British football’s top 100 earners should consider donating a week’s wages to support community clubs across the country, MPs have heard.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said Labour MP Chris Evans had made “some good points” about voluntary donations from players, as the Tory frontbencher also encouraged all those in sport to “do the right thing and play their part”.
Mr Huddleston also said the Government is looking for the Premier League to “play its part”, particularly with the English Football League (EFL), while Government cash will be “focused on those that are desperately in need”.
Mr Evans, MP for Islwyn, had proposed the creation of a trust funded by high-earning footballers after pushing for the expansion of community ownership for sports clubs.
He told the Commons: “I wonder has the minister thought of more innovative ways of raising finance by creating some sort of community trust where we ask the top earning 100 footballers in this country – some are earning £350,000 a week, £500,000 a week – to just donate one week’s wages to a trust, which then can be distributed amongst struggling clubs to ensure communities can still enjoy their football.”
Mr Huddleston replied: “Both now and in the future, I encourage all stakeholders in sports to do the right thing and play their part, and he’s making some good points about voluntary donations as well as what we will be requiring and expecting from sport at various levels.
“He’s also highlighting some innovative models and business models which again I think should be looked at very, very carefully.”
Labour’s Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) suggested a levy on the TV rights income that Premier League clubs receive to support long-term investment in sport.
He said: “The financial vulnerability of all but elite clubs surely underlines the need for wholesale reform of football financing.
“So, isn’t it time therefore to impose a levy on the TV rights income that Premiership clubs receive to support long-term investment in sport in all our communities?”
Mr Huddleston replied: “We will be conducting the grassroots review of sports governance and that will include some financial considerations.”
The sports minister earlier said the Government is “working at speed” alongside sport governing bodies to understand what support they need as a result of the decision to postpone the return of supporters to venues.
He explained: “For football, we’re asking the Premier League to support EFL clubs, the higher end of the football pyramid.
“Yesterday, we also provided the National League with assurance that financial support from the Government will be forthcoming so they can start this season this Saturday.
“We have asked for detailed financial returns from all major spectator sports to see what support they need. We expect those returns by the end of today and any club in immediate financial distress should alert their sport’s governing body.”
Mr Huddleston praised sports clubs for hosting Covid-19 test centres, food deliveries and more, adding: “Sports clubs have had our backs during this pandemic, we will have theirs in return.”
Conservative former sports minister Tracey Crouch said “there are fires raging around the whole sector” as she pressed for more details on the National League support.
Mr Huddleston said: “I can’t give the details today… because we’re working on those details as I speak.”
He added: “We have had constructive conversations with the Premier League and the EFL, and I do have to say they do recognise their responsibility and we’ve had constructive discussions.”
Mr Huddleston also confirmed technologies are being looked at with the aim of potentially opening sport sooner than having a vaccine.
He said: “We will not pursue wasteful initiatives, we are very aware and conscious of making sure public money is spent very carefully, and I can assure her we have conversations with the Treasury about those very topics.”
Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, called for a new target date for getting crowds back at live sporting events.
He said: “As with the earlier theatre and cultural support package, it feels like a sticking plaster over a gaping wound.”