HC Deb 27 February 1995 vol 255 c683
16. Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what recent meetings he has had with officers of the Football Association to discuss the behaviour of football players during matches.

Mr. Sproat

I have regular meetings with the various footballing bodies and I have made my concerns about the behaviour of football players clear. Responsibility, however, rests with the Football Association, which has firm disciplinary procedures to deal with player misconduct.

Mr. Cox

I welcome the Minister's reply, but, sadly, we see more and more pretty despicable behaviour by players during football matches. If we condemn so-called football supporters for their deplorable behaviour, we must be equally tough on footballers. Will the Minister assure the House that he will continue to press the appropriate football authorities about the need to get really tough with players who bring this great game into disrepute?

Mr. Sproat

Yes, I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. The Football Association's response to the incident involving Mr. Cantona—whereby it doubled the fine imposed and greatly lengthened the amount of time that he will be out of football—showed that it is prepared to act in a way that the hon. Gentleman and I would like.

Mr. Matthew Banks

I welcome my hon. Friend's remarks. At a future meeting with officers of the Football Association, will he make it quite clear that professional footballers have a duty to set a much better example in terms of their behaviour both on and off the pitch to the youth of this country?

Mr. Sproat

Professional footballers—indeed, professional and amateur players of all sports—have a tremendous duty to provide proper role models for young people, and I think that the overwhelming number of them do so.