HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1297-8
9. Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab)

What steps she is taking to encourage and support professional football clubs to develop community links and involvement. [174899]

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

The Government are working with the Football Association, the Football Foundation and other partners to encourage professional football clubs to develop stronger community links with schemes such as football in the community and playing for success.

Mr. Pike

My right hon. Friend has been to Turf Moor several times in the past 12 months, and I know that he has recently met directors and other representatives of Burnley football club; I believe that he is going to Turf Moor again soon. Does he not agree that the way forward for football clubs such as Burnley is to become community clubs, as they are anxious to do, and to form supporters trusts? Is it not that type of policy, rather than some of the others that we heard about earlier, that need the encouragement and support of the Government and local government if local football clubs are to succeed and survive into the future?

Mr. Caborn

I could not agree more. Burnley is a fantastic football club, and has always played a role in the community, and I hope that the discussions to make it a strong community club again are successful. We bash professional football quite a lot, but statistics show that every year 40,000 pupils take part in Playing for Success. Many young people have gained from that experience, and nearly 1 million people have contact with football in the community. Professional footballers do a great deal of good work in their communities, and help the sport at grassroots in many ways, so we ought to commend the Football Association, the premier division and the Football League.