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Covid-19: Elite Sport

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 18 March 2021

What steps his Department is taking to support the return of elite sport as covid-19 restrictions are eased. (913596)

The continuation of elite sport was an early priority for the Government during the pandemic. Behind-closed-doors matches have enabled vital broadcast revenue to continue to flow into elite sport, as well as to bring joy to millions of fans at a time when it is sorely needed. Travel exemptions have allowed international elite sports competitions to continue safely during the pandemic. We also provided a £300 million winter sport survival package, giving lifelines to sports organisations impacted by restrictions on spectators. Of course, a further £300 million was announced recently by the Chancellor to continue this support to elite sports while restrictions remain in place.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. He will be aware that in Burnley our local economies rely on the football club that fills hotels, restaurants and bars. While we know that getting all that back will need to be done cautiously and in line with the Prime Minister’s road map, may I urge him to look at whether Burnley football club can be included in the trials taking place to get more fans back using things like testing, so that more and more fans from Burnley can get back to the turf?

My hon. Friend is a worthy champion of football, and in particular of Burnley FC. In fact, I do not think I have ever had a conversation with him without the words “Burnley FC” featuring very strongly, so I am sure his constituents are very grateful for that. I know he shares my view that sport is not the same without fans in stadiums. Officials from the Department will have heard his offer. He will understand I cannot give him a guarantee today, but I do appreciate his lobbying today.

It is of course vital that we again get fans back in stadiums as soon as it is safe to do so. The events research programme will be used to provide key scientific data as to how small and large events could be permitted to reopen safely in line with the Prime Minister’s road map out of lockdown. Government Departments are working very closely together on a range of options to support commercially viable ways to reopen businesses and leisure venues, and further details will be released in due course.