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Local Sports Teams: Covid-19 Support

Volume 684: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2020

What discussions he has had with the sporting community in Wales on financial support for local teams during the covid-19 outbreak. (908733)

I have had constructive discussions with representative bodies, including the Welsh Rugby Union and the Football Association of Wales. These discussions will prove instrumental in allowing teams to get back on the pitch.

During my trip to Flint Town United in my constituency, who were successfully promoted to the Welsh premier league last year, the chairman told me that they need only 15% to 20% of their ground capacity to be allowed in to watch matches in order to cover costs and keep their heads above water. They have done a lot to enable a small number of supporters to return in a covid-secure way. Does my right hon. Friend agree that getting supporters back into grounds in a safe and secure way is the best way to make sure that we do not lose clubs in Wales, which provide vital recreation services for all ages and act as a focal point for the local community?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point and I absolutely agree with him. This is also a good moment to congratulate, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney on their recent purchase of Wrexham football club. What an exciting future they have, no doubt. My hon. Friend’s point is a good one. Of course we want to see a successful vaccination programme and a successful testing programme—that will help in his ambitions—but some funding from the National Lottery and from the Welsh Government will also ease the way to returns to stadiums, and complete capacity stadiums, of the sort that he wishes.

On 10 November, the difficult decision was taken to cancel the remaining games of the women’s rugby Six Nations 2020, due to the impact of coronavirus. While we live in unprecedented times, what assurances can the Secretary of State give that international women’s sport will be given the same priority as men’s, and what message does he think the decision sends to women’s and girls’ sport in Wales?

The hon. Lady is probably the only person in the Chamber who has represented a sport at national and international level, so I take her question very seriously. Of course, there should be no disparity between the sports that she refers to. I am absolutely with her and link arms with her in our determination to make sure that that is the case and that we get back to sport of all different sorts as soon as possible, as safely as possible. We will work with her and others to make sure that that is the case.

Although football matches are being played again, it is behind closed doors and with no associated matchday income. Will my right hon. Friend encourage Sport Wales and the Football Association of Wales to work together to ensure that clubs such as Rhyl in my constituency receive the support that they need at this really difficult time?

It would be remiss of me not to give a substantial name-check to Rhyl, having given one to Wrexham—that would seem unfair. I agree with my hon. Friend’s position and the basis of his question. National league funding in England has come up with significant funds, which should be replicated in Wales. We will certainly do anything we can to get money channelled into the sport to see it through this difficult time.