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The support that the Government give to local authorities comes mainly through Sport England, which has developed a range of strategic planning tools to assist authorities to modernise their leisure facilities and to ensure that the right facilities are provided in the right locations. That is helping local authorities to identify the gaps and to target resources where they are most needed. Sport England’s facilities improvement service is also working
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closely with local authorities to improve their strategic planning for community sport locally. Additionally, the unprecedented Government investment through Building Schools for the Future offers a number of unique opportunities to local authorities. The Government therefore expect local authorities to consider how new developments can build on the current and anticipated sporting needs of local communities.

Investment in football is very important. Football is our national game and incredibly popular. However, the peak of the game accounts only for a very small amount of those that are involved in football. As my hon. Friend mentioned, children and young boys and girls are really getting involved at a much lower level. Football authorities recognise the wider impact of the game, especially in the lower leagues and at the grass-roots level. Sport England’s active people survey shows that football is as popular an activity in Gloucester as anywhere else in the country.

Football is one of the sports that have submitted a whole sport plan to Sport England for funding from 2009. That includes how it proposes to invest money in facilities to help to develop the sport. It is right that football receives Government funding, as the sport helps to deliver our sporting aims. That is why the Football Foundation, the premier league, the FA and the Government together have invested more than £300 million in football since 2000. That includes £2 million in community projects in my hon. Friend’s constituency of Gloucester. Those projects have ranged from a £400 grant awarded to Gloucester City girls football club for new kit right up to a £426,000 grant to Abbeydale Community Association towards the development of its facilities. In addition, the Government have, through Sport England, invested more than £59 million in community football since 2005.

Turning specifically to Gloucester City football club, I should first like to acknowledge and congratulate the club on its 125-year history and on its incredible resilience. Having been flooded out of its ground three times during its history, it is remarkable that it has reached that milestone. I note that my hon. Friend is sporting the club’s yellow and black tie; it looks like a bee or a wasp, and they are very tenacious insects.

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I was disappointed to learn of the devastating impact that the 2007 floods had on the club’s Meadow Park ground. Although all those concerned will have been extremely disappointed about that, I was pleased to note that the football family in Gloucester has come together to help Gloucester City football club find temporary homes, first at Forest Green Rovers football club, and now at Cirencester Town football club.

I know that the club has been working with a range of interested parties, including the city and county council and the Football Association, at national and county level, to identify appropriate sites for a new stadium. My hon. Friend mentioned the names of some of those sites. I encourage the club to continue discussions with those parties, and to consider the options available through the football stadia improvement fund. I am informed that up to £150,000 could be available from that fund for the development of a new ground. I am also advised that up to £100 million—sorry; I wish it was that much. I am advised that up to £1 million of funding could be available through the Football Foundation to support additional facilities. As I understand it, the club has aspirations to develop a community facility. That funding route may be open to it, if its aim is achieved.

I urge the local authorities in Gloucester to undertake a full review of their sports provision, to plan strategically for the future and to consider whether the club’s desire for a new stadium could be met through the provision made to meet the sporting facility needs of the local community. I ask my hon. Friend to keep my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), who has responsibility for sport, informed of progress on the issue. In turn, I will inform my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of the various options that my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester is considering.

I wish Gloucester City football club the very best of luck. It is lucky to have my hon. Friend as its constituency Member of Parliament.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Eleven o’clock.

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