HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1295-7
7. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab)

What discussions she has had on consumer and worker involvement in the future of the football industry. [174897]

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

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have met representatives from a number of organisations involved in football to discuss a range of issues, including, in broad terms, the recommendations of the all-party group's report on English football and its finances and the Independent Football Commission's annual report 2003. We will release the outcome of those discussions when we respond to both reports.

John Mann

Having left Bradford City at the knacker's yard, Geoffrey Richmond is now advising his son and others who are currently selling off the assets of Leeds United football club, and doubtless intending again to pay themselves handsome consultancy fees in the process. We have also seen Leicester City failing to pay 90p in the pound on its tax liability, yet still affording to go to La Manga for a week last season. The next time a football club goes into administration, will the Government take action to ensure that the taxpayer gets proper value for money by taking a slice of the club and handing it over to the supporters, allowing them to have some ownership of their team?

Mr. Caborn

My hon. Friend makes his points with some passion. It was this Government who set up Supporters Direct, which has given sound information to many fans and seeks good governance for football. Many of us believe that football is very important for our communities, so we will continue to work with Supporters Direct. When a club goes into administration, that is dealt with by the authorities, and it is for them to act as they see fit.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD)

I thank the Minister for his response. Does he agree that another area of professional football that needs examining is the parasitic behaviour of agents? Whenever football transfers are carried out and salaries are creamed off, should not the sum taken out of the game and given to those parasites be made clear, so that supporters know exactly where the money is going?

Mr. Caborn

The wake-up call for football was what happened with ITV Digital, and I believe that the nationwide league, with its chair, Mr. Brian Mawhinney—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sir Brian!"] Thank you for that correction. Sir Brian is looking into the whole question of corporate governance, and has brought forward a number of actions that would bring about better governance. I note that the premiership is also considering such questions. The two reports that I referred to earlier bring into focus many of the points that hon. Members have raised, and we shall respond to them in due course.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab)

I am sure that the Minister is aware of the current difficulties of Wrexham football club, where the post of chairman is vacant—I mentioned that in case it might interest him. He probably will not be aware, however, that this very evening, consumers, workers and supporters who are concerned about the position of the club are meeting to found an organisation called Wrexham First, to ensure that the future of the club lies within its community rather than in the hands of property developers. What are the Government doing to embed such organisations and clubs in their communities, rather than in the hands of those who seek to exploit football clubs for property motives, and for their own commercial ends?

Mr. Caborn

As I have already said, we set up, or rather funded, the organisation Supporters Direct, and my very strong advice to Wrexham and those trying to rescue the club is to take counsel from Supporters Direct. I have no doubt that it will give them information that they will be able to work on to ensure that the club continues to play a major role in its community.

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