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National Football Museum

1 pm

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston): The National Football museum in Preston is, as the name suggests, a museum of national significance. It is the national museum of the national game. It was awarded national museum registration status by Resource, the Government body for promoting standards in museums, libraries and archives. It is also of international significance, preserving England's and the world's finest football collections. It has more than 25,000 items, including the FIFA museum collection. FIFA chose the National Football museum of England as the permanent home for the FIFA museum collection because England is recognised worldwide as the birthplace of the game.

The museum has recently been nominated for the European museum of the year award 2003. Following the success of the museum's exhibition in Japan during the World cup, it will be mounting an exhibition in China during the women's World cup in 2003. UEFA has approached the museum with a view to creating a display to mark UEFA's 50th anniversary in 2004. It is in discussions with FIFA regarding several projects, including an exhibition to mark FIFA's centenary. The museum has advised the national football museum projects in Norway, Germany, Wales and Mexico. It has been used extensively by the British Tourist Authority to attract overseas tourists, by the use of museum displays, for example, at the trade fair in Frankfurt.

I would like the Minister to be aware of the media's reaction to this wonderful museum that is housed in Preston. The Times said:

The Mail on Sunday described it as "brilliant". It has also had excellent support from great names in football. Sir Bobby Charlton said:

Alan Ball said it was "fabulous, unbelievable." Mark Lawrenson said:

Denis Law said:

Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers Association said:

I have some key questions for the Minister. The Government have a policy of free access for all to national museums. That being the case, why are they not providing free access to the National Football museum—the people's museum of the people's game? It would cost as little as £400,000 per annum for Department for Culture, Media and Sport to allow free access to all. Why are the Government allowing that exception to their policy to continue?

Will the Minister clarify what the definition of a national museum is? Does DCMS consider the National Coalmining museum to be a national museum? If it does, why does it not also recognise the National Football museum as a national museum? It has met the same registration standards with Resource as the

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National Coalmining museum. If it does not, why then does it give the National Coalmining museum £2 million of revenue funding per annum, including funding for free access for all? Why does DCMS not provide funding to the National Football museum when it provides substantial funding to a number of non-national museums, primarily located in London? For example, the Horniman museum receives £3.1 million, the Geffrye museum £1.1 million and the Museum of London £5.2 million.

I have two quotations from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The first is:

The second is:

I shall give the Minister a chronology of developments concerning the museum during the past 18 months. On 22 June 2001, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport wrote in support of the museum, at its opening. He said in his letter:

On 29 November 2001, the museum was awarded national museum registration status by Resource, the Government body for promoting standards in museums.

On 11 and 21 January 2002, the museum submitted briefings to the Minister for Sport, following which he and I had a meeting on 23 January. That is when the museum began to seek funding from DCMS for free access, following the award of national status. On 6 February and 5 March 2002, the museum submitted further briefings to DCMS. On 8 May, DCMS was represented at a round table meeting at the museum to consider the North West Development Agency-sponsored study into future funding for the museum.

On 22 May 2002, the Minister for Sport and the Minister for the Arts, Baroness Blackstone, had a round table meeting at DCMS to discuss the museum's future funding with me, museum managers, the North West Development Agency, officials from the Football Foundation, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the North West Museums Service.

On 11 September 2002, DCMS was again represented at a round table meeting at the museum to consider its future funding. On 29 September, the Secretary of State herself visited the museum and wrote in the comments book: "A real inspiration—excellent!" On 8 October, I wrote to her to tell her how urgent a decision on the matter was. On 31 October I received a reply from Baroness Blackstone, the museums Minister, which gave no firm commitments.

That whole process started in January this year, and we are now in the middle of December. The future of the museum is still uncertain. Throughout the year, I have

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listened to comments from Ministers such as, "Football should fund the museum." But football will not or cannot provide funding. To date, the museum has received from football £300,000 towards a capital project cost of £15 million—a meagre 2 per cent.—and £100,000 towards revenue costs. Why should football be expected to fund the museum in any case? Museums are not in general funded by their associated industries. The National Museum of Science and Industry is funded by DCMS, not by science or industry.

It has also been commented that the museum is a private initiative: that DCMS did not decide to set up the museum, and therefore has no obligation to fund it. The Minister will be aware that most of the national museums—and non-national ones for that matter—now funded by DCMS were originally private sector initiatives.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): I wonder whether the position would be different if this national museum, which is based in Preston and is of benefit to the north-west, were in London? Does my hon. Friend think that the Government would have a different attitude in that case, and would find funding tomorrow, just as they have for Wembley?

Mr. Hendrick : My hon. Friend can speculate about that. I decline to comment.

Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East): As a London Member who represents a borough in which the Horniman museum is based, adjoining the borough represented by the Secretary of State, I say to my hon. Friend that many of us support the National Football museum in Preston. We think that it is in the right place, as the north-west was the birthplace of football in England. I hope that he would equally support our bid to have the Olympics in London.

Mr. Hendrick : I would certainly concur with my hon. Friend, and I support an Olympic bid for London.

As I said, many museums were previously funded by local authorities, rather than Government, such as the Horniman museum, the Geffrye museum, the Museum of London and national museums and galleries on Merseyside. Most of the national and non-national museums now funded by DCMS were originally private initiatives: the Tate gallery, founded by Sir Henry Tate, Sir John Soane's museum and the Horniman museum. There are many precedents for Government funding museums that they did not initiate. The museum is an independent charitable trust, created thanks to public funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

I have also heard it said that, worthy though the National Football museum is, DCMS does not have any funding available. DCMS has been able to find £2 million per annum to fund the National Coalmining museum for England in Wakefield. It provides £200,000 per annum to the non-national Design museum in London. It provides substantial funding to a number of non-national museums, primarily in London, as we have already mentioned. If the Department is saying that the National Football museum is not a national

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museum as defined by DCMS, and cannot expect to be funded, I put it to the Minister that DCMS did not define the National Coalmining museum for England as a national museum before deciding to fund it. Subsequently, it was given funding to allow free access for all.

DCMS provides substantial funding to several museums that it defines as non-national, primarily those in London. It is Resource, the DCMS-funded body for promoting national standards in museums that has awarded the National Football museum its national status. There is a complete lack of clarity about what DCMS defines as a national museum and why it funds some museums—national and non-national—and not others. I hope that the Minister will clear that up.

If DCMS is saying that the National Football museum is not currently a success because its visitor numbers are disappointing and it does not deserve funding, I say that that is all the more reason to provide funding for free access for all, which would significantly increase the number of visitors, as has happened at the other national museums. The museum's target for the current financial year is 42,000 paying visitors. Free access will significantly increase the number of visitors. According to DCMS figures, attendance at the national museums that have free access has increased by up to 75 per cent. Attendance at the National Football museum would very likely increase to at least 60,000 per annum.

I quote the Minister, who in a written answer said:

That statement in itself does not detail which museums have been selected or why. It is also notable that the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament take their own decisions regarding free access to museums.

I have heard it said that the museum should move location to attract more visitors in order to meet its costs. That is the view of some people in the sporting establishment who want to get their hands on the collection. The longer DCMS delays its decision, the more likely that is to happen. It would be a slap in the face for the new city of Preston, which has been awarded city status in this jubilee year by the Queen.

The museum is located in Preston for outstanding heritage reasons. In 1889, Preston North End was the first winner of the world's oldest football league, and it was also a founder member of the Football League. The museum is at Deepdale stadium, the home of Preston North End since 1878, which makes it the oldest football league ground in the world that is still in use today. Next year will be the 125th anniversary of football being played at the stadium, which will be a world first. Moving the museum would waste £9 million of public money that has already been invested, and cost many millions more.

On a recent visit to the museum, Sir Alex Ferguson said:

The museum and I are making a plea to the Government for the support that it deserves. I ask the Minister for that support in deeds as well as words.

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1.16 pm

Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick) on securing this important debate. I raised the issue in April this year in early-day motion 1138. At that time, I sought to draw attention to the need for national funding of the museums in Preston, Wrexham and Glasgow—the English, Welsh and Scottish football museums. The motion attracted extensive support from across the UK.

Most football fans are not museum goers, and it is important that we do everything we can to encourage the initiatives at Preston and elsewhere. The museums are excellent and they need all the support they can get. It is up to the Department to take on that responsibility to ensure that the funding is there and that the museums are encouraged and supported. One cannot establish museums within two, three, four or five years. They need to be given proper funding so that in time they become known, people can access them and they grow popular, which is the way forward.

The English museum deserves support, but it is not the only national museum. The Scottish Football museum in Glasgow has been running since 1994, and it has struggled with many of the same problems as Preston and Wrexham in trying to get established without support and core funding. The Department needs to address that issue if it is going to talk about supporting football across the UK. Today's debate should initiate a wide-ranging discussion among not only football fans but parliamentarians about the importance of those museums, which supply employment and provide a facility for people, and especially young people, who would usually never go near museums. It may be that going to Wrexham, Preston or Glasgow gives young people a love for museums in general. I hope that the Minister's response will encourage museums throughout the UK.

1.18 pm

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick) on giving us the opportunity to debate the issue today. He has led parliamentary support for the museum since its financial problems became apparent late in 2001. He met Ministers at my Department on 22 May with museum representatives and other interested parties to discuss funding options. As he will know, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport would have been here, but he is in Moscow playing his part in trying to cleanse sport of drugs.

At the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, we agree that the National Football museum holds the world's most important collection of football artefacts and memorabilia, including the FIFA and Football Association collections, and Ministers are therefore as anxious as anyone involved to ensure that it is not broken up. My hon. Friend made an important point in that respect.

Moreover, we do not underestimate the wider value of the museum, because we are aware that the project embraces social inclusion through football, high-quality educative work and regional regeneration. Despite the institution's very poor performance in terms of

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attracting paying customers—it has been a great disappointment, as I am sure my hon. Friend will admit—we want to play a part in trying to save it. However, the scope of Government action is limited. The DCMS museums budget is hard pressed. In May, my noble Friend the Minister for the Arts explained those pressures to the museum and to others, including my hon. Friend, and I have to repeat that direct Revenue funding is not an option.

My hon. Friend asked about free museum entry. That policy applies only to museums directly sponsored by DCMS and/or museums established under parliamentary legislation. DCMS does not provide revenue funding to the National Football museum, and is not therefore constitutionally tied to the free access policy in that respect. That is an important point. The museum accepted that arrangement when it was set up. It accepted that it needed to charge at the outset of its career, and that remains the case. DCMS Ministers had no part to play in the Heritage Lottery Fund's investment of £9.5 million—a very substantial sum. Frankly, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the Government have no interest in safeguarding that investment of public money—of course we do. The bulk of it went into fitting out the museum, and in the event of its closure, it is extremely unlikely that the fund will recover much of its investment. There are no immediately apparent alternative uses for the high-quality galleries and other facilities included under the stands at Deepdale, Preston North End's ground, and Ministers are well aware that, should the museum close, much of the fund's investment would effectively pass to Preston North End football club at little or no cost.

Mr. Hendrick : The Minister has not addressed several important points that I raised. Is he willing to say how these other museums came to be sponsored? I am sure that they were sponsored not from the year dot but because Governments took a decision to take them on. Why cannot the Government do that in this case?

Dr. Howells : I cannot say why certain museums were included in the initial list and others were not. Many great museums are not on the list, some of which are doubtless called national museums. I tried to explain the original criteria and why the National Football museum was not included on the list, and that that discussion can continue, but if my hon. Friend wants me to answer his questions about funding, I shall try to do so. He must admit that there have been many attempts in Preston to try to turn the situation around, but they have not succeeded.

Free entry to a museum might be successful, but how on earth would it help on a day when it had seven paying customers? That will not turn a museum around—7,000 paying customers a week might have helped. It would be a huge burden for DCMS to take on, so I cannot give a carte blanche answer right now.

We have considered the role of the Football Foundation as a possible source of funding. The foundation is after all the primary funding body for football.

Mr. Hendrick : Does not the Minister agree that the Government's policy of making national museums free for all has meant that the general public are now not

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willing to pay to go into museums? The museum has become the victim of a policy introduced by the Government, however much he would like to paint a picture that they are trying to help it.

Dr. Howells : I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want to reverse the policy of free entry to museums. It has been an enormous success story, but it has a downside: paying customers will decide where they want to go. Clearly, some museums will lose out as a consequence, and we are addressing that. As tourism Minister, I have been to many institutions—museums, theme parks and so on—that have had enormous success, despite the fact that people have to pay to go into them. That could be for many reasons: their location, they are convenient to reach, there is something special to see there or perhaps the institution has taken time to think about how it treats its customers.

I have not been to the museum so I cannot say why visitor numbers are so very low. However, even if, as my hon. Friend suggested, the figures increased to 60,000, I recall that the agreed break-even figure was 80,000.

Mr. Hendrick : It was 40,000.

Dr. Howells : Very well, I shall pass on that one.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport first asked the Football Foundation to assist the museum earlier this year. At that time, the museum sought £1.5 million to allow it to offer free admission until 2004. That would have meant the foundation devoting a large proportion of its entire budget for community and education projects to the museum for two and a half years. The board was understandably unable to agree to a solution that could have endangered the funding of its successful community projects around the country. Nevertheless, the foundation wrote off £200,000 of the museum's debts earlier this year, and lent it £300,000 in May, which was secured on one of the principal exhibits,

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the Thomas Webster painting "Football". My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport intends to ask the foundation to consider the museum again.

All those involved in assisting the museum must take a frank view of its prospects. There was a good historical reason to locate it in Preston, at the home of one of the Football League's original member clubs. However, we must recognise that location has played a part in the museum's financial difficulties. At the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, the North West Development Agency commissioned a report on the museum's prospects from Jura Consultants earlier this year. Jura submitted its report in May. I know that the museum disagreed with some of the report's conclusions, but there was agreement on the overall assessment of visitor numbers: 30,000 visitors against a business plan target of 80,000 for the year left an immense hole in the museum's finances; it was better, but still well short of the break-even point.

The museum, and those who want to assist it, must be imaginative in considering alternative sources of funding. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport has bent over backwards to try to find ways in which to provide funding for the museum. Officials in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have been fully involved with the steering group that was established earlier this year to consider funding options. My right hon. Friend arranged a fundraising dinner at the House of Commons on 23 July. It was well attended and he said that we would find funding to match commercial sponsorship funding, pound for pound, up to a maximum of £250,000. I understand that the museum has obtained £80,000 from sponsors to date. That is an encouraging start, but I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that we need further substantial donations if we are to meet that match funding target, and—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Nicholas Winterton): Order. Time is up, and we must now move on to the next debate, in connection with which I congratulate the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) on the photograph that appeared in a broadsheet newspaper at the weekend.

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