HL Deb 21 November 1983 vol 445 cc1-3
Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are taking steps to persuade the organisers that the 1990 World Cup Soccer Tournament should be played in Great Britain.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the world governing body of football—FIFA—has asked national football associations to bid for the 1990 World Cup. It is understood that England, Greece, Italy and the USSR are in the running, and it is for the English Football Association to pursue with FIFA its bid to host the 1990 World Cup. FIFA regulations determine that the finals must be held in one member country, and therefore the term "Great Britain" is inappropriate as the tournament cannot be staged in more than one of the home countries.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is it not possible to go ahead, considering the advantages to tourism, employment and also for the benefit of our telecommunications systems?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, of course my noble friend is quite right. Indeed the 1966 World Cup—the finals of which were played here—gave English soccer a great boost. I should remind the House that we won that competition as well as hosting it. Of course this boost would come to all the various industries involved, including tourism. But I should point out to my noble friend that the soccer bodies generally would deem it inappropriate if there were direct Government sponsorship at this stage.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, although I may not be here when this event takes place—I shall do my best—can the noble Lord give an assurance that if any of the matches are played in Great Britain the spectators from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will behave themselves?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, regretfully, speaking as a member of the Government, I can only say that the full force of the law will he brought to bear upon them if they misbehave; but I am afraid I cannot give the assurance sought, much as I should like to.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, will the Minister not acknowledge that one of the best ways of persuading the authorities to bring the World Cup to this country is to do what the Labour Government did in 1966, which was to make funds available which were then used for the improvement of grounds? Is the Minister not prepared, even though there may be the kind of technical problems to which he referred, to recognise the glorious opportunity which having the World Cup here would be? As the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, said, there would be spin-offs which would benefit not only industry but the millions of people who look forward to repeating not merely the experience of 1966 but I hope the victory of 1966 as well.

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords, I quite agree. But I think I am right in saying that so far as the 1966 World Cup was concerned these guarantees were given after the successful application to FIFA. This is exactly what we intend to follow should our application be successful in this instance.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister be prepared, in support of Lord Gainford's submission of this question, first of all to substitute "England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland" for "Great Britain"? Secondly, would he be prepared, even at this early stage—because these things take such a long time—to discuss the issues raised by the noble Lords, Lord Graham and Lord Gainford, with the FA, so that at least we shall then be properly prepared, and if any of our four countries get to the finals we shall have done the preparatory work, thanks to Lord Gainford's Question?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I have already answered the noble Lord, Lord Graham, on the point that he raised, and I have said that should we be successful I do not see any difficulty on the Government's side in giving guarantees on matters like transportation, immigration and security. In my original Answer I pointed out that it is for one of the home countries to apply, in which case it is either England, Scotland or Wales; I am told there is also a national body representing football in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, obviously all true fans are always welcome at football matches wherever they are held.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich

My Lords, in the light of that answer from the Minister, may I ask him whether he is aware that England has the highest concentration of first division top class football grounds in the world? Norwich City, for instance, comes to mind. Is the noble Lord aware that it so happens that the first rate, first division clubs are all close to main line stations, which would help tremendously with our tourism and our trade? Is he also aware that friendly neighbourhood policemen constantly patrol between the stations and the grounds and know those routes, and therefore would be able to take care of hospitality to excitable foreign fans?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate. The real problem is not that the grounds are not there, not that the very excellent teams are not there, not that transportation is not there, but that there is a mammoth crowd control problem in this country. There is no problem with reputable fans, but it is with what I might describe as the outsiders, who very often do not even bother to go to matches themselves. They are the ones who cause the problem and cause us all concern.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, may I ask whether the Government, when they have finished interesting themselves in football, will take a little interest in the unemployed?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, that is a totally different question, but of course we regularly take great interest in the unemployed.

Lord Fletcher

My Lords, will the Minister give an assurance, in case the competition is held here in 1990, that the Government will take steps between now and 1990—and tell us what those steps are—to ensure that there is a reduction in the unruly behaviour that now takes place in so many football grounds?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, again that is a slightly different question, but as I have been at pains to stress throughout my answers this afternoon, we are absolutely determined that where law breaking occurs the law breakers should face the full panoply of the law.

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