Mr. Russell: Is the hon. Gentleman happy that unhealthy substances such as tobacco and alcohol should be associated with a healthy pastime?
Mr. Greenway: I do not want to get into a debate about whether such advertising encourages further uptake of these products, but they are legal products. The drinks industry in this country is huge and makes a welcome contribution to football in particular. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say that we are concerned about the transfer fee system and getting money down to the grass roots of sports through broadcasting rights and then say that we are happy to see a ban on sponsorship of sport by the drinks industry. That would have a devastating effect on the sports that we are trying to protect. We must be consistent in our arguments. As we would expect, the Minister has regular contact with her counterparts in other EU Governments. I raise the matter today to encourage her to keep a wary eye on it.
As regards broadcasting rights in themselves, which are referred to in the documents, I would simply encourage the Minister and her European counterparts not to go down the road of the Commission in legislating specific levies, quotas or taxes from sporting rights sales to be put into sport. We should continue to do what we have been doing in this country extremely successfully through the Central Council for Physical Recreation; a voluntary agreement on sporting rights sales to encourage more and more money from broadcasting to be put down to the grass roots. What has been happening in cricket and tennis is excellent. Football now has seen the light and at long last we are going to see that money trickle down through the Football Foundation to the grass roots. We reflect on what we have been able to achieve in this country and would encourage other European Union member states and European institutions to follow our example.
Mr. John Grogan (Selby): I would like to draw attention to the Helsinki report on sport, where the Community does have a legal framework in terms of broadcasting. The ``Television without frontiers'' directive is referred to in paragraph 6.11 of the management memorandum on the Helsinki report, which states:
That encourages member statesindeed, it demands of themto recognise each other's listed sporting events which must be made available to the general public, broadly on terrestrial television. The Minister was involved in the review group that the Government set up in our early days in office which greatly expanded the list of events in this country that must be available, or must be offered, to terrestrial television.
I want to focus on one event, the football World cup, to illustrate how important that is. In this country, much more so than the rest of Europe, all football World cup finals matches are listed and must be available to terrestrial television. This is not true in the rest of Europe. Now, for the first time, FIFA is guaranteeing only that the final, the semi-finals and matches involving host nations must be available to terrestrial television viewers. In the context of the United Kingdom, where would that leave Wales? The last time Wales qualified for the World cup was in 1958. Without the protection of our list, Wales could be faced with the prospect of just the final and the semi-finals being available.
Jamaica competed in the last World cup. Without going into Norman Tebbit's cricket test, a great deal of our population took great delight in those matches which would not have been available if FIFA had had its way. The protection is absolutely crucial. The Helsinki report refers to the fact that during the last World cup, there were nearly 600 million television viewers worldwide per match, on average; a total of 37 billion television viewers worldwide. Those figures do an awful lot; not just for those at the top of the sport, but in terms of inspiring people to take up football and other sports at all levels. When FIFA announced that it was going to offer television rights on an exclusive basis to satellite broadcasterswith the exception of a very few matches such as the finalit said:
That is crucial, and is repeated twice. FIFA is concerned about broadcasters, not fans. It recognises that World Cup football transcends all other football games. It consolidates audiences like no other sport, with breathtaking viewing figures that add up to billions. It is watched by men, women, children and grandparents. It appeals to people from every walk of life. It can empty the streets of traffic and can fill major cities with jubilant fans. During the 1998 World cup, restaurants along Queensway in Bayswater, the area of west London where I have a flat, had televisions so that people could watch the World cup. That would not be possible if the matches were broadcast only on satellite and cable television.
I bring that to the Committee's attention because of the ``Television without frontiers'' directive. Obviously, the directive impinges on competition, but it is essential. In Spain, World cup rights have been sold to a satellite company called Via Digital; in Germany, only 24 of the 62 matches will be available on terrestrial television. In Italy, France and Britain, negotiations have not been concluded, but it is an Anglo-German contest, like so many things in sport.
A Mr. Kirsch has bought the television rights from FIFA for £1 billion and, like most contests of that nature, it will probably go to extra time and penalties. The BBC and ITV got together and told Mr. Kirsch that they were prepared to pay him $50 million. However, he wants $250 million for the British rights, which is about 20 times what it cost last time. His agents, Prisma, are trying to persuade the Commission to rule the BBC and ITV joint negotiations out of order. According to the Daily Mail, the Commission has said that it is in order for the BBC and ITV to negotiate.
I hope that those negotiations will be successful; if they are not, the matter will go to the Independent Television Commission for arbitration. The ITC would have to decide, for the first time, whether rights to a major sporting event such as the World cup could be sold to Sky, for example. It will have to decide whether the BBC and ITV had made a reasonable offer on the criteria of previous fees for the event, the time of live coveragethe next World cup is to be held in Japan and Korea, which means that live broadcasts in this country will be in the middle of the nightand the period for which the rights were offered. The ITC will have to take an important decision, which will affect many of our constituents.
The matter is important throughout Europe. TV Denmark, a broadcaster that has been set up in this country and which broadcasts by satellite to Denmark, has bought the rights to the away games of the Danish national football teamall its competitive matches are listedand is trying to broadcast them by satellite to Denmark. The ``Television without frontiers'' directive comes into play in that case because the television company is registered in Britain. The ITC ruled against TV Denmark, saying that it was not right to try to get round the European directive in that way. The High Court backed the ITC but the Appeal Court backed TV Denmark. The case will go to the House of Lords later this year. Members of the Committee and the Government should watch the outcome of the case and decide how robust the directive is, because the enjoyment of so many people in this country watching events such as the World cup depends upon it.
Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): I congratulate the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) on putting his case so powerfully. We are told to ensure that the general public have access to major sporting events via television, but ``access'' depends upon someone having the facility or the money to purchase major sporting events. I urge the Minister to consider that in her deliberations in the United Kingdom and with her European Union colleagues.
I am anxious that, unless major sporting events are readily available, as the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) said, much interest in sport will be lost. It may be in the short-term interest of some major sporting events and organisations to reap the money that is coming in, but if that money is not invested, or if televised sporting events are not more widely available, the next generation might not be interested and yet more sports could be added to those that are currently described as minority sports.
Those of us who look to a wider European ideal, and who sometimes feel that Europe is too often treated as a political football, sincerely believe that Europe has scored an own goal in respect of the Bosman ruling and associated transfer matters. In terms of that wider ideal, we find such decisions a turn-off. In her deliberations with Ministers and others, I hope that the Minister will pass on the message that the man on the terrace does not take too kindly to having his sport mucked about with in that way.
I did not realise that the hon. Member for Ryedale, who expressed support for York City, is in fact an Arsenal supporter. Those of us who are proud to support our so-called small town teamsI am proudly wearing a Colchester United tieknow that they could not survive without the opportunity to sell certain players. In that regard, the Bosman ruling and other such rulings are a cause for concern. According to yesterday's Metro, Peter Ridsdale, the chairman of Leeds United,
Mr. Ridsdale said:
According to the Metro, he fears that
Mr. Ridsdale concludes by saying:
A few months ago, my local team managed to sell a player, Lomana Tresor Lua Luaa good old Essex nameto Newcastle United for £2.25 million. Although the money generated by that transfer does not guarantee Colchester United's survival for the next few years, its financial circumstances are certainly a lot better now than they were. If some of the Europe-related fears that we hear about are realised, many small clubsI am thinking of, say, Ramsgate and Margatewill not get that revenue because the game will not generate it.
I hope that the Minister will speak to her ministerial, European and sporting colleagues, and persuade the Prime Minister to renegotiate with the German Chancellor. The ordinary football supporter does not want the game as we know it to be destroyed, but it is being destroyed by television and the mass importation of overseas players. In my viewand here is my only area of disagreement with the hon. Member for Ryedaleexcessive purchasing of overseas players has been to the detriment of the British game, and we are reaping the whirlwind through our poor performance at international level.
I welcome the various statements that were made today, particularly in relation to doping. There must be a pan-European, worldwide approach, and I am grateful for the Minister's confirmation that, as far as she is aware, the UK's strict rules and regulations on doping have presented no difficulties for our sportsmen and women, or for those who visit this country.
The hon. Member for Ryedale mentioned darts, and I would like the Minister to find out how many European Union countries recognise it as a sport. Although it is arguably the most popular sport in this country, it is not unlike such mass crowd-pullers as korfballrecognised as such. More than 100 activities are recognised as a sport, but darts is notalthough any broadcaster, newspaper or darts player will say that it is. Now that we are in the third millennium, we should do away with the snobbishness of the 20th century and recognise darts as a sport. It would be interesting to know how Britain's attitude to darts compares with that of our European colleagues.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 17 January 2001|