Politicians view on Football
In April the ASi decided to ask the prospective MP`s for the Crewe and Nantwich area, some football based questions, below are the answers that Edward Timpson (Con), David Williams (Lab), Roy Wood (Lib Dem), James Clutton (Ukip) and Mike Parsons (Ind), have responded with:-
1. Ownership of Football Clubs -
ASi - The outgoing Government has outlined proposals for supporters` organisations to own 25% of the shares in their football club. This proposal will not prevent an individual owning more than 50% of the shareholding in a football club and therefore being able to asset strip a club for their own personal benefit (currently at Crewe Alexandra Norman Hassall is the controlling person).
Does your party believe that the government should intervene in the ownership of football clubs?
Does your party believe that 25% of shares 'ring-fenced` for supporters` organisations are sufficient?
Does your party believe that the UK should adopt the 'German model` whereby 50% of shares in a football club are 'ring-fenced` for ownership by supporters` organisations and would your party be prepared to introduce legislation to that effect?
ET - The Conservative manifesto contained a specific pledge to enable co-operative ownership models to be established by supporters and this is something we definitely want to see more of in the game.
But this is only an element of a wider package of reforms that we will press for, if elected on May 6th, including tougher rules on debt, the Fit and Proper persons test, financial governance and the number of independent representatives on football boards.
DW - Labour has proposed that there should be a ring fenced 25% of shares owned by the fans. I very much welcome this proposal, which I think will go a long way towards protecting clubs from being asset stripped. I want to see the 25% ring fence implemented as soon as possible and to see how well it works, but am very much open to persuasion on increasing the percentage ring fenced for fans.
RW - I support the principle of fans owning a large part of their club. Having at least 50% for fans would work well for clubs like Crewe and Tranmere. However, the Premier League is the best in the world and, although some of the money involved is excessive, I wonder if, with a worldwide market for the best talent, having a majority of shares in top clubs would enable them to compete. There is no agreed Lib Dem policy on this and my personal view is that having a minimum of 25% for supporters is about right. I think fans control of lower league clubs will grow naturally given the financial position of many clubs.
JC - The answers provided below are my own and have not been formulated or approved by the UK Independence Party. I would like to see a proportion of shares ring fenced for supporters groups. The fans make a football club and I believe that they should have a say in how they are run just as people should be able to have their say on how the country is run. The proportion of shares set aside for supporters should be a matter of consultation between government, fans and investors.
MP - First of all, I am not a member of a party, so these are my own answers.
Do not have a problem with fan-based shareholding
Do not really believe that government should intervene in sport
Do not believe that supporter shares should be ring-fenced at any level
Believe that legislation should support open running of a club by the club and not seek to intervene at all other than as in any other business (eg Monopolies Commission)
2. Seating or Standing in Stadia -
ASi - There is no current specific legislation regarding all seater stadia.
It has been the POLICY of both Conservative and Labour Governments since the 1989 Taylor Report that football matches in the top two tiers of English Football should be performed at all-seated stadia and that the next two tiers should have standing accommodation that is of the prescribed standard. The Football Licensing Authority is required to enforce this POLICY and issue licenses for football grounds under the Football Spectators Act 1989 which are used for designated association football matches under The Football Spectators (Designation of Football Matches in England and Wales) Order 2000.
This policy applies only to association football - other sporting events - e.g. rugby league, rugby union, horse racing; motor sport events etc, which regularly attract larger attendances than football matches, are not subject to the government`s policy of all-seated stadia.
This is considered to be discriminatory by Crewe Alexandra Supporters` Initiative.
Given that the Taylor Report stated quite clearly that standing areas could be made perfectly safe and sets out ways in which it could be done.
Does your party believe that his policy should be scrapped?
Does your party believe that standing accommodation should be re-introduced at stadia that host football matches in the top tiers of English Football (as in Germany for example)?
If your party does not believe that this policy should be scrapped, will your party extend the policy to cover other sporting events and avoid this discrimination towards football?
ET - As a football fan who remembers standing on the terraces as a young boy, I can appreciate the annoyance felt by many football fans, not least at Crewe Alex, at the apparent 'one rule for them, one rule for us` policy situation.
I do also recall quite vividly the football tragedies of the 1980s that led to the Taylor report. Although my party has no immediate plans to scrap or extend the following policy, it is an issue that I am willing to raise with our Culture, Media and Sport team should I be in a position to do so.
DW - There is absolutely no doubt that there had to be fundamental changes to safety standards within stadia after Hillsborough and other disasters. We can never let them happen again. There have been a whole range of improvements to fans' safety which I very much welcome. We will have cause to remember the progress that has been made when Bradford visit the Alex for the last game of the season close to the 25th anniversary of their disaster.
I believe it was right to impose all-seater stadia in the first instance. However I do now think that it is time to allow standing areas. Being an Alex fan I still get the occasional opportunity to stand at games, eg Macclesfield away and I do not believe it poses a great danger to fans. I have also attended the Warrington Wolves Rugby League Stadium, which I understand was first new stadium to be built with standing areas after Taylor. They have one side and one end for standing and I thought it worked extremely well, despite the constant announcements to keep the gangways clear which was a little annoying.
Therefore I support the re-introduction of standing areas in football grounds. I am particularly keen on this happening in stands behind the goal because I think it helps spectators see action taking place at the other end of the pitch. One final point, we couldn't simply rip out the seats and allow supporters to stand in their place, the steps are too high and it would be dangerous, so there would need to be some considerable re-design and I'm not sure many clubs would see that as a spending priority.
RW - Sun, 14 Sep 2008
The Liberal Democrat Autumn conference today backed proposals to change regulations that currently prevent football stadiums from providing 'safe-standing' areas that meet stringent safety requirements.
The proposals recognize and seek to remedy safety problems that exist in all seater stadiums where, despite regulations, large numbers of fans regularly stand in areas designed for sitting only.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Don Foster said:
'This is a sensitive issue. But we cannot ignore the large numbers of fans who want to stand, and are doing so in seating areas, despite the existing regulations and the danger it causes.
'Given the seeming impossibility of policing existing regulations and recognizing that some passionate fans want to be able to jump up and down when watching their teams each week then we need to look at ways that allow them to do that safely.
'Football has taken enormous steps forward in recent years with more diverse fans, improved stadium designs and better policing. These proposals would in no way seek to undermine any of that progress and would only allow future ground developments that meet the most stringent safety requirements.
'But if some fans want to stand and clubs want to let them, then we should at least explore safe ways of achieving it.'
JC - As long as the safety of fans can be guaranteed then I would be perfectly happy to support the introduction of standing areas in football stadia.
MP - Quite simply, there has to be a Health & Safety Guideline recognition for the protection of the public whilst on a football club`s premises, and to meet insurance clauses etc.
Having said that, it is possible that such safe standards can be met without 'forcing` spectators to be seated. In fact it can be argued that, for emergency procedure evacuation, it is quicker and easier if there are open areas and not seats in every area (the Bradford fire might have been an example of this).
At the end of the day, I believe 'the Terraces` are a vital part of the football ground`s atmosphere and I would urge preservation and protection of what I see as a football crowd`s right to be able to enjoy a match the way many traditionalists would prefer to.
3. Consumption of Alcohol at Football Matches -
ASi - The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) Act 1985 makes an offence of trying to enter a football ground whilst drunk or in possession of alcohol; of possessing or consuming alcohol within view of the pitch during the period of the match; or being drunk during the period of the match. The same Act also prohibits the possession of alcohol on the way to matches on football special coaches and trains and makes it an offence to be drunk on them.
This legislation only applies to designated football matches - it does not apply to other sporting events e.g. horse racing, rugby union, boxing, darts etc where the consumption of alcohol can take place within full view of the pitch/arena during the period of the event.
This is considered to be discriminatory by Crewe Alexandra Supporters` Initiative.
Does your party believe that this legislation should be scrapped?
If your party does not believe that this legislation should be scrapped, will your party extend the legislation to cover other sporting events and avoid this discrimination towards football?
ET - I am not aware of any concrete plans to scrap the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985, but am willing to raise this matter as well with our Culture, Media and Sports team.
DW - I do believe that the law relating to the consumption of alcohol within view of the pitch should be scrapped. I have been in a situation at Wigan's ground and Edgely Park watching a rugby game and able to have a pint; then a few weeks later being there with the Alex when that would be illegal. It is an illogical law that does not contribute to fan safety, but encourages binge drinking as some fans race to consume as much as they can before the game and at half-time.
I do however support the ban on bringing your own alcohol and I support the requirement on the club that an individual is not drunk whilst at the ground. A football stadium is a licensed premises and should behave in the same way as a pub. We would not expect to be able to bring our own booze into a pub and there is a requirement on landlords to ensure that customers drink responsibly.
RW - The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) Act 1985 makes an offence of trying to enter a football ground whilst drunk or in possession of alcohol; of possessing or consuming alcohol within view of the pitch during the period of the match; or being drunk during the period of the match. This seems eminently sensible.
The same Act also prohibits the possession of alcohol on the way to matches on football special coaches and trains and makes it an offence to be drunk on them. This seems unreasonable as fans travelling by ordinary train or car etc are not covered.
This legislation only applies to designated football matches - it does not apply to other sporting events e.g. horse racing, rugby union, boxing, darts etc where the consumption of alcohol can take place within full view of the pitch/arena during the period of the event. Darts - where fans sit around tables in a club - and horse racing - where the area spectators occupy can be very large - would seem to be in a different category but the Act should apply to rugby and similar events in a stadium.
JC - Personally I think that the alcohol should not be allowed inside football stadia during a match. Introducing alcohol to football matches may lead to an increase in hooliganism and related violence. The safety of fans and players is paramount and I think that the introduction of alcohol would expose players and fans at unnecessary risk. I would suggest the restrictions on alcohol be extended to cover rugby matches as strong team rivalries can often lead to disorder.
MP - Arguably this could go hand in glove with question 2. The alcohol law is there for the protection of the public. Unfortunately, however discriminatory this statement may seem, other sports do not suffer the percentage (however small) of alcohol related incidents that football does.
Personally, I believe that consumption of alcohol should only ever be allowed on licensed premises and there should be a return to no drinking of alcohol in the streets etc…total. Under this rule, sporting venues could then determine for themselves whether or not they wish to be licensed. This rule would apply to ALL sporting events.
4. Away Supporters Travel -
ASi - There have been occasions when the police have used The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, section 27, to prevent away supporters arriving at the ground (most notably in November 2008 when Greater Manchester Police used this legislation to prevent a group of Stoke City supporters travelling onto the match in Manchester). The relevant section states that 'a constable in uniform may give a direction to an individual aged 16 or over to leave the locality of that place and prohibit the individual from returning to that location within a specified period … if the presence of the individual … is likely …to contribute to the occurrence of alcohol-related crime or disorder … and that the giving of a direction … is necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of there being such a crime or disorder…`
This has allowed the police to use this legislation to prevent supporters who have no criminal record or a ban an attending football matches from arriving at a game purely because an officer believes that an offence may be caused.
Does your party consider that the use of this legislation in preventing supporters from attending matches to be excessive?
ET - Again I am not aware of any concrete plans to re-examine this specific use of section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006.
Unfortunately alcohol related crime and violence are a reality of modern life and police need the powers to take preventative action when they deem it appropriate for the safety of the public.
I will also question our Home Affairs team further on the issue.
Of course, if re-elected as MP for Crewe and Nantwich I would be more than happy to investigate with local police any incidences when constituents may be prevented from attending an away game.
DW - I support the actions of the police to make football an enjoyable day out for the whole family. My son has a season ticket for the Alex and I want reassurance that he will be safe when coming to the game with me. I am absolutely confident that is the case and we have been to many home and away games together. I do not want the very dark days of the 1980s to return to English football. We know there are still a very small minority of people (I refuse to use the word fans) who attend football matches to participate in organised fights. We also know that these people use sophisticated methods attempting to circumvent the policing of stadia through a variety of means. Therefore I think it is right for the police to be able to take the action they deem necessary to be prevent problems occurring. However there is a balance to be struck and it would be wrong for the police to be heavy-handed and impose sanctions on genuine fans who love their team and the game of football. So the police must be accountable for their actions and a would encourage a dialogue with supporters' associations. I also want the clubs to be tough on offenders.
RW - The relevant section states that 'a constable in uniform may give a direction to an individual aged 16 or over to leave the locality of that place and prohibit the individual from returning to that location within a specified period … if the presence of the individual … is likely …to contribute to the occurrence of alcohol-related crime or disorder … and that the giving of a direction … is necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of there being such a crime or disorder…
The Act, as you have quoted above, seems to me to be a reasonable power for the police to have. If it is a reasonable Act, fans or others near a football ground cannot be exempt. But the police undoubtedly use some powers in a way that was never intended and Lib Dems do have policies to bring police forces under better democratic control so that they need to be more accountable to the communities they serve.
JC - All football supporters with valid tickets should be able to attend the relevant match. However fans with previous convictions for violence and disorder at previous games should not be allowed if it is considered by a police officer that they may commit an offence.
MP - I believe that incidents such as this would be less likely to happen if supporters did not arrive en masse and were more relaxed and leisurely in their approach to the grounds (but we do not live in a Utopia). It is very often the perceived threat of a large chanting crowd that encourages the police to look for what appear to be key leaders and figures in these crowds and, as we know, innocent individuals can get wrongfully identified.
The police have to put the safety of the public first and (being only human) they sometimes get it wrong. I would not want to see the police abusing the powers they have, but at the same time, it is not workable to ask for their presence and then expect them to operate within what could be all-too-restrictive guidelines if we are not careful.
I would, however, seek a review, especially on such things as 'kettling`.
5. Do you support any particular football club?
ET - From the age of 5 my dad used to take me to most home games at Maine Road. When Manchester City were playing away, we would go to watch another local team, such as Chester City, Northwich Victoria and, yes, Crewe Alexandra. I remember watching Crewe beat City on my birthday (Boxing Day) 1-0 at Gresty Road. A day of mixed emotions!
DW - I am a long-time Alex season ticket holder and so is my son (although he thinks he's a Man Utd fan).
RW - Tranmere Rovers
JC - I support Manchester United
MP - I am a Chelsea Supporter.
6. How often do you attend matches (home and away)?
ET - Before becoming MP for Crewe and Nantwich I used to go to a game about once a fortnight. Now it is more difficult, but this season I have watched around a dozen games at Crewe, Nantwich, Manchester City and, as a favour to a friend, even Southend United.
To compensate, I seem to have played more than I used to, even scoring against a West Brom Legends team- admittedly one of the very few goals I have ever scored.
DW - I attend all home games and some nearby away games (unfortunately less this season because of campaigning activities).
RW - I have a season ticket and 'never` miss a home match but only travel to local away games - so I`ll probably be following them to Alex next season!
JC - I rarely have the opportunity to attend games unless Manchester United happens to be playing Crewe Alexandra.
MP - I tend to be more of an 'armchair supporter`, but I used to watch my local 'League Side` (Crewe Alex) quite a lot when I was younger.
7. How do you think that England will perform in the 2010 World Cup?
ET - The group stage shouldn`t cause too many problems, and the conditions may suit us more than usual. Rooney`s fitness is key to us progressing deep into the tournament, but I worry about the goalkeeping dilemma and our propensity to let in soft goals. Capello has worked wonders and deserves to do well. Heart says finalists, head says quarters.
DW - I think we could have won the world cup this year if Dean Ashton had not tragically been forced to retire so early in his career. So my prediction is that we'll either win it or go out heroically on penalties to Germany or Argentina in the semi-final (as ever) with John Terry being the villain who misses (just to add to his woes).
RW - They will probably reach the last 8 but are certainly not as good as Brazil or Spain.
JC - I hate to be pessimistic but I don`t hold much hope out for the England team at the 2010 World Cup. I hope we do well however I don`t think we have a strong enough team to progress past the quarter finals.
MP - It largely depends on the line-up they choose, but I think they might struggle, especially with the environment and the heat. Maybe they might make the quarters, but it would surprise me if they went further - sorry !!!
Crewe ASi would like to thank, Edward Timpson (Con), David Williams (Lab), Roy Wood (Lib Dem), James Clutton (Ukip) and Mike Parsons (Ind), for their time in answering the above questions.