Monday 14th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Westminster Hall
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John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab) [V]
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Ms Elliott, you have a succession of Liverpool supporters, I am afraid. I am a member of the Spirit of Shankly supporters club. We are currently in discussions with the club about the role that supporters will play. I can say to my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) that I was at Wembley when the Crazy Gang beat us—I am still trying to work out how, to be honest. I am also a season ticket holder at my local club, Hayes & Yeading United. We are the club that discovered Les Ferdinand, Cyrille Regis and Jason Roberts. It is the sort of club that contributes so much, even though it is not in the league itself.

Fans have now made it absolutely clear that they want immediate safeguards for supporters to be able to protect the best interests of their clubs. That is why I support the idea of legislation that requires every English club to secure the support of a 51% majority of its registered season ticket holders for any major decision that fundamentally affects its identity or future—for instance, the competitions in which it plays or any change of home ground, name, club colours or badge.

Fans also need longer-term control, and we need to adopt the German 50+1 rule on supporter ownership of clubs. How do we get there? It is simple: where club shares are being sold, either by shareholders or through new share issues, legislation should require vendors to make shares available on a first-refusal basis to recognised, democratically controlled supporters clubs. This rule would apply until the trust owned 51% of the club shares.

While we are talking about football, let me throw in one other issue. I make a plea to include in legislation control of the sporting “crown jewels”, so that at least 20 Premier League games a season, equally split among the clubs, are shown on free-to-view channels, allowing fans to enjoy at least 2 of their club’s matches every season. That would give a fairer distribution of access to football on television.

I support the overall campaign for a new regulator. The regulator could be responsible for the approval of takeovers, the application of a strengthened fit-and-proper person test process, the oversight of a club licensing scheme to ensure high standards of governance, and the management of a system of redistribution of club revenues to ensure the health of football at every level of the pyramid. Most of those policy proposals were developed by us and were in Labour’s 2019 manifesto, but it would be gloating to refer to that.