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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, we went to exotic places like Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle. We were constrained by a budget given to us by the Government of about £120,000. So it was a very small budget on which we worked.

Lord Lyell: My Lords, I am delighted to have that cleared up.

Secondly, for reasons which will become apparent, I add my congratulations to Ms Eleanor Oldroyd of Radio 5 Live which keeps me and millions of other supporters, whatever they are called, in touch with our football clubs around the world.

I am delighted that on the working party was Mr Uriah Rennie, a referee. That is a class of sportsman with whom I have a great deal of sympathy since, seven years ago, I began to have the honour to become one of your Lordships' Deputy Chairmen.

I come quickly to the recommendations. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, referred to the regulation and football audit committee. I should be interested to know whether the Government have any more thoughts on a more precise definition of its duties. I was interested in paragraphs 127 and 128 of the reply of the Football Association--what I call "football's reply".

The financial compliance unit is dealt with in paragraph 89 of "football's reply". I wonder: are we to have more accountants, auditors and financial analysts than there are players and others?

I declare my interest. As the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and other noble Lords will know, for 33 years now, I have been a great supporter, all round the world, of Everton Football Club. I am 200 miles from there now and 300 miles away when I am in Scotland. But thanks to the BBC World Service, when I have been in, for example, Seattle or elsewhere around the world, great happiness, or perhaps

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sometimes sadness, has been caused by Everton's results. I declare an interest also in that I am a shareholder.

I hope that the noble Lord and the Minister who is to reply will glance at paragraph 4 of "football's reply" which sets the tone of the debate this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentioned ticket prices. It soon becomes clear which club he supports and it is a very fine club. But Everton is classified as being one of the large clubs, but not one of the superclubs. We do not know whether that will change. The top price for a ticket--and this is Merseyside--is £1,370 for the season for 20 games and an excellent meal is included in the price. It costs £940 without the meal. Season tickets cost from £330 down to £300. If you want to go to an individual game, it will cost from about £24 down to £20. For an old age pensioner, it costs £12; for a child, it costs £10. I do not necessarily believe that spectators (whatever their age) will go to every game.

In the report, there is quite a considerable contribution on the subject of what I call "apparel". The rules of your Lordships' House forbid exhibits to be produced. I did not think it fit to wear the apparel but I have an aide memoire with me on the Bench this evening. I have a jersey which I bought for £5 in 1975 which has been skiing with me. It has seen many battles and has been wrapped round trees and so on. It has been beautifully repaired and is still wearable.

I bought another shirt last year which cost £42. I paid an extra £5 to the Premier League for two numbers on the back. One must pay 75p per letter, if one wants one's name, such as "Lyell", on the back. I have not thought what it would cost to have "McIntosh of Haringey". It would cost Lord Grantchester, who is a director of Everton Football Club, £9. That is what it costs for the apparel and, apparently, that is what people are prepared to pay.

I shall leave the question of finance, except to stress to your Lordships that one of the paragraphs in the report presented by the noble Lord and his committee (Chapter 2, paragraph 24) refers to players' wages. It says that that is completely unsustainable.

I have mentioned Everton and I now turn to the non-financial side of things. As your Lordships will be aware, Everton is one of two major clubs in Liverpool, and on Merseyside. It has a tremendous record and large numbers of boys look up to the players. It has a very powerful "Everton in the Community" group. Last summer it visited Bideford and Barnstaple. It also has something called a "youth academy".

Three gentlemen there--Mr Hall, Mr Harvey and Mr Harper--not the famous half-back line, although one was--are in charge of training and nurturing the careers of young men and young footballers. Last year, they were champions of England. Three of those boys passed their A-levels. One passed four and the others passed three A-levels. The noble Lord invited me to Selhurst Park several days ago when Everton was playing. Five of the team on that pitch came through the Everton ranks and through the Everton youth academy. That is the nature of the creature of which the noble Lord is speaking.

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I conclude quickly with a tale of two jerseys. One was worn by a young man, a boy, who was a mascot at Everton. He went out to a full house. Everton beat Manchester United. He was tucked up that night by his mother. He said, "It was a great night. We won". He died that night. The second relates to a young man called Craig Parry who was blown up by the IRA in Wigan. His father said that Craig's greatest wish to was to go to the grave in his Everton jersey. That is the nature of the emotion in paragraph 4 of "football's reply". I thank the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to mention it.

7.49 p.m.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I have the feeling of being the only pagan in a church. I am not a great football fan. I have two comments regarding wearing a jersey with one's name on the back. First, as rugby players, we need slightly tougher jerseys than footballers; and, secondly, I have decided only ever to wear a jersey in which I have played. As my playing days are numbered, I have a nice stock, so I do not think I shall be stung heavily.

Professional football in this country is felt by its fans, the people who watch it, to be owned by them. That almost comes through the pores of fans when talking about the game; it is their game. The report addresses that issue head-on. With the possible exception of rugby league, virtually no other sport creates that feeling. It is theirs because they go to watch it, support it and take it on board. They ensure that it is theirs.

The problem referred to throughout the report is that people feel they are losing that link with football. They no longer feel that the game is theirs. I remember when everybody talked about football. Everybody went to see it. They stood on the terraces and there was a community feeling. I also remember people talking of the golden days of football when hundreds of thousands of people were in the grounds. I feel that perhaps in a large number of cases they went to watch the backs of each other's necks, but that is how it was.

I also remember how most people who went to football games decided either to run away from the fighting or to join in. Professional football can certainly pat itself on the back for having dealt with the problem of violence or the perception of violence within football.

The report refers to the fact that the fans feel that they are losing control of their game. Football has become incredibly fashionable. As such, it is in danger of being priced out of the market. Indeed, the marketing men had better beware. My own sport of rugby union flirted with the marketing men and got it horribly wrong. My old club, London Scottish, no longer exists. The marketing men decided that the sport should go in a certain direction but the money was not behind it. They tried to become soccer and have mass participation.

There is a professional football team in every major town. If we do not get it right by attracting fans to watch the game the whole structure of football is in

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danger of being undermined because the necessary funding will not come through. With few exceptions, that will not be compensated for by revenue from broadcasting in any form. We may have to return to that discussion on another occasion. The money will not be there for junior sides who are dependent on high attendance at the gates.

Several thousand people turning up to watch two teams play in the third best league is a remarkable cultural and marketing tradition which other sports would literally kill for. In this country, only football has that tradition.

I shall not go into the detail of the report, which has already been mentioned. The report points to the fact that we must refer back to the people watching football. It also refers to getting people interested in playing the game. It is the one sport where the major participation level is on Sunday morning, presumably so that people are free to watch football on Saturday afternoons. We should not break with that practice. Unless we keep the fans on board so that they feel it is still their game and they must watch their club play, the link between watching and participating will break down. In many other sports it is much more important to play the game than to watch.

I hope that the Government will support the report. Every single body is essentially conservative with a small "c" when it comes to change. I hope that the Government are prepared to stand with carrot and, more importantly, stick, and give the full support of their legal machine to the report.

7.54 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is customary to congratulate the noble Lord who initiates a debate and I do so wholeheartedly. However, I congratulate him and his colleagues even more on what I consider to be an excellent report. It gives real hope for the future in circumstances where real change is needed.

I declare the obvious interest that my commitment to football is that I have played in more matches that I have watched. I am not sure that I can define myself entirely as a fan, having been engaged for many years in what we called amateur football but what is now called, in a rather deprecating way, "junior football". For 20 years I was captain of the Parliamentary 11 in which the noble Lord, Lord McNally also played his part on important and significant occasions.

My declaration of interest may perhaps help to counteract what may be the great danger for someone from my generation participating in a debate such as this--that of being somewhat suffused with nostalgia for times past. It is the case that I greatly enjoyed being on the terraces. Standing on the terraces, I watched all the matches in which England went on to win the World Cup at Wembley. I would not have sacrificed that position for a seat. However, we all learnt the lessons of Hillsborough and we all know why football had to be transformed in the wake of that disaster.

Far from being nostalgic, I am appreciative of the modern game. We should recognise that it is faster, more skilful and a better spectacle than the game of the

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past. Perhaps I may say, against the usual pejorative lines that follow the numbers of yellow and red cards displayed over the weekend, that previously football was less disciplined than it is today. From time to time we have the scandals of trouble on the field. However, 30 or 40 years ago, in my view football was much less disciplined. Players were selected for their ability to take out opponents from the game and actually did so. Referees have better control over the game now than then.

However, I resent the fact that football is drifting away from the very people who gave it sustenance and from which it derives its roots, as the report so accurately identifies. The vast majority of football grounds remain in working-class communities in our towns and cities. It is appalling that that which is part of the warp and weft working-class life is being ripped away by the simple fact that poorer people, particularly the unemployed, cannot afford to attend matches because of the exorbitant rise in football prices. The noble Lord gave us a clear illustration of how those prices have run amuck in comparison to almost any commodity one could think of that is set before the nation today.

Opera has had to learn the responsibility of being opera for the nation and has a pricing policy at Covent Garden which gives opportunities to the less well-off. Football is a beneficiary of considerable public money. The Taylor report would never have been implemented if it had not been for the substantial sums of money from the Football Trust, which also derives support from government largesse. Public money has helped to transform the grounds. What is more, many of the grounds have been transformed by the direct input of fans who contribute to them. Sometimes they find that they are then frozen out of the very grounds they have contributed towards improving. I do not have the slightest doubt that it is absolutely essential to implement that aspect of the report which calls for a wider range of ticket prices and wants to make it possible for the less well-off in the community to go to matches.

I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, is right. We need control over the pricing of replica kits. I was absolutely shocked--I made the point repeatedly on the occasions I was able to do so when I represented Oldham in the other place--that the cost of replica kits escalated year on year. I watched families with limited resources, eager that their sons and, in many cases, their daughters, should identify with the town's club at a time when the club was enjoying rather better fortunes than today. However, the cost of doing so was prohibitively expensive. I have no doubt that we should seek regulation in that regard.

I have not the slightest doubt that we need a stake for fans upon the board. Even if football management and directorship is represented--a major achievement of high standards in this country--there would still be a massive case for the representation of fans. In fact, as we all know, the management of our football clubs has often been deplorable. Almost the only gesture to the fans is to throw them the manager's head when they have berated him sufficiently by demonstrations

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on the pitch to show that they cannot tolerate the recent results--and at times that can be an extremely short-sighted perspective.

Fans have the right and expectation to be taken into a position where they can make their representations to the board and feel part of the club. That is why I have hopes that this report, in its excellent precision, will impact upon the football authorities so that they put their house in order and introduce reforms. The Minister may not be too assertive on what the Government intend to do about the report in the short term, but I assure him that, as has already been said, we will be pressing the Government to act if within a short period of time the major proposals of the report are not implemented.

8.1 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, on instigating this fascinating debate. I congratulate the Government on instigating the preparation of the report and the Football Task Force on coming up with an important document. As everybody has said--it is a conventional truism--football is not just a game; it is a huge exercise in national cementing. At a time when loyalties are hard to find and even harder to bestow, football remains an extraordinary repository of what is a basic human instinct.

One of the most amusing paragraphs in the report is paragraph 4.5, where apparently a financial analyst from Salomon Brothers gasped that football fans are described as "irrationally loyal". I suppose it would need a financial analyst from Salomon Brothers to realise that loyalty is not rational; indeed, its very essence is irrationality. It has to do with tribal love and identification, all the things the City has long since forgotten.

One point that worries me about the report and its conclusions is that they do not seem to have found a way of combining sport and business. The report is quite frank about the dilemma, but does not come to any sort of credible conclusion. Indeed, some of the conclusions appear to be a touch triumphalist.

In paragraph 4.3 appears this sentence:

    "The survival of so many clubs and of such a strong tradition of support for them is a legacy of football's history. It is also a result of an ethos in the running of the clubs that they be sporting institutions and not mere vehicles for making money".

Frankly, if they cease to be sporting institutions, if they lose the ethos that the task force correctly refers to as being at the centre of soccer, then the game will not survive in its present form.

I come back to the ticket pricing issue, because that is the litmus test of whether or not clubs are capable of seeing that sporting ethos at the heart of their commercial affairs. The statistics are striking and I commend to your Lordships Section 5, which deals with them at length. When they did a detailed survey into pricing, it was found that 60 per cent of respondents--having asked thousands of people--

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said that they would like to take children to games of football but often could not because of the prices; six out of 10 were not happy; eight out of 10 unemployed people could not get to matches any more.

We all surely agree that soccer is much more important than merely being the place to which the increasingly affluent go, yet the figures from the University of Leicester show that 60 per cent of the season ticket holders from Chelsea are people earning more than £30,000 a year. That is a striking statistic. Good luck to them, but let us somehow retain the prospect of poor and unemployed people attending games they desperately want to see. I suspect--I am not sure that the report contains any evidence for it, it is probably difficult to find--that it is the poorer members of the clubs, the people who live in the immediate locality, who provide the absolute loyalty that sees clubs through thick and thin and which sustains them at the rotten as well as the great times.

I hope that we can look more frankly at this dilemma between commerciality and ethos, or sports. I want to say something in relation to ethos in terms of conduct. I hesitate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies, who has stood on so many terraces--I have stood on a few in my time--but I do not buy his picture that football today is as sporting as it was when he was a lad. Many of our greatest players went through their careers without ever being sent off. Some of them were never booked. We are talking of Stanley Matthews, Bobby Charlton and John Charles; they scarcely ever had a foul awarded against them. By contrast, at the Leeds and Tottenham Hotspur game at the weekend there was a brawl involving nearly every player. At the Chelsea and Wimbledon game there was a brawl involving a large number of players and staff. At the Manchester United and Newcastle game, the captain of Manchester United, Keane--one of the most over-paid players in the world--was sent off for the sixth time in his career. What kind of example is that? These are matters which it is not sensible to be cavalier about. We often hear sports commentators--in relation to rugby too, which is my first love--being dismissive of excessive violence, saying, "That is the sort of thing lads do". But they should not do that before the cameras which beam the games around the world when they are being paid the money they are. Perhaps it is because they are paid so much that they behave so badly.

I conclude by saying that we must look to individuals and to individual clubs to put their house in order. We cannot ask the Government to solve this. The Government may be able to do some things, but it is basically down to the game itself. Let us not forget the small clubs, the amateur clubs. The professional clubs should be an example for them and enable them to have a better and easier life. I sometimes feel that they are not remotely interested in the seedbed of their own success. Let us make this once beautiful game a beautiful game again.

8.7 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, understands that the time

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constraint prevents me from paying him the tribute which his contribution to soccer deserves, not only in this report, but also on his work for the Football Trust.

David Mellor, the chairman of the Football Task Force, in the foreword of this report quotes the views of some of its members which go to the nub of our debate. They believe that soccer is,

    "a modern, highly professional, big-money game, the demands of which ... have far outgrown the present regulatory machinery".

The most significant statistic in the report is that there are 54,000 clubs affiliated to the FA. That is a glorious pyramid topped at the moment by the wealth, glamour and power of Manchester United, but supported by the love of the game are thousands of amateur officials and players and millions of fans.

It is interesting to read in the report how the founding fathers of the game foresaw some of our present problems and devised rules to protect it from narrow-based exploitation. The removal of earlier protections left the game with two very clear problems. First, how do we keep football at the highest level interesting and competitive if wealth and playing skills are concentrated in a handful of clubs? Secondly, how do we ensure that a decent proportion of the immense wealth coming into football at the top is used for the long-term benefit of the game at all levels? The 5 per cent levy proposed on new television contracts is a gesture in the right direction; but more may need to be done, either voluntarily or by compulsion, to shake money down the pyramid if the game is not to wither at its roots.

Without some of the remedial action outlined in this report, and other measures, we will face a situation where the interests of fans are constantly put second to the protecting of shareholder value; where clubs like Manchester United become increasingly like the Harlem Globe Trotters--circling the world chasing the fast buck at the expense of home fans and domestic competition; and where the game itself and its competitions become increasingly the fodder feeding the voracious appetite of television.

I was interested to hear what my noble friend Lord Addington said about marketing men. One of the most potent advertising slogans of all time was, "We always remember you have a choice". How many of today's fans were first taken to watch football by their parents? Break that link by greed or insensitivity and you lose not just today's fans but also those of tomorrow. That is why those involved in football, from club chairman to bootboys, need to realise that the future depends on their ability to give as well as to take.

It is true that I spent the twilight of my undistinguished career under the captaincy of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, in the House of Commons' team. But I am afraid that I agree with my noble friend Lord Phillips on the question of player discipline. For example, the current behaviour of some Manchester United players is, quite frankly, a disgrace. A national Sunday newspaper said this yesterday:

    "Sir Alex Ferguson's players are like volcanoes permanently on the verge of eruption".

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That is not good enough from football's premier club. If Sir Alex Ferguson is unwilling to control them, perhaps a three-point deduction would instil some discipline into Roy Keane or Jaap Stam next time they shove their faces into that of the referee and try to intimidate an official. Do they not realise that this behaviour is replicated in parks and playgrounds, along with the petty fouling and cheating that is the example set by too many in the modern game?

So players should set an example, as should the clubs, thereby making a far greater contribution to dealing with the social problems of the communities that nurture them. As has been said, many of our big clubs are located within areas of high crime, social exclusion, racial tension and social deprivation. Yet the contributions that the clubs make to addressing these problems is often all too minimal. For their part, the Government's priorities should be in ensuring that football at all levels is run with probity and accountability; and that the game's wealth is more evenly distributed.

The Government should also use this report as a basis for a new charter for football, which includes root and branch reform of the Football Association. Today I met the new chief executive, Adam Crozier, who, by his very youth, will look very out of place in the FA Council. I believe that the proposed code of practice and the audit commission are the right way ahead, as well as the "ombudsfan". In fact, I should like to see a football commissioner, along the lines of the American model, to get to grips with some of these problems. I should also like to see redistributive levies on transfer fees and broadcasting deals.

The task force has done a good job in identifying priorities and in suggesting remedies. We now look to government and the football authorities to respond in a way which will release the immense potential for good that is in football, and save it from those who either lack the capacity to manage the modern game or whose sense of vision and social responsibility ends on the bottom line of a balance sheet.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, that my father was born in Old Swan in Liverpool. He brought me up to believe that Liverpool had two great football clubs: Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves.

8.13 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for giving us the opportunity to have this short debate. I am certainly aware of the high regard in which he is held in the football world. I congratulate him on the valuable part that he has played both in the production of the report and in all the work that has gone into it.

It is, of course, disappointing to all of us that it was not possible for agreement to be reached on just one report. I look forward to hearing from the Minister which report is to be endorsed by the Government. Alternatively, will there be a pick-and-mix approach, or will the whole thing will be kicked into touch?

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I certainly hope not in respect of the last option. The reports are the last in a series produced by the task force. As noble Lords have said, the task force has addressed the most fraught area of the remit; namely, the commercial and regulatory issues, which are vital for us to resolve if the game is to have a healthy future.

Four weeks ago I saw the game at the hard end of it. I went to watch my own home town of Woking play in the third round of the FA Trophy. I thank its director of football, Phil Ledger, for making me feel so welcome. I also declare an interest because I had a free ticket. The club usually attracts about 2,500 supporters a week and is the source of local pride. On that occasion, I am pleased to say that Woking won 4:2. I shall say nothing about last Saturday; it is perhaps better forgotten.

Woking plays in the Nationwide Conference. When I watched the team play, I saw at first hand the financial problems faced by clubs that do not have access to the vast sums available to some League clubs and some League players. Therefore, when I came to read the reports, I naturally did so with the needs and views of the smaller clubs very much at the forefront of my mind.

The reports sweep across the business world of football from the macro--the issues of principle, duty and responsibility--to the micro. My noble friend Lord Lyell referred to one such issue; namely, kit. I believe that I shall remember for many a year the picture of my noble friend careering down a ski slope with his Everton jumper firmly in place. However, as is often the case with my noble friend, he has, by making a gentle joke, focused our attention on a tough issue and one that is very important to supporters of the game. I refer to the cost of replica kits.

The big question for the Government must surely be: do they accept the recommendation in the first report that there should be a football audit commission--a permanent standing body--and that if in a period of two years sufficient progress has not been made to establish such a commission, the Government should then appoint a regulator by legislation to implement a statutory code of practice for football? Alternatively, do the Government prefer the model proposed in the second report; namely, an independent scrutiny panel, the background of which was explained by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, which would not be a standing body or established by legislation? Can the Minister tell the House tonight what progress has been made in the development of this scrutiny panel? Further, is he satisfied that such a panel could provide an independent and impartial forum for football bodies to present their case for fair treatment?

I welcome the recognition on page 9 of the first report that,

    "the economic gap between large and small professional clubs and between the leagues in the national structure is growing".

But the question should surely be: what do the Government think should be done about the situation? Indeed, do the Government have a role to play in that

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process? Do the Government feel that the vast resources flowing into the game are being distributed in an equitable and fair manner?

In their joint report to the task force, the FA, the Premier League and the Football League said that they were making extensive efforts to "ensure consistency" and to "promote best practice". Are the Government confident that these principles are being applied at all levels of the game? I make particular reference to the fact that promotion between the Nationwide Conference and the Football League remains at one place compared to three promotion places at other levels of the game--indeed, four places between Second and Third Division League clubs. I also draw attention to the fact that the criteria for operating academies for young players excludes clubs in the Conference and that under football rules Conference clubs cannot sign schoolboys aged between 9 to 15, although the League and the Premier League can do so.

I welcome the fact that there is a recognition in both reports of the need for a rigorous code of practice to govern the way clubs behave towards their fans. However, do the Government agree with the first report that there should be a written code of practice for the game both on and off the field? One begins to wonder where is the boundary between a footballer's professional and private life.

The overarching questions for the Government in all of this must be: do they accept the premise on which report No. 1 is based? The report states at page 2,

    "that football--and indeed sport--is different from other business sectors".

Further, how far should, or could, any government intervene in determining the management and commercial operation of businesses that promote sport? I believe that their answers to these questions have ramifications beyond the world of football, large and important though it is to all noble Lords.

8.20 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Faulkner for raising this issue tonight and to all who have taken part in the debate. I can well understand why my noble friend, who is one of the task force's distinguished members--he is distinguished also in the wider football world--is particularly anxious to see the Government's response to the task force's final report. I am afraid that I must disappoint him. I am sure he will be aware that I shall not give the Government's response tonight. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who as usual fired off a barrage of questions at me, will know that I shall not even respond as precisely as she would wish to the questions which are the Government's concern. Many of the issues she raised are matters not for the Government but for the world of football itself.

However, this debate will form an input to the Government's consideration of the task force's report and will certainly be taken seriously by them. I am happy to set out the issues which are being considered by the Secretary of State and the Minister for Sport as they frame their response to the report.

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Before I do that, however, I must emphasise my congratulations to my noble friend and his fellow task force members. He has eloquently described their work over the past two-and-a-half years, not just on this report but also on previous reports on racism, disabled access and the sport's role in the community. Those earlier reports were notable for their sound analysis and the common sense of their conclusions and recommendations. The truth of that is confirmed by the speed with which the football authorities have implemented many of the proposals which they made. As a direct result of the task force's endeavours, football now has the equipment necessary to fight the cancer of racism. It has a unified policy on welcoming disabled people to stadia and providing them with the best in facilities, and it has a new will to work in partnership with local communities. Those achievements are substantial and we should applaud them.

The recommendations of the previous reports were, of course, unanimous. That cannot be said of the task force's latest report. We have two reports, one from a majority of the task force members and a minority report written by the FA, the FA Premier League and the Nationwide League. It would be easy to disregard the whole exercise for that reason, but that would be misguided. The report reflects genuine public concern about the way football is run in this country and the Government have no intention of using the lack of consensus as an excuse to avoid addressing that concern.

David Mellor rounded off his introduction to the report by quoting Milton. He could with equal profit have turned to Walt Whitman, who stated in Leaves of Grass,

    "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large; I contain multitudes".

That is not meant as criticism. Whitman celebrated the diversity of human experience. In the same spirit we should celebrate the diversity of the people involved in the making of the task force's latest report. The members of the task force were drawn from, and indeed nominated by, all parts of football, from governing bodies to supporter groups. They took evidence from a wide range of organisations including clubs, administrators and representatives of other industries. As my noble friend has emphasised, they carried out extensive, although not scenic, tours of the country. Hundreds of fans took part in the research work on which the proposals of the final report were based.

In view of that, the task force's achievement in simply agreeing on the scope of its proposals, if not on the proposals themselves, is an impressive one. That was no simple matter. Fans' detailed concerns cover a wide range of issues, from ticket prices--which have been much emphasised in the debate tonight--and merchandising (we have discussed strips) to the financial rectitude of clubs and the extent to which supporters are involved in decision-making. Their concerns reflect some of the huge changes that have taken place in football over the past two decades. It is

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now a big business but one which depends to a great extent on the decidedly non-commercial goodwill of its supporter base.

The conundrum which football, in common with other major sports, is facing worldwide cannot be characterised in black and white terms. We are not just looking at a contradiction between the business ethos and the sporting spirit. The paradox runs deeper than that, as Bill Shankley nearly said, as regards life, death and football. Governing bodies must encourage investment in football at all levels. Without that, the sport withers at amateur and junior levels and the national team suffers. Attracting and retaining investment means ensuring that investors make a reasonable return, but authorities must recognise their responsibilities. Both the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, emphasised the importance of that.

It is, of course, a good sign that the Premier League is committed to allocate 5 per cent of TV revenues to support grass roots football. The Government are discussing the distribution of that money with the league and with the Football Association. The point is well taken. However, that must be balanced with the sport's wider needs, its traditions and the need to ensure fair competition between clubs.

Supporters have contradictory imperatives. They realise that a club's success at any level in the professional game takes a great deal of money. Logically, the committed supporter would gladly accept rises in the prices of tickets and merchandise if these would demonstrably improve the team's chances of success. To a certain extent, that is already the case. But football supporters, like the rest of us, are generally rational beings, despite being described as tribal by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and indeed by the football authorities themselves in their report. They do not want to be exploited, especially if they feel that the exploiter is an institution to which they have been devoted in many cases since childhood. Therefore to characterise the split report as an analogy of a straightforward conflict between commerce and Corinthianism in modern football is a gross over-simplification.

To the great credit of all involved, both the majority and the minority reports demonstrate an acute awareness of the complexity of the issues. Yes, we have been presented with two reports. However, in view of the difficulties of the task force's remit, the degree of consensus that it achieved is remarkable. Both minority and majority reports agree that supporters have valid grievances which must be addressed. I repeat my acknowledgement of what has been said in that regard, particularly with regard to ticket prices. Both reports agree on the need to set standards of customer service and financial rectitude; for supporters to have a bigger say on how the game is administered; and on the need for an accountable body to monitor improvements in those areas. The two proposals for meeting those objectives are very different and not just in matters of detail.

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As my noble friend Lord Faulkner said, the majority report calls for an independent football audit commission actively to monitor clubs' performances against a national code of practice. It would oversee a new system of auditing clubs and would have the power to impose financial or other penalties. The report also recommends the appointment of an "ombudsfan" who would investigate complaints from supporters and report to the football audit commission.

The football authorities' proposed independent scrutiny panel would be appointed by the governing bodies themselves, although with additional independent members. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that I am not aware of any developments in setting up such a scrutiny panel, but we have yet to discuss the report with the football authorities.

The panel's primary task would be a review of the current state of regulation in the sport. It would be supported by a permanent management board and by individual customer charters drawn up by clubs. The noble Baroness asks me to choose between the proposals. However, I hope that she will recognise that the right thing for us to do is to consider the proposals on their merits and not to make that consideration too hurried. The consideration must start--indeed has started--from what unites the two proposals. My noble friend Lord Faulkner recognised that when he talked about bridging the gulf between them.

Any scheme, whether based on an external body or achieved through self-regulation, must command the support of all parts of the sport. However it is constituted and whatever it is called, a new body would have to work closely both with the present governing bodies and with supporters' associations. Without that widespread support it would lack both legitimacy and effective power.

There are more practical considerations. Any new regulator must not impose burdensome costs on the sport. Of course supporters and governing bodies are entitled to expect high standards of customer service and financial rectitude from clubs. But we live in an imperfect world. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, many clubs outside the premier league have severe financial problems. Any new regulatory framework must take account of this without materially compromising its commitments to the agreed principles of the two reports. The key decision here for football concerns the form and powers of any new regulatory body.

The report makes a number of other key recommendations. The Government have already taken forward one of these. We agree with the task force that supporters should be given every assistance in investing in clubs. The Secretary of State announced the principles of the SupportersDirect initiative on 1st October last year with the creation of the new unit to administer it on 29th January. In shadow form it is already offering support, advice and information to groups of supporters who wish to play a responsible role in their clubs by collectively owning shares. I am

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sure that SupportersDirect will play a key role in improving the future health of the football industry. I acknowledge that this is not the same as having fans on the board, an argument put by my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham, but it is certainly a related initiative.

The task force was designed to achieve the future health of the football industry. It was never intended to function exclusively as the voice of either football supporters or of the governing bodies. The Government's response to the report, when it comes, will be proportionate to the wider public concern about the running of football. I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that we shall not be kicking the report into touch.

Many people both inside and outside football are concerned by what Hugh McIlvanney has described as,

    "The strange, disproportionate and often damaging role that a simple ball game has come to play in the lives of so many of our fellow citizens".

McIlvanney wrote shortly after the Hillsborough tragedy, when football had rather more important considerations than commercialisation to address. Even so, he expressed a general truth with which I think even the most committed follower of the sport may agree after reflection.

But I do not want to conclude on a downbeat note. The Government are extremely grateful to the task force. We are confident that much good will come from its final report. We have made the report widely available and, just as we are grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, we look forward to hearing the views of the public as part of the consultation process.

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