords from across the Chamber and by the clerks of the House and all the staff whom I have encountered since I took my seat here have been truly wonderful—so, thank you.
My career in sport started in 1993 when, at the age of 23, I became the managing director of Birmingham City Football Club. There I was, desperate to look at least 25, turning up with my big shoulder pads and my big hair. During those early days, I was banned from boardrooms, ridiculed as a publicity stunt and displayed in the media as everything from a ball-breaker to a bimbo—all because I was a woman, and a young woman at that. However, when, at the end of my first year, my football club made a profit for the first time in its modern history, people began to raise an eyebrow. When I sold the club in 2009, it was profitable, playing in the Premier League with an award-winning stadium, a community programme and sell-out crowds and, notably, 75% of the senior management team were women. A lot more than an eyebrow was raised—a whole hairline! It has been a wonderful journey of knocking down stereotypes and encouraging women and young people into my industry, and I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with many people whose lives have been transformed by sport.
Sport is an industry worth more than £20 billion. Our Premier League, considered the greatest league in the world and in which my team, West Ham United—I declare my interest—is fifth, is one of the UK’s best exports, with a global audience of 4.6 billion. It is clear that sport helps to ensure that our country maintains its status on the global stage, but it is at a much more local level that I have seen sport at its most effective. Its ability to break down barriers and provide opportunity, particularly to young people and those who need it most, is its true power, as is seeing it being utilised to promote equality and diversity. That is why I have chosen to make my maiden speech on the governance of sport, which I hope will act as a catalyst for debate both inside and outside Parliament.
The Governance of Sport Bill, which my noble friend Lord Moynihan presented to the House, provides the background to our debate today. It seeks to capture the inspiration of a nation looking to government to deliver a sports legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games—a lasting legacy capable of transforming the sporting landscape of the United Kingdom in terms of facilities and opportunities, especially for children, able-bodied and disabled, in all our schools.
One need only look back to London 2012 to witness how sport can bring people, and in this case our entire nation, together. At West Ham, we were delighted when Mayor Boris Johnson made the historic decision, which he described as,
“a truly momentous milestone for London’s Olympic Stadium, ensuring its credible and sustainable future”,
to award us as the anchor tenant who will occupy the stadium from 2016. The Olympic stadium and, indeed, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as a whole, presents a real opportunity to rejuvenate and regenerate the east of London. It will be a hub for commerce, culture, education and sport, but it also provides the unique opportunity to reconnect communities. Football may be a sport, but it is also a language that seeks to unite people. We have always known that we have a crucial role, which West Ham United will play in acting as the focal point for this powerful community convergence. As my noble friend Lord Coe himself said of our proposals:
“It lives with the commitment we made in Singapore”.
Our move to Stratford will create more than 700 jobs, provide over a million visitors to the park each year and be an opportunity to help tens of thousands of disadvantaged youngsters through our community outreach. I assure noble Lords that work is already well under way to begin to deliver a lasting Olympic legacy for London. West Ham’s own Community Sports Trust has offered 1.5 million opportunities and developed an extensive model of health, education and sports development programmes. Social mobility is the key driver for the trust. This year alone, 10,000 youngsters in Newham and 8,000 in Tower Hamlets engaged with our Kickz scheme, which has had a tangible impact on reducing anti-social behaviour. Our Inspire centre provided out-of-school study support to 6,000 underachieving children in Newham, and these numbers will grow exponentially now that our move is confirmed. My personal passion, our employability, training and mentoring scheme, has engaged with more than 15,000 youngsters via our programmes this season, but our delivery in this area is now set to double as a result of the move. Our partnership with Leadership Through Sport reaches young people whom employers may otherwise struggle to find. Every single trainee has an east London postcode and, for us, it is wholly unacceptable that local youngsters grow up within earshot of a flourishing Canary Wharf and yet, too often, are effectively worlds apart. Schemes such as these will, little by little, change that through sport.
Encouraging engagement with sport can result in wonderful things; it changes people’s lives for the better. Sport has enabled me to change and develop two great clubs in this country, to pioneer charities that support causes close to my heart, to champion equality and enjoy the camaraderie that fighting for a common goal can often achieve. I am honoured to be in this House, and I hope that from within Parliament I can continue to encourage and promote the aims of sport, the benefits of good governance and the realisation of the dreams and aspirations of young people; and thus work on an all-party basis in this House for the betterment of life through sport and recreation throughout the United Kingdom.
My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to follow such an eloquent speaker. It is the first time in my sporting history that, as a Wolves fan, I have been able to speak not through gritted teeth when Wolves were playing Birmingham City, saying, “Well, you caught us on a good day but well played”. That certainly was well played. Karren—if I may be so familiar in these surroundings—was referred to as the “first woman in football”. Within this House we have somebody who not only understands 4-4-2 but probably also understands the complexity of HS2, as well—and even knows the offside law.
The noble Baroness omitted to say that, at the tender age of 23, having taken over as CEO of Birmingham City when it was in receivership, when she actually sold the club—or collectively the club was sold 16 years later, and it was publicly documented—it was sold for £81.5 million, which is not too bad on the CV. She has been Small Business Ambassador for the United Kingdom Government, author, columnist and, most importantly, an aide to the noble Lord, Lord Sugar. I remind the noble Baroness that according to Chamber etiquette you are not allowed to cross the Floor and point to the noble Lord and say, “You’re fired!”.
She was honoured with a CBE for entrepreneurship and services to women in business in 2014 and listed as 10th in the Guardian’s 50 most influential women in sport. The depth and knowledge of her maiden speech is to be most admired and demonstrates her great experience in sport. We welcome her to this House. I am sure that she could have been called the noble Baroness, Lady Brady of the Boleyn Ground, West Ham, but we know that now West Ham are the main concessionaires for the Olympic Stadium, it is in extremely safe hands, and the legacy retained will be good.
Moving into extra time, I speak in favour of the Bill before this House, and declare my interest as a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board. I shall try to present a sort of case study in line with what the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, has done for football. As with all governing bodies, cricket’s responsibility is to promote and develop the game at all levels. In recent years the ECB has invested a huge amount of resources in modernising structures to ensure that we can effectively support and develop cricket at all levels. Cricket is for everyone, from the able bodied to those with disabilities. The chief role of our governance is to be inclusive and open, and to work to promote the interests of players, coaches, volunteers and spectators.
The Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Moynihan is particularly pertinent at this time, and for that we thank him most genuinely. It is a true reflection of the type of legacy for sport that we seek from the 2012 Olympics. The interface between politics and sport can help to drive improvements in governance that will have a direct benefit on the health of sport, and of our nation. But there is a never-ending list of regulatory issues and challenges for sport. The Bill clearly defines what governing bodies can expect from the Government, and what standards the Government expect of national governing bodies to merit funding.
One must not understate the contribution sport makes to the British economy. The relationship between sport and business is intrinsic and, as has already been mentioned, the principles of good governance in business apply equally to the world of sport. The Chancellor reminded us yesterday that we still face tough economic times, but I would like to mention the fact that in 2010, for example, sport’s gross economic contribution to the nation was £20.3 billion. It currently employs 440,000 people and is ranked in the top 15 British industries.
The ECB now has two female independent board directors—not a bad percentage. The other is Jane Stichbury, a former chief constable, who provides strategic support to our anti-corruption unit. Good governance in women’s and girls’ cricket has led to a 507% increase in the number of cricket clubs with women’s and girls’ sections—an increase from 93 to 565. Sky Sports and BBC radio are to broadcast live all seven women’s Ashes matches next summer, and women’s cricket now has a stand-alone sponsor, Kia Motors—and there are no backhanders there that I have to declare, I have to declare. Professional contracts for centrally contracted players now make the England team one of the highest paid national teams in the world. When I played cricket —here we go, back to the dark ages—we had to pay for our air fares, our blazers and the rest of our kit. Once I was given a free pair of cricket shoes with three green stripes on the side, and was branded as a professional by our committee.
Good governance promotes diversity and inclusion, and the proud achievements of the ECB incorporate blind cricket, deaf cricket—no problems with the umpires there, I am sure—and cricket for those with learning disabilities. These teams have triumphed variously throughout the world. We have embarked on a programme of engagement and development across the south Asian communities to help drive participation in five major cities.
As has already been mentioned, match fixing poses the single biggest threat to the future of sport, and we must guard against that by means of my noble friend’s Bill. We must have confidence that the sport that we are watching is open and fair. Let us not forget the fans—the consumers. I am pleased to see that there is a deterrent in the Bill aimed at those who seek to use the web as a conduit for ticket touting. Those who rip off real fans by acquiring tickets with the sole objective of trading them on for huge profits have, ironically, no interest in protecting the future of the very sports they wish to exploit.
It is my hope that today’s debate will stimulate further discussion that will lead to better policy, and thus better governance, in sport, with full government recognition of sport as a catalyst to build the “three Hs”—a healthy, happy and honest nation.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on initiating this important and timely debate, ahead of his Private Member’s Bill, the Governance of Sport Bill, which will spell out a comprehensive road map for an effective policy for the future. I also, of course, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, on an excellent maiden speech. Many of us will welcome a Baroness coming here and speaking on behalf of sport, as so many of our colleagues present in this debate already do.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and I go back a long way. We have both done a bit of sparring on sporting issues. Indeed, we have also done some sparring in the ring as well: we both boxed for Oxford, although at different times and at different weights. More seriously, we have both engaged in sports debates, especially in the other place, when I shadowed him when he was Minister for Sport. It is fair to say that in the vast majority of cases we have been colleagues, taking up the fight on behalf of sport, on issues such as the ill advised boycott of the Moscow Olympics and the selling off of playing fields—even though that was by his Government—and many other issues.
On the subject of the Moscow Games, I am reminded of a time in the English-Speaking Union in 1980, when I moved a motion that we should not boycott the Games as Margaret Thatcher had recommended. In the course of my speech I noticed a young man dressed in a tracksuit coming into the debate and speaking on my side—and we won. Afterwards I discovered that that person had hastily travelled from Henley, where he had been a cox—and it was the noble Lord who has moved the Motion before us today. The noble Lord went on to the Moscow Olympics and won a silver medal, accompanied by someone who was then thought of as his accomplice in crime—the noble Lord, Lord Coe, who won his gold and silver medals at the same Games.
The noble Lord and I have crossed party lines from time to time. Even last week or the week before, under his leadership and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Heyhoe Flint, we made significant progress on the issue of ticket touting and protecting fans from the actions of unscrupulous ticket touts. The amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill was passed by this House, and hopefully the Government will recognise the will of the House and see that the amendment is enshrined in law.
I will touch briefly on betting and its integrity. Unfortunately, in the Labour Party’s sports policy that I wrote in 1997, we did not mention it at all. That goes to show how fast things move in sport. With the growth in betting worldwide, it could now be defined as the biggest threat to the integrity of sport. As a consequence, some of us have sought to secure a change in the Gambling Act 2005 and the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014.
At the moment we have a patchwork of laws and policies to deal with match fixing. They may just about do the job. The jury is out on that. But they could be clearer and more concise. We certainly need more consistency in the definition of the offences committed by those who cheat. The Gambling Act, which should be the flagship policy, has a maximum sentence of just two years for those who may be involved in highly sophisticated financial and sporting corruption. In my view that is just not enough.
Betting operators are the only commercial services that directly use the content produced by sport without making any payment for the use of that content. Historically, UK copyright law gave sport protection over the use of its content, such as fixtures and match data, by betting organisations. Indeed, for more than 40 years the pools companies paid football for the right to use fixtures data, which was a vital source of income for football across the country, particularly smaller football clubs. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, must take great credit for his major contribution when he was vice chairman of the Football Trust.
At a time when we have such pressure on public budgets, it seems that the priority for politicians is to empower some to earn a fair return from betting, as they used to, and to charge them with spending that money on the grass roots of sport. I declare an interest as the current president of the Football Foundation, which has a great interest in grass-roots sport.
I conclude by once again congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and those who have taken part in this debate. I hope that the Government recognise the content of this debate when they enact legislation in this area.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on securing this important debate and the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, on her maiden speech. She may remember that my team, Cheltenham Town, visited West Ham in a cup match a couple of seasons back, unsuccessfully. We are hoping to be drawn against it in the FA Cup this year, as long as we squeeze past Dover Athletic on Sunday. The kick-off is 2 pm. The noble Lord, Lord Sugar, may remember that Cheltenham Town was drawn against Tottenham Hotspur a few years ago in the FA Cup, and I invited him to the replay, expecting him to say “Thank you very much”. Actually, what he said was, “You’re out”, which I imagine is the footballing equivalent of “You’re fired”.
Some years ago, I attended the annual general meeting of what was then the CCPR, the Central Council of Physical Recreation. The guest speaker was the former Welsh rugby maestro Cliff Morgan. He had some serious messages. First, he told us that 25% of 11 year-olds were suffering from the early signs of heart disease caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. He told us of the importance of getting young people into a fitness regime early, and he told us about a young boy from a small Welsh village who just loved running. Eventually, he represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games. He did not win a medal, but the village held a celebration for him when he returned from the Games. His eyes sparkled as he told his friends and neighbours, “I broke bread with the rest of the world”. It had changed his life. That young man had joined a local athletics club run by volunteers.
We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, about the importance of volunteers. Good governance in sport is essential not just at national or international level; it is vital for the 150,000 local sports clubs across the UK. These clubs are fantastic local assets, almost entirely volunteer-run. They fulfil vital community functions, helping people to stay fit and healthy and creating social networks for young and old. They have an enormous amount to offer in governance and beyond.
I asked Cheltenham Town Football Club what I ought to say in this debate. It gave me a very long moan. I shall read part of it.
“Overall sport does not have the right balance between financial interests and the need to create fair competition on the field. Money dominates everything and supporters do not receive a good enough deal in terms of the amount that it costs to watch sport and the fact that many of the participants are at a competitive disadvantage. You could argue that the fact that attendances remain high and TV and commercial rights remain strong is an endorsement of the status quo. But we are storing up problems for the future by pricing the next generation of supporters out of, for example, Premier League football and by creating an even greater focus upon a small number of teams. A lot of good work is done by the FA at grassroots level but in terms of the higher profile game, most of the power rests within the Premier League because they have the financial clout”.
The view of the chairman of Cheltenham Town is that:
“Governing bodies in all sports should adhere to a set of constitutional principles aimed at furthering the sport for future generations, ensuring widespread participation and fair competition wherever possible, instead of just trying to make as much money as they can. Unfortunately to achieve this would take a stronger regulatory arm than is currently available to an organisation such as the FA”.
I know several sports clubs run by volunteers in Cheltenham. For example, the Cheltenham Swimming and WaterPolo Club is where Great Britain’s Olympic diving medallist Leon Taylor started his love of water. I helped Leon obtain his elite funding and then stayed up to watch TV when he won his Olympic medal. When he got back, I asked him what his best memory of those Games was, expecting him to say the medal ceremony. He replied, “Driving the buggy in the Olympic Village for Steve Redgrave, Britain’s greatest Olympian”. I had to point out to him that there is another one, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson.
I have always thought that the Government should provide more support for sports clubs to employ, perhaps part-time, former professionals to help get more young people into a sports regime. Then we may end up with fewer couch potatoes developing heart disease in their early years and save a vast amount of money for our beloved NHS.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate. In doing so, I declare my interests as set out in the register. I thank my noble friend Lord Moynihan not just for securing this debate but for the insightful, interesting and in-depth Bill he published, and for securing the seminar earlier this week at Slaughter and May which was a day of incredibly interesting debate right across the sporting landscape. I also welcome my noble friend Lady Brady. Having grown up in Kidderminster, I watched her rise at Birmingham City. Quite frankly, what she achieved in the boardroom in a sport such as football is nothing short of remarkable. It would thus seem petty of me to remind her of Kidderminster Harriers’ cup visit to St Andrew’s when they knocked Birmingham City out of the FA Cup that year, which provoked probably one of the greatest lines on “Sports Report”: “There’ll be some celebrating down the A456 this evening”.
There is no separate world of sport. We love it; we feel it in our hearts. In some ways, that can often deceive us into thinking it is different, separate and magical. It is all those things, but it is no separate world. There are disasters, such as Hillsborough and Valley Parade, disgraceful ticket touting, match fixing and doping. On the other side of the coin, there are Murray’s Wimbledon, Botham’s Ashes and the sensational summer of sport in 2012. This is in our DNA. It is hard-wired into our culture and is part of who we are. It is in our psyche and in our lexicon. It is right across the park.
We are at our best in sport when we put athletes at the heart of everything we do, focusing on the participants, the people at the centre of what sport and leisure are all about. We saw an extraordinary journey from Atlanta in 1996, where we won one Olympic gold medal, to London in 2012 where we won 29 gold medals. That was due to many things, not least lottery funding, but it was also due to a dramatic transformation in the governance of many of the national governing bodies and sports councils of our nations. To see that happen in such a short space of time shows what is possible and demonstrates the journey which we are on. UK Sport was at the heart of distributing that lottery money and driving governance through those lottery awards alongside increased equality and inclusion in sports. In recent times, particularly in sports such as boxing and basketball, we have seen that you can have fantastic athletes who are great performers in the rink and on the court, but if you do not have the right governance, the right people and the right structures and systems around the board table, that can start to damage and massively negatively impact sporting performance.
At the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I am leading a £2 million piece of work on sport inclusion. We are going across football, rugby and cricket to cover the most ground in the shortest space of time, and are looking to drive up participation for girls and women and people from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds and to increase access to sporting stadia across the country, about which I know the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, will say more later.
We launched with Premiership rugby in September. What a fantastic summer. The women won the Rugby World Cup for England—yet the number of women and girls in this country registered to play contact rugby is 0.00057%. The programme will train 480 teachers and coaches in and out of school and work with 1,000 young girls in training camps to get them into rugby, feel the joy of being part of a team sport and appreciate what it is to develop in this sporting community which we all love. In 18 months, we aim to have 7,000 more girls and young women playing rugby.
Similarly, Jason Robinson got the England captaincy and yet 3% of black or minority-ethnic people play rugby on a regular basis. Again, we are looking to increase coaching and to get 1,500 BME people into rugby up and down the country, working with the 12 premiership rugby clubs. They are in the heart of some of our most diverse cities—look at Leicester Tigers, for example. That is where we can make a difference and that goes to the heart of what sport is—the clubs that grew up in the communities. Football clubs, Premiership rugby clubs and county cricket clubs are part of our community, yet all too often they are now massively divorced and separated from it and focus on things other than that community. That is where the link needs to be made to connect the clubs and sport back into the diverse community that is Britain.
In conclusion, we need world-class performance and a world-class talent pathway but, crucially, we need access to inclusive sport for all, all of which should be underpinned and driven by gold medal standard governance.
My Lords, we thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for initiating this debate and applaud the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, for her spirited and uplifting maiden speech. I wonder whether she has once again set a record by introducing post-watershed language into her maiden contribution. I will echo and reinforce much of what the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, said earlier.
In England, as elsewhere, the governance of football must balance many competing objectives: at the grass roots, we need the right coaching and facilities and, in some parts of the country, we need modern playing surfaces to replace much overused pitches, which are ankle deep in mud by Sunday lunchtime. For the football spectator, we have the best showcase for global football talent in the whole world; namely, the Premier League, where, on its day, the bottom team can outplay the top. But the very best players in the world now play elsewhere. My club has just lost Suárez, who has followed Bale and Ronaldo to Spain. Perhaps it is no surprise, therefore, that England’s top clubs now struggle against Europe’s best. On the other hand, global talent in the premiership—again, this is much recognised—squeezes out some of the top tier of English players and adds to the woes of our national team, which has not won a trophy, or even come close, for nearly 50 years. England’s performance in Brazil was an embarrassment. We were in a qualifying group of four which contained two countries—Uruguay and Costa Rica—with populations of 3 million and 5 million respectively. In three games, we lost twice, gaining our single point in a scoreless draw. Even more worrying, we have had no meaningful national inquest since.
Football matters. Our clubs have deep roots in their communities, with family loyalties stretching back many generations. My grandfather lived his childhood 200 yards from Anfield football ground. Two of my three grandsons support Liverpool, and I am still working on the third. So, while the clubs need to run as businesses, they must also recognise that, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, they are vital social and cultural pillars of the community, and must give their fans a voice. Unlike the noble Lord, I do not think the answer is to appoint fan representatives to football boards. However, clubs should—as some already do—institute effective arrangements for communicating with, and listening to, democratically appointed representatives of their fans. The FA is itself a representative body. It needs a council—football’s parliament—which gives voice to all the many diverse interests in the game. It does not do that now. But the FA also needs a board which sits above, and is independent of, all interests, a board which can balance the many national, sporting and social objectives we have for England’s most popular game.
The very careful recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, for the reform of the FA in 2005 were effectively ignored in their entirety. Subsequently, the FA has demonstrated its inability to reform itself. Good people, such as the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, and Ian Watmore, have been lost in the trenches in the attempt. The current chairman has made sensible proposals for promoting England’s talent, which have effectively been blocked. It is time now, I think, for football to be subject to independent regulatory scrutiny and oversight, like other sectors—for example, communications or financial services. It is time now for long-threatened government action.
My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, on her very successful maiden speech. She is now bringing her magic touch from West Ham United, so this is a golden moment for her and I hope she enjoys it. We will certainly enjoy her presence in this House.
I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Moynihan has secured this debate because we spend too little time talking about sport. When one thinks of the amount of time that the average person outside this House spends talking about politics—two minutes per week—and the amount of time that they spend talking about sport one realises that there is a certain difference in the balance between what people are talking about outside and what we are talking about inside. I am therefore delighted that we have this long-overdue opportunity.
I must say that I have no experience whatever of sport administration. It means that I have nothing to declare and have no experience of what goes on behind the scenes. Indeed, I am not good at sports, either. My golf handicap of 28 says it all. However, I am a lifelong, mad English sports fan. I was brought up, if I may say so, on royal jelly. I was born in Preston and therefore supported Preston North End when the incomparable Tom Finney was playing for that club. One way up the road in Blackpool were Stanley Matthews and Stanley Mortensen, and the other way, in Bolton, was Nat Lofthouse, the “Lion of Vienna”. If you add in Wilf Mannion from Middlesbrough, that was, more or less, the England forward line in those days—a long time ago, I hasten to say.
Subsequently, my parents moved from Preston and I began supporting Manchester United, which is still one point ahead of West Ham United in the Premier League. Then came the greatest moment in our football history, the World Cup of 1966, when we won under the managership of the incomparable Alf Ramsey. I always love that wonderful story about a local reporter trying to get a different angle on Alf’s victory. He called at his house the following day and asked, “Did Mrs Ramsey go to the match?”. Alf said, “No, she watched it on television at home”. “How did she greet you when you came back?”. Alf Ramsey looked at the reporter as if he was an absolute idiot and said, “Well, she shook my hand and said, ‘Well done, Alf’”. Those were the days. Since then, sadly, there has been little success, and I have to say, along with the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and others, that I blame fundamentally the members of the FA for that. They are the bosses; this is a results business and the results have been diabolical. As the noble Lord has just said, in Brazil, they were embarrassing. I do not blame the players. I think we have had the golden generations: the Scholes generation, the Beckham generation and so on. That was not made enough of. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, said it all in relation to the FA and FIFA. Nothing further can be said about that because his speech encapsulated what many of us feel about this situation.
Money is the root of the problem. Undoubtedly, money has helped our sports in all sorts of ways—cycling, sailing, Olympic sports and so on—and it has helped our sports grounds, football grounds and so on. Money has been beneficial all around the park but the truth is that it has all gone too far. As has been said by one or two noble Lords, it has reached a point where corruption and greed are rampant. The well-being of our players is in danger. Look at Qatar; a footballer could be killed if a competition is held in the heat of summer in that part of the world. Look at the Ashes being played back to back—again for financial reasons. It was disastrous from a cricketing point of view. Look at Brad Barritt’s face when he finished four rugby internationals on the trot. That is not the way to run things. It is being done fundamentally for financial reasons.
We need to rein back on all this and I therefore hope that the Government will listen to what my noble friend Lord Moynihan said. Administrators should try to get a grip on this situation. I do not know the answer—as I have said, I am just a fan—but something has to be done for the good of all sport, the good of this country and the good of international sport.
My Lords, I am delighted to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on securing this debate, which is turning out to be a highlight of the parliamentary calendar. I particularly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, on her maiden speech. I shall say more about West Ham in a moment, if she does not mind. I should declare an interest as a vice-president of the Football Conference, and share with the House the knowledge that I shall be spending Sunday in Scunthorpe with Worcester City in its FA Cup tie. It is not a club that often gets mentioned in your Lordships’ Chamber, and this is a good opportunity to do so, because the team is enjoying an exceptional season.
Following the powerful speeches of my noble friend Lord Triesman, in particular, and the noble Lords, Lord Birt and Lord Horam, I wonder if I may put one or two practical questions to the Minister about the governance of football in England and the Government’s attitude towards the FA. Is he satisfied with the progress that the FA has made in implementing the changes that the Minister for Sport demanded in his response to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report in July 2011? The Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, said then that the FA had until 29 February 2012—he called it an “absolute deadline”—to make the necessary changes to tackle debt levels,
“to overhaul its board and bring in a new licensing system for clubs”.
May I ask the Minister what has happened to the parliamentary Bill which, according to the Guardian in May last year,
“would seek to enable the transformation of the FA into a modern governing body”,
and which, according to the report, parliamentary counsel had been instructed to prepare?
There is not time to go into all of football’s woes. However, I will just mention the level of debt. While money is a problem, the level of debt is an even greater one, which is growing year by year as clubs spend desperately to attempt to avoid relegation or to win promotion. They increasingly spend on players and managers. The spiral of debt is quite clearly out of control, as Deloitte reminds us year after year in its report on football finances. Responsible financial policies were adopted some years ago by the Football Conference, which means that all debts—not just football debts—have to be paid to enable clubs’ continued membership of the competition. The conference office regularly receives reports from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs on how up to date clubs are with their PAYE and VAT payments. Those that are seen to have fallen behind then face a series of sanctions. I suggest that that is a model that the Football Association and the major leagues should follow.
In my last two minutes I will speak about an issue that a number of noble Lords have referred to: the way that disabled supporters are treated at far too many of our football stadiums. Here I declare an unpaid interest as vice-president of Level Playing Field. In April, the then Minister for Disabled People wrote to all professional clubs and said that the provision of disabled access was “woefully inadequate”, with only three clubs in the Premier League—as we have heard, the richest league in the world—complying with the accessible stadia guidelines for the number of spaces for supporters in wheelchairs. Perhaps the worst example is the richest club of all, Manchester United, which offers only 120 wheelchair-user places in a 76,000-seat stadium. There are none in the family stand and disabled fans are denied the opportunity to buy season tickets. The accessible stadia guidelines say that there should be at least 282 spaces. I will just comment on the excellent evidence that the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, gave to the Select Committee on the Olympic legacy. The whole committee was very impressed by her commitment that when West Ham takes over the Olympic stadium it will comply fully with all the accessible stadia guidelines. We look forward to that.
Very briefly, I have three practical solutions for the Minister that would deal with the problem. Two of these can follow quite easily, thanks to the Government’s very welcome decision to reprieve the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. It was facing abolition but it has now been guaranteed a long-term life. This is the body that, in conjunction with Level Playing Field, should, in my view, be encouraged to conduct an audit of disabled access at all professional football grounds. Level Playing Field has been asked by the rugby league trust to do the same sort of job. This will provide the sort of information that will demonstrate the scale of the work that needs to be done.
The second thing that the Sports Grounds Safety Authority should do is to be instructed by Ministers not to grant licences to professional football club stadia that do not meet the accessible stadia guidelines. This has to be enshrined in legislation or regulation. The voluntary approach has not worked and compulsion is necessary. Thirdly, I would invite the Minister to take seriously the suggestion by his noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond that the Equality and Human Rights Commission should address these issues. If we were to have one high-profile prosecution of a rich and famous club for failing to meet its requirements under the Act on equality grounds, that would focus minds very much indeed.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moynihan for initiating the debate. I would also like to welcome my noble friend Lady Brady, whose contribution showed the wealth of expertise she will bring to this House.
Like my noble friend Lord Horam, I have not held a senior position in the sporting world or participated at an international level. I speak only as a Norwich City season ticket holder, a candidate for MCC membership and a general sporting enthusiast. Fantastic memories of the London Olympics and Paralympics still burn brightly for me, but equally vivid and, unfortunately, less happy recent memories include last winter’s Ashes whitewash and Norwich City’s relegation from the Premiership. Such are the ups and downs of being a sports fan.
As has already been said, the British public’s passion for sport is well known, but it would be a grave mistake for sport governing bodies—be they at international, national or club level—to take for granted their loyalty and commitment. In particular, there is much to do to continue to encourage the next generation of fans. Sport is increasingly competing for young people’s free time with other popular alternatives. Many of these are online and are often much cheaper than regularly going to cricket or football matches, for instance. The latest BBC Price of Football survey has shown just how much ticket prices have risen in the past 12 months alone.
There are also signs that young people are less likely to watch live sport regularly. Last year, the Premier League found that the average age of a supporter was 41 and that only a fifth of those attending matches were aged between 18 and 24. There is little that is more exciting than watching live sport, and there are real issues to be tackled to ensure that future generations of fans are not lost.
In order to be able to respond effectively to those and the many other challenges they face, sports need to be governed properly. They need structures that are accountable, responsive and transparent. They need a culture that welcomes the expertise of all those who have a stake in the sport, and a vision for the future that recognises that their viability relies on the involvement and support of future generations.
Yet too many international sports bodies are having their competence and leadership in these areas called into question. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, these are big businesses and, like our biggest companies, they need to be accountable. Along with those who pay for the pleasure of watching sport and those who participate, sponsors have a role in pressing for change. The tremendous work of LOCOG and of the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association during that incredible summer of 2012 is a testament to what effective leadership and good governance can achieve.
The vast majority of sports men and women in this country do not compete at the highest level, but this does not make their commitment to their sport any less. They, in turn, rely on the dedication of volunteers who mark pitches, collect subs and sit on committees, as the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, highlighted. Many of the amateur football, rugby, cricket, tennis and athletics clubs that are a central part of so many Britons’ lives are extremely well run. We are entitled to expect a similar level of competence and integrity from the institutions that run sport at the elite level.
In conclusion, the sporting world faces significant challenges. Those in charge must ensure that their governance structures are fit for purpose, that they maintain the highest standards of ethics and integrity, and that they are clearly accountable for their actions. This is not rocket science—in fact, it is written in all the codes of conduct and good governance guides—but it has to be put into practice. If sports bodies fail to do this, it will not be government regulation that they need to be concerned about; rather, it will be the loss of thousands and thousands of would-be fans.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for introducing this debate and I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, on her maiden speech. I am sure that she has been somewhat dismayed at football’s woes, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, described them, which have been gone into by the noble Lords, Lord Triesman and Lord Birt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Evans. It is a game that is now full of money, foreign players, and middle-aged spectators with an upper income.
I turn with relief to Britain’s premier sport—rowing. I declare an interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Rowing Group. I remember rowing in an eight over the Atlanta Olympic course at Lake Lanier in Georgia in the summer of 1997. It was a beautiful day. I was reflecting on the fact that in the previous year Team GB had been 36th in the Olympic medals table, with medallists in just some 16 events. The only gold medals were for Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave in the coxless pair. Otherwise in rowing, the men’s coxless four with the Searle brothers had won bronze. There was a sprinkling of silver and bronze medals in athletics, including for Denise Lewis in the women’s heptathlon and for the men’s 4x400 metres relay team. Ben Ainslie had a silver in sailing and Chris Boardman won bronze. The team’s performance was not great overall.
In the 2012 Olympics, Team GB was third in the medals table, with 29 gold medals. Indeed, 185 medals were achieved across 30 sports in the Olympics and Paralympics. UK Sport is now carrying out a strategic policy review. Should its current investment strategy focus on medal success or should it go beyond Olympic and Paralympic sports and be broadened to consider other UK-level sports or disciplines? I believe that the present approach should be maintained. Olympic medal success is a prime inspiration to young people that encourages them to participate in sport, and from that point on to lead healthy and active lives.
Let us look at British rowing: the GB rowing team sustained its position through the last two Olympic Games in Beijing and in London as a leading Olympic rowing nation. In London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games there were 33 rowing medallists. The men’s coxless won four golds. Six women won gold in three events: the coxless pair, the double sculls and the lightweight pair. It was inspirational. The creation and development of rowing talent’s identification programme, Start, has been so successful that five of the gold medallists have come through it. The result is that British rowing membership increased by 12.2% over six months between June and December 2012, and broke the 30,000 mark. Half of the new members were under 18 and nearly half of the new membership were women.
I believe that one reason for the success is the willingness of our Olympic rowing champions to be personally involved in encouraging clubs and individuals throughout the country. I was delighted to meet Katherine Grainger at the recent Invictus Games for injured servicemen. Her performance in winning gold in London, after a succession of silvers in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, is so memorable. She is a board member of International Inspiration, the charity chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Coe, which promotes access to sport, play and physical exercise for low and middle income families with children around the world. Indeed, I do not suppose anybody else in your Lordships’ House has had the privilege, as I have, of being coached by a gold-medal winner in Beijing and London; namely, Tom James of the coxless four. We may have been “old farts” but he was prepared to give us some time. Perhaps the fact that his father was rowing with us was another inspiration.
These are just two of many whose encouragement to the grassroots of rowing should be fully recognised. It is, indeed, at the grassroots that the Government have a role to play. They should be involved directly in encouraging participation. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, referred to the importance of volunteers. A real restriction to participation and growth is the availability of coaching and the perception that increased bureaucracy discourages volunteers from coming forward. When my son was 17, I started an under-18 rugby union team in my home club and coached it with some success. I do not think that I would do it now because of the bureaucracy involved. The Government could also address a much more supportive approach with volunteers in running sports bodies and giving encouragement to them. I think of the North Wales Crusaders in Wrexham, for example—a rugby league team which weekly provides players to local schools to encourage pupils to participate and learn ball-handling skills, which will enable and encourage them to participate in other sports. Those are the reasons why I wanted to bring to your Lordships’ attention British rowing as Britain’s premier sport.
My Lords, It is a sportsman’s pleasure to be involved in this debate. Because I am sitting next to him, and he will give me a good kicking if I do not, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on a very well constructed speech. We heard a brilliant speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Brady. I wish my maiden had been as good—indeed, my speech now may be nothing like as good but I shall try my best.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Heyhoe Flint, that if I were her I would go the ladies now and take a break because what I am about to say will not be to her pleasure. It is amazing how we can be on the same Benches but disagree with one another. Cricket is a sport that is close to my heart. I declare my interests as a co-owner of Wisden Cricketer, Cricket Archive and Test Match Extra. We also arrange the cricketing National Village Cup, which incidentally gets no sponsorship from the ECB. It is a magnificent occasion which has its final at Lord’s in September. Some 130 villages participated in it this year.
For those noble Lords who would like to make a guess, what do they think is the debt in county cricket at the moment? I asked someone on the way in to the debate, and he said, “£6 million”. That is so far from the truth; there is £246 million of debt in county cricket. Warwickshire County Cricket Club has been lent £25 million by its county council and it cannot afford even to pay the interest on it; nor can Yorkshire County Cricket Club, which borrowed £20 million from its chairman, who is tipped to be the next chairman of the ECB. Some 10 out of 18 counties cannot afford to pay the interest on their debts, and the figures are horrendous. We now have 11 grounds vying for Tests and one day internationals, two of which are always destined for Lord’s and one of which goes to the Oval. That leaves four Tests in the coming year and 10 or 11 one-day internationals for 11 grounds—which I gather now include Gloucester.
As we have heard from my noble friend, cricket is run by the ECB. It sucks in the television funds and has had an average annual income of £104 million for the past 10 years. Its costs have gone up from £12 million to £22 million. The board dangles the carrot of money in front of cricket. The observer would ask where that money goes. The observer would say that it goes to the Test team, which we applaud because it was underfunded, but has now probably reached the point of overfunding at £28 million a year. It has gone into women’s cricket and to a very successful women’s team under the leadership of my noble friend, which we applaud—I dare not. Money has also gone into grassroots cricket. A look at a school report of the ECB would show that we have lost 70,000 players in grassroots cricket over the past few years. We have won only three of the last 12 Tests, and by the time we return from South Africa, the England team will have played 15 Tests and 40 to 50 one-day matches, which is effectively 120 days of cricket in 360 days. This is utterly crazy and unsustainable, and we know it.
So, also, is that monstrous debt. It cannot be carried through cricket and its activities generally. Of course, cricket is now all about money, and that is why we have such an overload. Is this the ECB adopting an agenda for its own institution or is it an adopting agenda for the game of cricket? The answer, I am sure noble Lords would agree, is a resolute no. Are the wheels coming off cricket? The answer is predictably yes. Is the ECB acting as the custodian and trustee of our national game? I leave that for noble Lords to decide.
It is not just cricket. We have heard from other noble Lords that tennis and other sports are also in this position. Why is the consumer not protected by a body in the way we have Ofgem, Ofwat and so on? I would ask the Government to consider putting in place a form of consumer protection for sport. That does not mean that fans should be running counties, teams and so on, but it does mean that their priorities must be considered and taken into account by an official, independent body. I invite the Government to consider this.
My Lords, this has been a terrific debate to the best standards that we normally have in your Lordships’ House. All sorts of expertise and experience have been on display, and as a result I think that we will be able to draw together some thoughts that the Government might wish to respond to. All who have spoken appear to agree that there needs to be more focus on policy in this area. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, for her maiden speech. She has been described as the “First Lady of Football”, but obviously she has many more strings to her bow, as she mentioned in her speech. She made the very good point that sport’s unique attribute is its ability to break down barriers and engage everyone in a common pursuit, but rather than leave it at that, she was able to exemplify it in her work at West Ham and Birmingham City before that. I think that we are all the better for hearing those figures because they are very inspirational.
We have had blasts from my noble friend Lord Triesman and others—most recently the noble Lord, Lord Marland—about the existing arrangements. There have been common themes throughout the debate which fit very closely to what I think were the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in bringing forward this discussion. As he said, he is trying not only to publicise his Private Member’s Bill but to influence the manifesto process. There is certainly a great deal of information here that could be used by people who have that awful task to come.
In fact, I had a mental vision of where that Bill came from. I wondered whether, when the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was Minister for Sport, or perhaps in his later life, he used to wander around the world with a little black book writing down “Good ideas that I might put forward in a Bill sometime”. It is about not just sport—or even sport and education or sport and health—but other issues relating to more general comments about the state of the world today. It left in my mind a suggestion that in some more benign future era we might find time in your Lordships’ House for people who have the “Bill of Dreams” up their sleeve. They might be given the opportunity—perhaps in a resignation speech—to say, “These are the things I would have brought forward to legislate had I been able to do so”.
Enough of that—the issues that I think are at the heart of this debate are based around the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, about the autonomy of our sporting endeavours. Now that sport is so much a part of our national fabric, is there now a role for the Government, not just because of direct financing or the impact on policy, to act as a regulator or legislator of last resort behind the activities of sport? It is true that the Government directly fund sport. It is true that policies on sport and recreation feature strongly in government policies. There has been a huge change in the way that sport is now funded and operated. Commercialisation has taken over. The relationship between sport, policy and the law has to be considered. We need to think about serious and large-scale criminality both on and off the field and in online and face-to-face betting. We really need to think again about the way in which we fund grassroots sport and increase that funding. In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor has suggested a novel but very interesting step forward in this area in relation to thinking about trying to use the intellectual property that resides within sport to provide a stream of finance that might be put forward. I hope that the Minister will pick up on that, because it is a significant change of track compared to where we were in the Gambling Bill and one that I think has many lessons for the future.
As many noble Lords have said, we need to think about the years of disenfranchisement of the loyal supporters of our major clubs and about ways in which they can make their voices heard and their influences felt. As was said by the noble Lord in introducing this topic, we need an athletes’ charter which ensures that the voices of our sports men and women are heard and that the many concerns they have about how their sports are organised and run are not just heard but acted upon by the governing bodies of the sports. The sports governing bodies must be fit for purpose and transparent and they must have standards that are more equivalent to the FTSE 100 rather than some sort of amateur “blazer brigade”, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Addington, put it—we understand what he meant by that. Within all that, there are questions about equality that were touched on by a number of speakers which need to come forward.
With that range of issues in play, which I think reflects many of the comments made, I ask the Minister to think about some of the specific questions he was asked. I mention football first because it rather dominated our discussion, perhaps to the exclusion of some other issues and other voices we might have wished to hear. The speech of my noble friend Lord Triesman was very specific, and the point was picked up by my noble friend Lord Faulkner. There are commitments in play from the Government about how to deal with the FA/Premier League situation. There were promises made and draft legislation referred to—where are we on this?
On the wider question of reform, it would be possible within existing laws, I think, to make a series of commitments about reforming sports governance, not least because so many sports now receive the majority of their funding through the Government, either directly or through the lottery. Standards, transparency, professionalism, equality, access and inclusion are all issues that need to be picked up. The Government have those powers—what are they doing about them?
We are all saying, with a single voice across all parts of the House, that there are real problems about the international associations, their lack of accountability and their inability to pick up on standards that would be commonplace in any other activity. What are the Government doing in relation to FIFA, for example, or to the other questions that have been raised? What way could the Government find of bringing together those interests within Government that bear on sport? Education and health were mentioned, along with sport in a separate department. Sport is not in a strong position in these, because it is very often a minor player, but surely there must be something more than just an informal arrangement. Does the Minister have anything to say to give us some solace on that?
I was very struck by the number of people who picked up on the question of criminality in sport, to which I have already referred, but there seem to be four dimensions here, of which we are tackling only one. Doping is a major issue, where we are very much not in control of our own destiny, but we could do a lot more. There is no law on match-fixing: why is that? How can we possibly have a situation where it is impossible to bring any direct criminal charge on somebody who deliberately fixes a match, whatever sport we are talking about? That, of course, plays into betting. There are rules in betting about that, but those rules have such weak penalties that the last successful criminal activity in this area actually employed the Fraud Act—hardly a way of trying to root out people who are betting illegally on the outcome of particular overs in a cricket match.
Grassroots funding, as I mentioned, is a real problem. Yes, there are plenty of fans and they can be accessed, but they are not circulating as well as they could do. If we want to have proper access to sport at all levels and for all abilities—and have elite sport within this—we really need to unpick this. What are the Government doing to resolve that?
Finally, I want to make two points about equality. First, it seems extraordinary to me that we are still in a situation where not everybody in our community can access or have sight lines for a sport that they can pay for. Access for those who need special treatment still seems to be lacking. We should also reflect on the point that, sometimes, it is simply the language that we use. I am not picking up on any particular individual who has spoken here today but, sometimes, by concentrating on the football analogy and the football metaphor, we sometimes exclude more than we gain.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate. His great interest in the well-being of sport, both at home and internationally, is demonstrated in his wide-reaching Bill. It is an exceptional catalyst to debate the sporting landscape and how we might enhance it. I am particularly conscious of the immense experience your Lordships bring to this debate. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to do justice to all the issues raised in my noble friend’s Bill and by your Lordships, given the time. I shall, of course, respond in writing to any outstanding points. I also congratulate my noble friend Lady Brady on her truly exceptional maiden speech. She brings to this House a range of experience, but today I particularly welcome her as a robust champion of sport.
This Government are committed to promoting good governance. The DCMS works closely with our public sector partners such as UK Sport and Sport England to ensure that the highest standards of governance are operated in the various national governing bodies for sport. The Government decided in 2012 to retain UK Sport and Sport England as two separate entities, but with a shared reform agenda, closer working and a move towards collocation, which happened successfully earlier this year. We do not claim that the system cannot be improved, and a joint triennial review of both bodies was announced on 21 November. Its conclusions will be reported next summer.
Sport England and UK Sport have robust systems in place to oversee the use of public money invested in the national governing bodies. UK Sport’s governance principles ensure that it will invest only in sports that demonstrate the required standards of leadership, governance, financial management and administration. Sport England’s whole sport plans are an example of obligations already placed on national governing bodies as a condition for public funding. National governing bodies must demonstrate strategic planning, conduct skills audits of their leadership and appoint at least 25% independent board members. They should also target a minimum of 25% women on their boards by 2017. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, raised this important point; we are working on this with governing bodies. National governing bodies must produce for Sport England solid evidence that links this good governance to their sport; a governance, finance and control framework; reviews of performance against award agreements; participation targets; a payment-by-results process; and proactive action planning. Sport England’s Active People survey measures the number of adults taking part in sport across the UK.
Boards are undoubtedly becoming more diverse. Sports are becoming better governed and better able to understand their fans and the interests of their potential participants. But there is very much more to do.
Great Britain’s haul of 65 Olympic and 120 Paralympic medals at London 2012 is a proud achievement, with 30 sports winning Olympic medals and putting us third in the Olympic medal table. We were third also in the Paralympics in the most competitive era of Paralympian sport. But we must not rest on these laurels.
Increased participation remains a major principle of Exchequer funding. My noble friend Lord Addington made the case for participation and the enjoyment to be derived from it. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, raised the essential matter of volunteers and described what an example they are.
Basketball is an increasingly popular sport, with a 7% increase in men and women’s participation in the last year alone. My noble friend Lady Heyhoe Flint mentioned the increase in number of girls’ and women’s clubs in cricket and the enormous contribution that sport generally makes to the national economy. I am very mindful of what my noble friend Lord Marland said about the serious situation for county cricket clubs and I am sure that that will be on the agenda when the Minister for Sport meets the chairman of the ECB shortly. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford promoted the interests of rowing so robustly, and the importance of how elite and grass roots are connected throughout the process. I want also to mention cycling. A report published today states that the Tour de France in the UK boosted the economy by £150 million, of which £102 million was in Yorkshire. I think that so many of these successes have been inspired by the exploits of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Netball participation is increasing; boxing participation is increasing.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, asked how disabled people can be encouraged to be active. Sport England has made this a key part of its strategy, with £171 million being invested to increase activity, and 42 national governing bodies have specific targets for increasing the number of disabled people playing sports.
My noble friend Lord Moynihan rightly drew attention to the importance of cross-government working, as did the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. It was also important that my noble friend Lord Jones of Cheltenham spoke about health and sport. The Department of Health is embracing the value that sport adds to a healthy lifestyle, as indicated by its Change4Life programme, and the DfE recognises that education and sport must go hand in hand and the key role that sport plays in the development of young children.
I am particularly mindful of what the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, and my noble friend Lord Moynihan said about playing fields. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Work and Pensions are jointly considering access to sports venues for disabled people. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport recently approved a £1.9 million programme to be undertaken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to increase access. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond is closely involved with this. A joint DCMS and Department for Work and Pensions survey will be launched this month to ask disabled sports fans about their experience visiting stadia, and the evidence from the survey will help to inform future priorities and analyse the performance of professional Football League clubs.
My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond spoke about inclusion. The Minister for Sport has pledged to raise inclusion and accessibility for spectators with disabilities with relevant organisations in the course of her regular meetings. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, spoke powerfully about accessibility, and I know that the Minister of Sport is looking forward to meeting the noble Lord tomorrow to discuss those matters.
The Sports Grounds Safety Authority is also working with the disability access charity, Level Playing Field, on a proposed revision of the accessible stadia guidance to ensure that it is relevant, up to date and shows best practice. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority maintains spectator safety at football matches. We have explored whether there is a legal basis for including disabled access into its regime, but unfortunately legal advice confirms that that is not part of its statutory remit.
It is probably best if I write to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, about some of the points he raised, but I assure him that all the points about equality and access are being considered very strongly. I know that we all agree that football clubs must address that much more rigorously than they have to date. I am very mindful of our exchanges in this House about many football clubs which ought to be doing better.
Football engenders great loyalties and rivalries, as the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and my noble friend Lord Horam rightly emphasised. Since 2010, this Government have sought to work closely with football authorities on a wide range of governance issues. As a result of that partnership, there has been a toughening of ownership tests, improved financial transparency and stronger rules to ensure that clubs are sustainably run.
The Minister for Sport regularly meets the football authorities and continues to press for improvements in governance. Although we welcome progress, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and your Lordships’ House that the Government expect more to be done.
It is immensely valuable that my noble friend Lady Brady brings great experience in the successful running of top-level football clubs, and I would very much welcome her insights in this area. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has brought forward a wide range of recommendations for the sport, including that the Government should establish an expert group to look at barriers to supporter ownership. We have now established such an expert group to explore supporter ownership and engagement, in partnership with leading fan organisations and the football authorities. It is absolutely right that my noble friend Lady Evans of Bowes Park spoke about the fans—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, also made. They should be better respected in all the arrangements of football clubs.
We must also not be complacent in confronting the challenges that sport faces. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, highlighted match fixing and other corrupt practices. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked what the Government were doing internationally. Clearly sports and Governments are acting because they identify a need for change. Countries across Europe are addressing issues such as good governance in sport and match fixing. The UK supports the EU principles of good governance in sport. The Council of Europe, the advisory organisation promoting co-operation between European countries in areas of legal standards, has created a legally binding convention on the manipulation of sports competition.
The Olympic movement recognises the need for good governance. Following the 2002 Winter Olympics, the IOC addressed fundamental shortcomings, thereby becoming more transparent, open and independent.
Quite a bit has been said about FIFA. The UK has set a standard on what it expects in sporting governance, and international bodies should not be treated differently. The DCMS Secretary of State said exactly this in his recent letter to the FIFA president, Mr Blatter. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, spoke about FIFA and I think that we would all agree that one of the best ways for FIFA to show its commitment to transparency and accountability would be to release the report compiled by Michael Garcia. That would be at least a first step in what FIFA should do if it is to have any credibility at all on this matter, or indeed more generally.
The UK’s outstanding sporting tradition, and the significance of our place in the world of sport, are borne out by the number of major events secured since the 2012 Games. Events next year range from the Rugby World Cup, the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow and the EuroHockey Championships to the Canoe Slalom World Championships. In 2016 there will be the Track Cycling World Championships and European Swimming Championships; in 2017, the World Championships in Athletics. There will be many more at the Olympic stadium and across London, and across the United Kingdom.
The importance of sport in our national life is undeniable. Be it in greater participation or by hosting major events across the country, we must seek high standards of governance at home and abroad. Improvements can and must be made. In hearing from your Lordships who have such experience, this debate has been of enormous assistance and I shall ensure that the Minister for Sport and many other colleagues across departments hear of it in full.
We all agree that there is very much more to do. The Government clearly have a key role to fulfil in all this but I believe that, today and beyond, there can be no doubt that we are all in my noble friend Lord Moynihan’s debt for providing this opportunity to debate the many challenges which face sport at home and abroad, given the enormous contributions that sport provides across the world for young people and for people of all ages and abilities. We must work together to ensure that we can find the best way of meeting the challenges and opportunities for the benefit of all.