§ 12. Mr. Murray
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, in view of the recent decision of the Football Association not to allow live televising of any football matches next season except the Football Association Cup, if he will reconsider his decision to make a grant from public funds to certain Football League clubs for World Cup matches.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Denis Howell)
No, Sir. The purpose behind the Government aid to the Football League clubs in question is to ensure that the accommodation and facilities at the grounds of those clubs are up to the required standard for the World Cup matches. The grants have no relation to the policy of the Football Association in relation to live television. In any event, the World Cup games themselves will be televised live and there is an understanding to this effect between the Government and the football authorities.
§ Mr. Murray
While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether he will informally request the Football Association to reconsider this question of televising football matches? As there are long-term benefits which the Football Association will receive 1857 from a grant from public funds, would it not be in the interest of the public, particularly old-age pensioners, the sick and infirm, if they could enjoy the benefits of seeing football matches on television?
§ Mr. Howell
This is a matter for the Football Association, but one cannot escape the fact that when events of this kind are televised live it has an almost catastrophic effect on the gates. And the question of maintaining the gates and the atmosphere of sporting occasions is very much in the mind of the Association; but this is the Association's problem, not mine.
§ Mr. Walden
Has my hon. Friend any information to give the House about the degree of foreign interest in these events, particularly on the advance sales of tickets?
§ Mr. Howell
Yes, there is a tremendous amount of interest. The Football Association has already sold a quarter of a million tickets, and it is particularly heartening to find the tremendous amount of inquiry from the U.S.A., Canada, Central America and South American countries. It rather looks as if this will be a winner in attracting visitors to this country.
§ Mr. Park
Does not my hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons for the decline in attendance at football matches is the standard of facilities provided, especially sanitary facilities, which very often are inadequate and out of date? Is this not the reason for a decline rather than the televising of matches?
§ Mr. Howell
There is a lot of truth in that. These are exactly the sort of problems to be looked at in deciding how the seven grounds in question should raise their accommodation standards.