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I was struck recently by an announcement that landed on my desk. Fred Turok, the chairman of the Fitness Industry Association has said that for every £1 invested in promoting physical activity by the Government, the health and fitness sector would invest a further £2. That is an offer that certainly must not be refused. Let us take a look at the current fitness and leisure infrastructure. There are more than 5,700 health and fitness sites across the country, including public facilities; 89 per cent of the population—53 million people—live within two miles of a gym facility; more than 30,000 licensed exercise professionals cater for more than 1 million people every day. Yet I am told that they operate at only 60 per cent of their capacity. Outside of peak hours, many of these facilities are almost empty. I very much hope that the Government will get together with the Fitness Industry Association to tackle this issue.

A number of bodies are out there with help to offer, not just health clubs and leisure centres. The Fitness Industry Association is only one. The Central Council of Physical Recreation, representing 105,000

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sports clubs active in England, is another. The list includes British Cycling, the Amateur Swimming Association, the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health, and there are many more. I hope that the Government will propose to deal with all these bodies in a way that can make a difference. Working together, this alliance could have the national, regional and local structure required to back up any national campaign. It could provide the clubs, centres, coaches, facilitators and expertise that we need to change and adapt to a healthier lifestyle. Importantly, these bodies are already based firmly in the community. They will provide opportunities for all segments of society, from cradle to grave, and provide activities that are fun, sociable and accessible to all, regardless of ability.

Every town and village has a sports club of some kind within easy reach to aid physical exercise. We are surrounded by outdoor environments in which people can enjoy fresh air at the same time as fitness. Every community centre is an open space that could be filled with people from the local area being supervised by experts provided by these organisations. But this ready-to-roll wheel is not simply about places and people, vital as they are, as the essential cogs in a national campaign machine. These organisations represent the key networks and channels that the Government need to deliver real change. They represent an alliance of bodies coming together with proven ability to interact directly and effectively with people of all ages, creeds and interests, to generate the momentum of change that the Government and the community need. The Government have the ability to make this change happen, working alongside those people already active in this area. I sincerely hope that it will take place soon. I beg to move for Papers.

2.18 pm

Lord Taylor of Warwick: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for starting this debate. He is widely recognized as a great ambassador for sport. He is no minor sportsman himself, as a former colonial boxing champion. He is a former chairman of the Football Trust and is now president of the Football Foundation. His efforts to support grassroots soccer are much appreciated. I have had the privilege of serving with the noble Lord on the sports awards committee of the Variety Club Children’s Charity and, more recently, as a co-patron of the Heritage Foundation, which raises funds for charity through sport and entertainment.

Sport is not a side issue. It affects so many areas of our lives—health, leisure, community relations, business. Sport transcends culture, class, race and religion. It can build bridges and not walls between people and places. Sport can inform and inspire. This is such a wide-ranging subject that one can focus only on certain aspects of it. I still remember, as a bright-eyed 15 year-old member of the Warwickshire Schools cricket team, practising in the indoor nets at the Edgbaston county ground in Birmingham. We were so excited when the coach suddenly announced that we would be bowling to the England captain. We all turned round, and in walked a woman. One of my

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colleagues said, “But it’s a woman, sir”. The coach said, “Well, I’m glad you can see. Just get on with it”. That woman was Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, bat in hand, padded up. She was the England ladies’ cricket captain.

We did as we were told. For the next 20 minutes, we bowled outswingers, inswingers, off-spin, leg-spin and googlies. In those days I could bowl a fairly wicked ball that could swing both ways in one delivery. Not many people throw that, to misquote Michael Caine. However, we did not bowl the maiden over. Rachael hit every ball with skill and force. She went on to become a director of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, an MBE and a personal friend. She showed that women can play an important role in sport as players and leaders.

My father, Derief Taylor, played cricket for the West Indies and county cricket for Warwickshire in the 1950s championship-winning team, but he was proud also to be manager of the England women's cricket team that toured the West Indies in the 1970s. It was him and 20 women; he was very pleased with that appointment. Although we have many modern-day examples of women sports stars, we know that, around adolescence, girls at school start to lose interest in sport. The reasons are often connected to the physical and emotional changes that they are going through, but we and the Government need to do more to encourage girls to pursue sports. The inspirational role played by Dame Kelly Holmes in the GirlsActive schools programme is vital, but it cannot be a one-woman campaign. I should be interested to hear from the Minister the Government’s plans to encourage more girls to stay in sport.

For many years, cricket has been overshadowed by the wealth and glamour of professional soccer, but the Chance to Shine project, encouraging competitive cricket in schools, has rekindled interest. However, there is no such thing as a free launch and I hope that the Government will continue to provide matching funding. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that. Cricket has also realised that it is part of the entertainment industry and personalities attract interest. Despite his problems, players such as Freddie Flintoff have helped to inspire a game which once had an image more akin to Freddie Flintstone.

There is no doubt that professional soccer has a massive influence in the modern world. As a patron of the Aston Villa Supporters Trust, I have followed the claret and blue for many years. I am delighted that this week Aston Villa turned down a potential multimillion-pound sponsorship deal. Instead, it has decided to publicise on its shirts the local Acorns Children's Hospice. That will bring awareness and funds to a fantastic charity. I hope only that other Premiership and professional soccer clubs will follow suit. Of course they have to run a business, but they have so much influence that they can help others in need. The Government can create the atmosphere to encourage clubs to do so.

I remember when Clyde Best, a black player from Bermuda, played for West Ham in the 1970s. He and other black players were subject to a lot of racist taunts. His pace could have been his fortune but he

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never fulfilled his potential, partly for that reason. Thankfully, the image of the game has changed radically in Britain since then. Now most teams in the football league, especially in the premier division, have black stars, but more needs to be done to encourage members of the black and ethnic-minority communities to become managers, coaches and trainers. However, the responsibility works both ways. The problems concerning gun and knife crime in the inner cities have been well documented. Sport can be a channel away from such activity. It can teach discipline and respect for others. But it is no use being young, gifted and slack. More people from the black community need to come forward and get involved as coaches and sports mentors.

I am a director of the Warwick Leadership Foundation charity. Part of its work is to partner groups in the inner cities, to provide role models and inspiration for young people. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, alluded to the fact that the answer does not lie only with the Government. The WLF employs that partnership principle and the Government need to do more to partner certain groups, such as faith groups, charities and other voluntary organisations. The Warwick Leadership Foundation has a particular link with the black-majority churches. Those churches are almost the untold story of Britain. Often you can get 2,000 people attending one church service. Within those communities, there are potential stars—players, coaches and mentors—but they are not in the loop; they do not know how to engage with the wider community. The Government would make great progress by reaching out to those groups and partnering them.

I spent 18 years as a barrister, mainly a criminal barrister, at the Old Bailey and a few years as a judge. It saddened me to see young men, especially black men, with ability, especially sporting ability, wasting their lives time after time. I remember sitting in a cell with a young man who had just been sentenced to five years for robbery. He said to me, “D’you know what? I could have played for Arsenal”. I said, “I’m afraid it’s too late for that. You should have thought of that before you committed the robbery”. I am not excusing such young men, but many of them lack role models and inspiration. Inspiration cannot be taught—it is caught. The Government need to understand that, when that young man went to prison, it was bad not only for him but for Britain, because we all suffer as a result. The one thing I learnt from my years at the criminal Bar was the tragic waste in talent that exists in our prison system, which is overflowing. More young black men are in prison than in college, which is very sad. What thoughts and plans does the Minister have to engage those young men and women wasting their talent who could become sports stars of the future? They are not bad people; they just lack the right direction, motivation and inspiration.

The Government still have a lot of work to do. They set a target of five hours of sport per week for schoolchildren. I say with respect that the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, presented a rather rosy picture of the Government’s achievements, in my humble view. Their own figures show that nearly 1 million children are not getting the basic two hours of sport that they previously aspired to. That is failure, not success. The

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Government's Licensing Act has increased bureaucracy and cost voluntary sports clubs more than £2.6 million in its first year. That makes life difficult for voluntary clubs such as Ilford Town football and athletics club to operate; I have the privilege of being its honorary president.

I still feel that the Government need to grapple with the partnership principle. I do not dispute that they have spent money, but what is important is not just how much money but how effective it is. My plea to the Government is to cut the red tape. Small clubs simply cannot operate with regulation after regulation. They want the winning tape, not the red tape. Again, I should like to hear from the Minister what plans there are to simplify the system.

Many young men and women enjoy amateur sports. My father was the first black referee in the Birmingham amateur league back in the 1970s. He was very popular. In fact, teams used to request my father to be the referee, not because he was black but because he was good. I would go along with him and see these young men and women giving their time every Saturday and Sunday morning. They believed that they could be successful in their own way, although they never became soccer stars. At grassroots level there is a real passion for games such as soccer and cricket, and I feel that in many ways the Government are stifling that passion.

Furthermore, it is an unwelcome fact that, according to a survey by Sport England, around a third of people stop playing sport when they reach school-leaving age. As a nation, we are living longer, but living longer does not mean living better. The message that sport is for all, not just the young, needs to be promoted more by this Government. I spent a rather average time as an Aston Villa youth player, but now that I am in my fifties I am still hopeful of making my first team debut for that club. I believe that it has my contact numbers.

2.31 pm

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, it is almost exactly a year since my noble friend Lord Pendry last secured a debate on sport and, once again, he is to be congratulated on organising today’s debate and on the speech that he made in introducing it. I particularly endorse what he said about ticket touting, which is an issue that I have taken up in this House on more than one occasion.

I remember that in that debate, on 28 June last year, I spoke at some length about the changes that were under way at the Football Association. These have now substantially been carried through. The FA Council’s membership has been expanded to include players, managers, referees, women’s football, ethnic minorities, disability football, supporters and the senior levels of non-league football; they have established the semi-autonomous Football Regulatory Authority—that is their description of it—and they have appointed my noble friend Lord Triesman as their first independent chairman. I know that he carries the good wishes of us all as he seeks to drive forward the necessary changes in the governance of the game.

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Looked at purely in financial terms, the state of the game in England has never been healthier. The Premiership continues to attract almost undreamt-of levels of income, and even the Championship—the old Football League second division—is reported to be the sixth wealthiest league in the world. The European Champions League final was contested by two English teams, and for every Ronaldo who thinks of leaving these shores, there are dozens of other foreign footballers anxious to play here.

Yet, all is not quite as rosy as it looks. The greatest disappointment that England fans are having to put up with this month, together with the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish, is to stay at home and watch 16 other countries contest the Euro 2008 championship because none of the home nations qualified. Although none of us expects Ministers to pick the England side, or even the team manager, it is appropriate to ask whether there is a role for the Government in creating a climate in which home-grown talent can thrive and challenge for places in our leading club sides, and thus better develop their skills in preparation for being chosen for the national team.

Perhaps when he replies my noble friend would like to comment on Mr Sepp Blatter’s proposal, which was overwhelmingly carried at the recent FIFA congress in Sydney, that by 2012 there should be at least six players in every starting line-up of 11 eligible to play for the national team of the country of the club. Our FA representatives in Sydney voted for this on the basis that:

However, if you go on to read the rest of their statement, you get the feeling that they think it will never happen, because they add:

Can my noble friend say whether the Government would support moves to establish a “specificity of sport” rule, which would effectively provide a get-out from European employment legislation?

Staying in somewhat controversial territory, I referred a moment ago to the FA’s decision to establish the Football Regulatory Authority. More than eight years ago, the Government’s Football Task Force, on which I was proud to serve as vice-chairman, addressed the issue of independent regulation. The majority of our members signed a report which said that, if the game were not able to provide clear leadership in this area, the Government should consider the establishment of a statutory regulator.

It is no secret that the present Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Andy Burnham MP, who worked as our administrator on the task force, took that view. However, perhaps not surprisingly, the Government have tried to stay clear of the debate and have sought to rely on the Football Association to provide leadership as the game’s governing body. The adoption of much of the report written by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, has moved them in this direction and the FA’s Football Regulatory Authority is the

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outcome. However, if I am allowed one Latin quotation from Juvenal, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?—who will regulate the regulators? Until this year, the answer would have been the Independent Football Commission, the body set up by the game and the Government in 2000 to evaluate the performance of the governing bodies in managing football—a self-regulatory response to the final report of the Football Task Force.

In the words of the chair of the IFC, Professor Derek Fraser, in his valedictory annual report:

The “something different” is an independent football ombudsman to be created in time for next season. According to the FA’s website:

However, it does not look to me or to Professor Fraser that the IFO will be encouraged to monitor the implementation of the Burns report in the way that the IFC would have done, so perhaps, either today or later in writing if he prefers, my noble friend could let me know how the Government envisage that this job will be done in future.

In the month that the IFC is disappearing, it would be appropriate to pay tribute to the work that Professor Fraser and his colleagues have done over the past eight years. They have produced some reports of outstanding quality, and influenced for the better decisions on financial management, the introduction of a fit and proper persons test, better governance arrangements, equal opportunity, diversity and anti-racist initiatives, child protection, community programmes and customer relations. A lot of this is unfinished business and, in the absence of the IFC, a heavier responsibility is placed on the football authorities to keep driving those initiatives forward.

One initiative in which I have a particular interest is the provision of facilities for disabled people at sports grounds. My noble friend will recall that I asked an Oral Question about this in the Chamber on 29 April. In reply, he referred to the letter sent earlier this year by Gerry Sutcliffe, the sports Minister, to the football authorities reminding them of their responsibility to follow the guidance contained in the Accessible Stadia document produced by the Football Licensing Authority, which also builds on one of the major reports of the Football Task Force. Mr Sutcliffe encouraged all Premier League and Football League clubs,

That is strongly supported by an Early Day Motion on the Order Paper in the other place, which has attracted more than 100 signatures. It,

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There is one aspect of this issue on which I would appreciate the help of my noble friend; it relates to assessing how much work needs to be done. Between 2000 and 2002, the National Association of Disabled Supporters carried out access assessments at each professional club, and it is my understanding that most clubs conducted access audits in 2004-05. There is now a fear that we have taken our eye off the ball and that little monitoring has been conducted in the past three years. Indeed, the Minister for Sport answered a Question from the Liberal Democrat spokesperson in the other place on 2 June; the exchange went like this:

To which my only response is: why not? Surely, if we are serious about ensuring that our football grounds become accessible to disabled people, the Government must monitor, report on and if necessary, cajole the authorities.

I should explain that I have an interest in this area as a vice-president of the National Association of Disabled Supporters. I have a similar unpaid position with the Football Conference. Most noble Lords will know that it involves the level of football immediately below the Football League. The conference league is a unique competition; it has a rich mix of long-term member clubs, some former members of the Football League and clubs that have risen through non-league football, known as the national league system, to experience national competition for the first time.

These clubs are as vital to their local communities as those in the Premier League and Football League. The conference league recently conducted a survey of all of its member clubs so that we could assess what they did in the areas of community involvement and football development. Of the 68 clubs in the competition, 67 responded. This exceptional response demonstrated that football clubs, at every level of the game, have a part to play in their local community. Thirty-five—more than half—organise some form of community activity. Mostly, these projects are funded by the clubs themselves or an associated charity: they raise their own funds, grant aid or sponsorship.

Community activities include coaching, work with schools, special projects with disability groups, pre-school breakfast clubs, street football, a special needs theatre group, a reading project, several healthy living initiatives, kick out racism projects and a club for retired people. There are six study support centres—a further two are in the pipeline—which run in conjunction with the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Playing for Success initiative, and nine girls-only programmes.

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