Monday 14th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Claudia Webbe Portrait Claudia Webbe (Leicester East) (Ind) [V]
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott. I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) on securing this hugely important debate.

Like football fans up and down the country, I strongly opposed the European super league proposition—not only because it contravened basic sporting principles of integrity and competition, but because it was driven entirely by the greed of a few wealthy clubs. Ultimately, sport and culture should be for everyone, not just for millionaire owners and investors to make a profit. I congratulate all football fans who made their voices heard and forced the big six into an embarrassing U-turn. That showed how sport can bring our communities together, and it was a reminder that the ultra-rich owners are merely temporary custodians of the teams that were created by working people.

Despite the increasing commercialisation of the game, football clubs—nearly all of which were forged from working-class communities—continue to provide a strong sense of belonging and civic pride to so many people in Leicester and across the UK. I support all proposals to increase fan ownership of clubs, including the 50+1 model that is successfully used in Germany to ensure that fans have majority voting rights. That can shift the balance of power away from rampant profit-seeking and back towards fan accessibility and affordability, and help to ensure that nothing like the ESL fiasco ever happens again. To that end, I fully support introducing an independent football regulator to prevent the ultra-rich owners of elite clubs from using our game as their plaything.

I am a Leicester lass, and winning the FA cup for the first time in our 137-year history was a fantastic achievement that speaks to the excellent work done by everyone associated with Leicester City football club. This sustained success provides the perfect antidote to the greed and unfairness that define the recent European super league proposals. Leicester City provides the best example of why that is an unjust model, and is an excellent case study of the need to reform the game in favour of fans and communities.

Football can of course be an immense force for good, yet the sport has a deeply unhealthy side that is in need of regulation. The appalling racist abuse of footballers online and in stadiums remains endemic. It is shameful that the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet did not forcefully condemn the booing of England players by a small minority of so-called supporters. The Government’s tacit endorsement of such hatred gives oxygen to the far right. We must reform football in favour of the fans and the working-class communities that created the beautiful game. While we do so, we must eradicate all forms of hatred from the sport.