Thursday 26 November 2020 / 9:32 AM Alison McGovern / Sport

Labour urges ministers to end uncertainty for football fans

Alison McGovern MP, Labour’s Shadow Sports Minister has asked the Conservatives to answer 10 essential questions ahead of football fans returning to grounds 

In a letter to Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston MP, Ms McGovern set out areas that need urgent clarification.

The move follows the announcements made on Monday by the Prime Minister that a limited number of fans would be allowed into stadia dependant on capacity and ability to social distance and ahead of a debate on the future of football later today.

During the debate, Ms McGovern argued football has a public purpose because it serves fans and towns across the country as vital community hubs – clubs are not businesses like any other and they must survive the crisis. 

The pandemic has brought the financial issues in football to the fore but there have long been questions raised about finance and governance. In the Conservative 2019 manifesto, a fan-led review of football was promised. Labour has supported significant change to the way the game is run since 2015. 

Alison McGovern MP, Labour’s Shadow Sport Minister, said:

“It’s time for the Conservatives to finally get ahead of this virus when it comes to spectators attending sports events.

“Like all fans, we are keen to get supporters back into stadiums in a safe way. Providing answers to these questions will help build confidence.

“Communities need their local clubs to survive this crisis. They are institutions with a public purpose alongside the finances. They need their fans like their fans need them. Being prepared and transparent will help us make this happen when it is safe and allow clubs to plan.”

Full text of letter

Dear Minister,

Re. Return of football supporters to stadia – important questions

Further to the discussions we have had in Westminster Hall this week, I am writing to you with a number of questions about the return of fans to stadia. I am very conscious that we will debate the future of football today, and whilst the long-term reform of the national game is our important focus, there are many immediate questions relating to recent Government announcements on the return of fans to stadia. In the interest of fans, I would be grateful if you could clarify the following as soon as possible.

  1. What assessment has the Government made around making grounds, as well as travel to and from stadia COVID safe? How will social distancing be enforced on entrance, exit and after supporters leave the ground?
  2. Will there be published restrictions or guidance for fans travelling into and out of areas where games are taking place? Early clarity will help supporters plan.
  3. Has the Government discussed the impact of the return of supporters with governing bodies on competition? If different clubs are in different tiers, this may well impact competitive nature of sports, so what understandings have been agreed on this? How will sports take into account the needs of clubs who cannot have supporters through no fault of their own?
  4. Are we ready for a contraction of these new measures if needed as areas face the possibility of moving into tougher restrictions?
  5. Will women’s sport allow supporters to the same extent as men, even despite commercial considerations? The development of women’s sport is at risk during these uncertain times, so what steps have been taken to make sure we don’t go backwards?
  6. The return of supporters cannot be an excuse for restricting access to televised sport, so what agreements have you made with broadcasters to enable the widest possible access for all supporters?
  7. Have you taken steps to make sure that there cannot be profiteering from the extremely restricted number of tickets available for these events? What protections for supporters are in place?
  8. Have you asked competition organisers or sports clubs how they intend to allocate tickets for games supporters may attend? Many season ticket holders will not be able to attend games they have paid for, and whilst many are very sympathetic to the position of clubs, will want clarity that there is a fair process for deciding attendance.
  9. What account have you taken of the size of stadia in your supporter number allocations? If you are not taking size of stadia into account, why not?
  • Has the Government discussed future plans for increasing supporter numbers? If so, what are the criteria? Will you make a statement on this in the early weeks of January?

I think that answering these questions may serve to build trust and confidence in the process of returning fans to the sports they love. I hope that you will be able to answer them without delay.