HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 cc1226-7
2. Colin Burgon (Elmet) (Lab)

What plans she has to meet football representative bodies to discuss player behaviour. [158917]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn)

I have no such plans at present. Players' behaviour is primarily a matter for the football authorities, but the Government invest substantially in football's development and do not wish poor behaviour to be imitated. I have discussed the issue in the past with those in the sport. Indeed, I wrote to all football clubs at the beginning of the 2002 season, drawing their attention to what teachers have been telling me as I have gone around the country: that what happens on the pitch on a Saturday is copied in the playgrounds on the Monday. I believe that professional players of all sport, but particularly of football—our national game—should take that advice from this country's teachers.

Colin Burgon

I thank the Minister for that reply. I know that he shares my sadness about the regular reports of the behaviour of a significant number of professional footballers over the past year or so, but I want to be positive about the game. When he meets the football authorities will he use his influence to promote the idea of a John Charles fair play award at either national or European level? The Minister, as a Sheffield United supporter, knows a bit about football. John Charles of Leeds United and Wales was never sent off or booked in his career. In many respects, he represents the age of innocence for our national game. What support can the Minister give to all those of us who want John Charles's memory to be honoured properly?

Mr. Caborn

All hon. Members recognise the contribution that John Charles made to football. I know that my hon. Friend is a Leeds supporter and that John Charles played for the team for eight or nine years and was an outstanding footballer who graced many pitches at national and international level. My hon. Friend's suggestion about a fair play award is made at an appropriate time in the development of football in this country. A fair play award, using John Charles's name, is a good proposition—it could probably do a lot—and I will take it up with the national and international football authorities, as John Charles was noted internationally for the way he played the game.

Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)

Will the Minister also take time to encourage clubs, such as Charlton Athletic, that do a great deal for schools and whose younger players do a great deal of community work to offset the image of those who are more interested in nightclubbing and floosies? They do a great deal to encourage young children in community schools to take a proper interest in the sport.

Mr. Caborn

I could not agree more with those sentiments. Unfortunately, a minority—it is a minority—of footballers misbehave, but every football club in the premier league and the first division is part of the playing for success initiative, which brings young people into centres to learn about information technology and uses the power of football to attract young people to learning and being good citizens. We must commend what football has been doing; it is unfortunate that it gets only bad publicity, as it has in the recent past.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that sport is a channel for positive behaviour and that we need facilities for sport to take place? If so, he will understand my dismay at the fact that the £15 million scout centre at Bucknall Park in my constituency is still closed. Will he use his good offices—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not call the hon. Gentleman on Question 1. He cannot try again on Question 2.