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Football Spectators (Seating) Order 2022

Volume 825: debated on Monday 21 November 2022

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

That the Grand Committee takes note of the Football Spectators (Seating) Order 2022.

Relevant document: 10th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, I express gratitude to the usual channels for giving us the opportunity to debate the order. I tabled a take-note Motion because I felt that the reintroduction of standing at our main football grounds was a sufficiently major change to the licensing regime enforced by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to justify a short debate.

The all-seater requirement for the top two divisions of English football was a direct consequence of the reports by Lord Justice Taylor into the Hillsborough stadium disaster in April 1989. It was his report that caused the abandonment of the central provision of the Football Spectators Act that would have made it compulsory for everyone attending a match at a designated ground to be part of a national membership scheme.

It is often forgotten that the Act was introduced as an anti-hooliganism measure, particularly as a result of appalling disorder at a cup tie between Luton Town and Millwall, which caused huge offence to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. That led to a breakdown in the relationship between the Government and the Football Association, whose secretary rather unwisely suggested to her face at a meeting I attended in Downing Street that Mrs Thatcher should get her hooligans out of football.

Lord Justice Taylor was scathing about a compulsory membership scheme and said that it would have made the Hillsborough disaster worse. I believe that I am the only Member of your Lordships’ House to have been at that match and to have witnessed the horror of that afternoon. I certainly agreed with what he said about a compulsory membership scheme. Instead, the Football Spectators Act was pressed into service as the means to enforce the all-seater rules, which I always supported, although there was some opposition from some of the fan groups.

Until December 2018, successive Governments were content to leave those rules in place and were able to point to general improvements in football crowd behaviour as one of the benefits of that, even though many fans at a number of clubs took no notice of the no-standing rules, particularly behind the goals, and stood up in their seats. This caused considerable disquiet among a number of supporters, who were concerned by the consequences for family areas where young children were present and for disabled fans. I declare an interest as vice-president of the Level Playing Field charity, about which I will say more in a moment.

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority published a report on the Safe Management of Persistent Standing in Seated Areas, in which many of the dangers were described. It also pointed out that operating licensed standing areas had the additional benefit of removing

“the need for safety teams to make spectators sit down, thus reducing potential conflict between staff and spectators.”

Perhaps the Minister can comment on what seems to be a rather unusual aspect of this debate. It is clear that one of the reasons for abandoning all-seater stadiums is the acknowledgment that the rules could not be enforced and that lawbreakers should, in effect, be rewarded by getting the law changed. Does he feel that this establishes an undesirable precedent for other aspects of public policy?

The Conservative manifesto for the 2019 election contained a commitment to

“work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing.”

This was followed by what was called the early adopter programme, launched by DCMS and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, which provided for licensed standing in seated areas at five football clubs—Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur—from the start of the 2022-23 season. This was followed, on 4 July this year, by the laying of the statutory instrument we are debating today. This provides for all football clubs to allow for standing in areas of their grounds where the seating accommodation has been adapted.

I referred earlier to my involvement with Level Playing Field, and I have some questions that I hope the Minister will be able to answer. I should make clear that Level Playing Field has always maintained an entirely neutral stance in the safe standing debate. But that stance would change if the introduction of standing compromised safety or reduced the matchday experience of disabled supporters in respect of things such as sight-lines, discrimination or abuse, misuse of facilities, or displacement. Disabled supporters should be able to choose whether they are in the safe standing section or not. Choice is important and there must be facilities for them, including accessible toilets and dropped counters at refreshment kiosks. It is vital that if parts of a ground are to become designated standing areas, all spectators—particularly disabled ones—are safe from crowd surges and crowd collapse.

It is good that recommendations and guidance relating to disabled supporters were included in the SGSA’s document SG01, Safe Standing in Seated Areas, published in July this year. But there are concerns as to how the impact on disabled spectators and the inclusion of disabled spectators will be mitigated, implemented or enforced.

I have a few questions for the Minister. Will observance of the guidance become a part of the safety advisory group’s duties and responsibilities? How will the facilities for disabled spectators be monitored to ensure that they have been included in the safe standing areas, with spaces for wheelchair users and easy-access and amenity seats? What measures will be in place to ensure that disabled spectators choosing not to purchase tickets in the safe standing area are not adversely affected? How will persistent standing be dealt with in non-standing areas? How will the potential displacement of disabled spectators be managed? What steps are being taken to ensure effective stewarding in the safe standing areas? Lastly, how will consultation with disabled supporters be conducted and monitored? I have given the Minister notice of these questions and hope that he will be able to answer them today or, if not, in writing later.

To conclude, I repeat my support for the adoption of safe standing areas but urge that it be carefully and continuously monitored. The very last thing we need is any return to the incidents of disorder that did so much damage to the reputation of English football in the past—a reputation that I hope will be enhanced by the performance of the England team at the current World Cup, particularly after that sensational start in the first game this afternoon.

My Lords, I very much congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, on getting this opportunity to make a little bit of history. There has been a long campaign by many supporters over many years to get government authorities, the Premier League, football authorities and safety groups all to recognise that safe standing—done properly, properly monitored and with the use of the right technology—can work and be safe. It will make very many football supporters throughout the country happy that this has finally happened.

I find it rather ironic, because 22 years ago this week, as Sport Minister, I did an interview for a programme called “Watchdog”—the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, will probably remember this—and dared to say that I was going to send the Football Licensing Authority over to Germany to visit the Schalke stadium and to see what the Bundesliga was doing with its new technology and the way it was able to adapt its stadiums. I think it was the great sports writer at that time, Robert Hardman, who said that the reaction to what I had said was as if the Minister for Sport had invited Myra Hindley to the cup final. There was an enormous outburst. How could I dare to call for terraces to be brought back? Of course, I was not calling for that at all; I was calling for precisely what we now have.

I congratulate all those supporters who tried so hard over the years to get this to happen—for example, Phil Gatenby, Adam Brown, Standing Areas for Eastlands and a number of other groups that persevered with a very difficult argument. The Premier League was absolutely opposed to it at that time and for a very long time. We were not helped by the Football Licensing Authority. Its chief executive, John de Quidt, told me at one time, “There’s more chance of Martians landing than the safe standing campaign achieving its goals.” We have not had Martians but we have safe standing.

I thank the Government for recognising that this needed to be looked at, could be done and was perfectly safe. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said. It is important that it is monitored and that we look at things that can make it better, but this is definitely a great step forward and a day to be celebrated by all football supporters.

My Lords, this is one where I find myself slightly conflicted. I did not like the idea of bringing back safe standing, probably because I lived very close to Carrow Road and the violence that was endemic in football for decades occasionally spilled out into the roads close to me. I remember that all-seater stadiums were brought in to stop that organised violence. They were largely successful as part of the packages that went through, but it is well that we remember that.

It was not just the crush. Seating, and the barriers brought in here, may well stop that incredibly dangerous surge forward on an open terrace. I remember people saying that the movement of the crowd was wonderful; look at old film of the movement of a crowd. I am astounded that people were not more frequently hurt—one person going down, taking three or four with them, trapped underneath the motion. It is bad enough when it happens on a rugby pitch, which is, generally speaking, soft, and only three or four people are landing. The wind is knocked out of you, then two more people land and you cannot get your breath back. There is usually a referee pulling you to your feet then. It was potentially incredibly dangerous, and the fact that only a few people were involved in crowd disorder is probably why there were so few disasters. There is also the intrinsic danger in areas as such as stairwells. Floods of people going through them led to tragedy in the past. Please let us not think that these measures were brought in for no reason: there was a need. It was not the only action, but there was a need.

I ask the Minister a couple of questions on the “stay standing” procedure here—the barrier in front to stop people coming forward. What weight of people pushing forward has been tested against the barriers giving way? What is the level of people flow coming forward? Can we have a little idea of the testing that has taken place? If they are sturdy enough to resist that, most of the danger will be removed.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has done a very good job on disabled access here, but the grounds in the Premiership do not have an unblemished record. If they have just got to the level of providing access—I do not think they have—they have done so incredibly recently. Their unwillingness to take these steps has been obvious for a very long time. Nobody has fallen over themselves to make sure this happened fast. Will we make sure they are properly regulated and enforced to make sure that a disabled person who goes into the stands is safe? Remember that they may not all be wheelchair users; many people who are disabled are not. They may have to use them temporarily; they may be able to stand for parts of the game. Is a person who is slightly unstable on their feet safe? That is a good question to add. What can be done to make sure that they are safe?

When it comes to other crowd control techniques, can the Minister assure us that a person will be identified as in a ticketed area, and thus can be easily identified if they are committing anti-social, racist or other abhorrent behaviour? Has that been tested? Crowds allow bad behaviour or allow people to think they can get away with it. Football is just one area where it has happened historically.

If we can get those assurances, let us give the experiment a go. However, I should like to think that the Government are paying attention to it, remembering that there were pitch invasions at the end of last season and occasions when crowds have behaved badly. There are many fewer than there were, and it is now a news item worthy of note, which is definitely a step forward from the historical position, but are we making sure that we are able to punish people with better monitoring arrangements and the identification of the people there? We need that assurance, because it was not about the seating but the safety. The seating was just a vehicle to get there. If the Government can give us those assurances, I will wish this experiment well, because, let us face it, we did not bring the measure in because we were desperate to interfere with people’s lives but because we had to.

My Lords, a debt of gratitude is owed to my noble friend Lord Faulkner, who has been assiduous in following this issue over the years. I am grateful to him for ensuring that we had today’s debate. For our part, on the Labour Benches, we very much welcome the regulations and the pilot carried out by Cardiff City, Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Tottenham Hotspur which has provided the evidence base for the wider introduction of safe standing at Welsh and English football stadia.

I am old enough to have been a teenager when some of the worst ravages of football hooliganism took place in the late 1960s and 1970s. It was not a pleasant sight and, like many football fans of that period, I got caught in crushes and found that I started half way up a standing area and ended up somewhere near the front because of a crowd surge. It was not a very pleasant experience, but it was very common. The tragic events at a number of football grounds, including of course Heysel—and Sheffield Wednesday’s ground, where we had the terrible deaths in 1989, are etched strongly in our minds and memories collectively. They were awful things that should never have happened. The quality of football stadia back then left very much to be desired; it had not changed for decades and very little thought was ever given to the safety and security, even less the comfort, of football fans who watched the nation’s great game.

We have come a long way since then. Seated stadiums were introduced, as other colleagues including the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, have said, because there was a desire to make stadia better as an experience, to improve the quality of the spectators’ experience and to ensure that safety was paramount—and quite right too. There has always been some pressure to create the opportunity for safe standing, but it is really only in the last 10 years, I would guess, that the quality of our stadia has reached a point—particularly at Premier League and Championship level—where it is possible for safe standing to be introduced.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, reminded me of the German experience. When I was a Minister in the Home Office and responsible for football hooligans—the Hooligans’ Minister—I, too, went to Germany and looked at the Munich stadium, which had a very good design that enabled safe standing behind the goal areas. I have been to Tottenham in recent seasons to watch my favourite team, Brighton, and stood in the safe standing area there. It is a delight. It is very pleasant and comfortable and you do not feel in any way threatened by the size or nature of the crowd.

Like my noble friend Lord Faulkner and others, I have some questions just to elucidate some of the points that have been made in this discussion. The first few follow the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I suppose. We have to be confident that the design is right, because design is critical in this. Are we satisfied that there are sufficiently strict design criteria for safe standing areas? Do we think that that case has been fully proven? Will the design be kept under very careful and strict review?

Has the department been able to satisfy the JCSI’s request for further information about the legal basis for only one spectator taking each space in a licensed standing area? If so, has that been made available in the Library or can the Minister tell us anything about that? It is important that there is a proper legal base for that because it has an impact on safety and security.

We very much welcome the inclusion of a review mechanism in the order, but can the Minister clarify why the date of 7 December 2026 has been chosen? Similarly, why have five-yearly reviews been deemed most appropriate? What happens if the arrangements prove unmanageable? None of us wants that to happen but, if that is the case, is there sufficient flexibility in the five-yearly review process? When the review is published, will it be laid before Parliament formally or simply made available digitally via GOV.UK? Will it be debateable? I certainly think that it should be, because we need to keep a careful eye on these issues.

The move to safe standing was part of several proposals from the DCMS, including the potential relaxation of the ban on consuming alcohol in view of the pitch. I must say, as a spectator this does sometimes seem rather arbitrary. I go to grounds where 15 minutes or half an hour before the game starts, the shutters are brought down in the VIP areas and you cannot even see on to the pitch; it seems slightly ridiculous but nevertheless I can understand some of the thinking that lies behind it. I appreciate that rugby and cricket have a long history of enabling alcohol to be consumed in view of the game when it is in progress; I wonder what lessons we can learn from the experience of event managers and management in those stadia and if there have been some thoughts turning to the relaxing of regulations surrounding football.

Those are my points and questions. It is good that I am in the company of people who are very thoughtful about this, because I think safety and security of football fans is a very high priority in the organisation of that sport. We cannot afford to relax our vigilance, because in the past we have had spectacularly awful things happen to football fans and it has taken many years for families and communities to have a sense that they have justice on their side, so we need to get this right. If we do, there is a prize: that the enthusiasm that fans enjoy for their team will have full expression and we can return to the time when, certainly behind the goals, fans commonly used to stand. I am grateful to colleagues for their comments, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response.

I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for securing the opportunity for this debate. The order has returned licensed areas of standing spectator accommodation to the top tiers of domestic football. The statutory instrument in question has now come into force but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, said it is a historic moment of significant change, and I know that it is a field of great interest to many Members of your Lordships’ House.

Your Lordships’ House maintains a close interest in matters of sports ground safety, keeping a keen eye on the safety of our football stadia and on the work of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, which regulates and advises us on this issue. It has done so since its inception as the Football Licensing Authority, at a time when, as noble Lords reminded us, we as a nation needed to apply some urgent focus to safety in our sports grounds—particularly to spectator safety at our football stadia following a number of very serious incidents which had raised many questions about the safety of the people enjoying a day at the match.

With the establishment of the Football Licensing Authority, the Secretary of State retained a power to issue directions regarding the nature of seated accommodation, and with that the all-seater policy was established—the requirement that clubs playing in the top two tiers of English football provide seated accommodation, and that they should remain all-seater at whatever tier of competition they find themselves playing in. The all-seater policy has played its part in the overall improvement of safety at football grounds, through which we have seen the game appeal to a broader range of people and, mercifully, reduced the occurrence of serious crowd safety issues. But in the intervening years a number of factors pressed the case for change. While the all-seater policy has been very successful, “persistent standing” represented a stewarding challenge in distinct areas of stadia which had simply not been designed for spectators to stand safely. The all-seater policy caught in its scope only clubs promoted to the Championship and has not permeated throughout the entirety of professional football. Clubs in the same league are constrained by different ticketing offers but must safely manage the expectations of visiting fans. Various stadium infrastructure options are now available to provide safe standing. While this will always remain a safety policy—noble Lords are right to accentuate the importance of safety again today—the calls from fan groups for choice in how they watch the game were notable. Supporter groups have campaigned on this issue for many years, and the Football Supporters’ Association in particular has been an important partner.

The order, laid earlier this year, is a significant milestone. It comes after several years of careful and evidence-driven policy development, which reflects the different forms of safe spectator accommodation that we are now assured may be delivered with comparable or, indeed, with improved levels of spectator safety.

The potential for licensed standing accommodation had been discussed over several Parliaments but, as the noble Lord reminded us, the Conservative manifesto of 2019 outlined a clear commitment

“to work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing”.

With sensible caution—we promised progress rather than necessarily completion of the process—we have been careful to balance moving quickly with the gathering of evidence, consulting the people involved and shaping a responsible policy response.

As noble Lords will know, the Government launched an early adopter programme for licensed standing in seated areas on 1 January this year. The programme was implemented to test the practicalities of safety in areas of standing spectators—whether areas struggling with persistent standing could be mitigated with the installation of appropriate infrastructure to support near-continually standing supporters, and stewarding strategies that permitted standing in these areas of the ground. This programme offered the opportunity to test the approach over the remainder of the 2021-22 football season in stadia already equipped with, or prepared to invest in, appropriate supporting rails in some limited test areas of their spectator accommodation.

The programme included five early adopter clubs: Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. While their vested interests cannot be denied, it remains extremely welcome that an appropriate cohort of football clubs was prepared to engage in this programme with no guarantees as to the outcome. Their investment in and openness to the project was critical, and we would not have come to enacting a significant change in the legislation governing sports grounds safety without their enthusiastic involvement.

With a number of clubs enlisted, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority formally commissioned an independent evaluation of the early adopters programme, which included a full roster of on-site observations across all participating clubs. The evaluation built on areas of relevance highlighted in an earlier evidence review and on the wider hypotheses of crowd dynamics in different configurations of spectator safety.

The authority published an interim report from this study on 23 April this year, which confirmed that

“Installing barriers or rails in areas of persistent standing in seated accommodation continues to have a positive impact on spectator safety”,

particularly in mitigating the risk of a progressive crowd collapse, by limiting forwards and backwards movement. This confirmed the belief of some experts in relevant areas, but the opportunity to have this configuration observed in situ, in real match-day environments, offered a compelling platform from which to commit to an evolution of approach in the regulation of sports grounds safety regulation.

On 24 May, we laid a Written Ministerial Statement, which indicated that, on the basis of these findings, the Government were “minded to” change the existing policy to allow all clubs currently subject to the all-seater requirement to introduce licensed standing areas for the start of the 2022-23 football season, provided they met strict criteria set by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. The Statement was clear that any change to the existing all-seater policy would remain contingent upon the final evaluation report confirming the findings of the interim report.

CFE research subsequently provided the SGSA and DCMS with the final evaluation report. This concluded that the trial of licensed standing areas had been a success in both home and away sections. Given the positive impact on the safety of fans and the lack of any evidence that it increased disorder or anti-social behaviour, the report recommended that all clubs, in consultation with the SGSA and safety advisory groups, be given the opportunity to implement licensed standing areas and that the necessary amendments to the legislation be made as soon as possible.

The report also highlighted a number of other positive impacts of installing barriers or rails, also consistent with the previous research findings of the SGSA itself. These include: celebrations being more orderly with no opportunity for forwards and backwards movement; the risk of injury and the danger posed to others from spectators standing on seats or on the backs of seats being significantly reduced; egress from stadia being more uniform; it being easier to identify pockets of overcrowding in these areas; barriers making it harder for spectators to move towards segregation lines; putting stewards in more locations without affecting sightlines; and barriers offering stability for people moving up and down aisles and gangways. The final report also noted that operating licensed standing areas has the additional benefit of removing

“the need for safety teams to make spectators sit down, thus reducing potential conflict between staff and spectators”,

while also enhancing the match-day experience of spectators.

On the basis of this carefully considered programme of work, the Government subsequently laid the statutory instrument which retained the all-seater policy by default. Within this, the SGSA has the leeway to set appropriate criteria for areas where stadia subject to the policy may permit standing accommodation. With that, we have met, and indeed, exceeded our manifesto commitment of 2019; subject to meeting exacting criteria, clubs may now apply to offer areas of licensed standing accommodation for spectators throughout the Football League.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, raised a number of important specific questions on the management of these licensed standing spaces, and I am pleased to say that the criteria which the SGSA has set for licensed areas directly addresses many of the points which he has highlighted today. However, to cover those briefly: meaningful engagement with the safety advisory group must be demonstrated, as must a plan for continued engagement with it throughout the season; there must be no negative impact for other spectators, and specifically for spectators with disabilities—we are always happy to engage on feedback, but provision for all supporters is key to the criteria set out for standing areas; and appropriate stewarding must be in place. The detail of what this looks like and the resulting broader management of spectators will of course vary from ground to ground, but what will remain common is the careful oversight of grounds adopting safe standing areas.

Level Playing Field, with which the noble Lord is associated, and many others, have been important parties in helping us to develop this policy. These licensed standing areas are relatively few in number and their compliance to the criteria will be closely monitored. However, the continued input of Level Playing Field, supporters’ groups and other advocates for accessible stadia remains very welcome, whether that is with their club, the SGSA or directly with the Government.

The noble Lord highlighted the importance of accessibility for spectators, and we particularly welcome the continued efforts of Level Playing Field in convening spectators with accessibility needs and for advocating for them in football—and in other sporting areas. All-seater stadia have contributed a lot to the needs of many spectators, and we hope that standing areas will offer choice and reinforce the improved experience that all-seaters can offer those who wish to or need to sit. I should say that Ministers have met Level Playing Field as this change has been introduced, and we welcome its continued engagement in ensuring that it has no unintended consequences for any fans.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, also reflected on the fact that it might be perceived that we have changed public policy in line with those spectators who are “persistent standers”. Our research has now demonstrated that alternative policies may deliver the same, or improved, aim of spectator safety. With appropriate licensed infrastructure in place, at the expense of the club, spectators who wish to stand may now legally purchase a ticket to do so, and we can permit this in the knowledge that they are doing so in a safe environment. Safety should remain the prime objective, as it does in this statutory instrument.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked some questions on specific numbers and the density of crowds. I should reiterate that this is not a return to terracing. The criteria for standing areas have been carefully crafted following the existing evidence and new observations from the early adopter areas. Standing areas will maintain the same density of crowd; here we are talking about allocated places assigned to ticket holders, and feedback from the police on appropriately monitoring stewarding has been reflected in the criteria more generally.

My Lords, I was concerned with making sure that the barriers are sturdy enough to resist any crowd surge. That surge—the movement forward—is the danger. Can the noble Lord give us a little detail of when we will find out what that testing was so we can be absolutely sure of this? Also, if, as I understand it, there will be only one row, have there been tests to make sure that that will always be kept in place?

I am grateful to the noble Lord for the clarification. If it is helpful, I will write with some technical detail, as what he is asking is probably best covered in a letter setting out some of the technical specifications.

It is perhaps an interesting point to add that UEFA, which has consistently also maintained an all-seater policy for its competitions, is now conducting its own review into the feasibility of licensed standing areas. UEFA will engage with relevant parties in the UK and other UEFA nations that routinely have standing accommodation available in its domestic competitions.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked about the consumption of alcohol in view of pitches, an issue covered by the fan-led review. I know that he looks forward to a full response on that from the Government, which will be coming in due course. I shall check whether the document that he mentioned has been deposited in the Library, and, if not, I shall ensure that it is.

In conclusion, the statutory instrument does not change the overarching approach to sports ground safety. Safety remains the primary factor in whatever type of spectator accommodation is offered; the measure that we are debating today does not draw our interest in that to a close. We must not rest on our laurels with any aspect of stadium safety, but I am confident that in the Sports Grounds Safety Authority we have an expert body that will ensure that our approach evolves and remains world-leading for many years to come.

I am sorry to get to my feet again, but the Minister has not dealt with my points on the five-yearly review periods and the criteria for design, and so on, although I appreciate that the technical stuff may be better dealt with in correspondence. Could he reflect on those two points?

If I may, I shall add the response to the five-year review to the letter setting out the technical details on the criteria. As I say, I remain confident that in the SGSA we have a suitable authority. I know that noble Lords will remain vigilant on this important issue, as rightly they should.

My Lords, this has been an interesting debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the Minister, who has done well to address the questions that I have put to him. As a bit of a veteran on these matters—I have explained some of my past back in the 1980s and 1990s, not as a hooligan but as somebody attempting to deal with hooliganism, particularly through the medium of sports ground safety—I am very heartened that the safety of spectators and everybody who uses stadiums is paramount in the Government’s thinking, as it is in the thinking of the other political parties.

I am particularly grateful for the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, who was Sports Minister quite a long time ago when I was deputy chair of the Football Task Force, which came up with a series of recommendations. Some of those recommendations are relevant to another debate, on which I shall engage with the Minister over the coming weeks, on football regulation. It was a matter of great regret that the football authorities on that occasion, particularly the Premier League and the Football League, resisted the wise recommendations of the taskforce on regulation. We will come back to that.

One of the central aspects of the policy discussed in this debate is the fact that the Sports Grounds Safety Authority is clearly the lead body in making sure that all our sports grounds are safe. I had the privilege of taking through a Private Member’s Bill—it was a government handout Bill in the Commons—through your Lordships’ House which converted the Football Licensing Authority into the SGSA. The things that it could do as a result of that were, first, to make its expertise available to other sports bodies, not just football; it has been involved with rugby, tennis, cricket and horseracing. It has also been able to sell its expertise to sports bodies overseas, if they require expert advice. I am sure that, if UEFA is looking at this matter, it would be well advised to draw on the expertise of the SGSA in drawing up its plans.

I appreciated what the Minister said about the involvement of Level Playing Field. I shall report back to it on this debate—and maybe I shall need to write to him, but he has given very good answers on that issue. We will hold our breath and hope that this new approach, or milestone as he has described it, in dealing with ground safety and spectator amenities, can work, and that people can stay safe.

We know that demand for the change is considerable, but it is important that the freedom that comes with it is not abused and that we do not go back to the sort of terrible problems at football grounds in the 1980s and 1990s that I remember so well. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, and the Minister.

Motion agreed.