England cricket legend Sir Ian Botham has warned about the impact of Covid-19 on sport and charities.
In his maiden Lords speech, Lord Botham said his whole life had revolved around sport, which had helped keep him focussed and fit.
“It’s no secret that I’m a passionate and strong-willed man who will fight for the causes close to my heart – be it sport, charity, countryside and the world we are now living.”
Speaking remotely by video link, Lord Botham said that as chair of Durham County Cricket club he had followed the way the pandemic had affected sports grounds and countless people.
He said the annual turnover of the club was down 35% and this had sadly led to job losses.
“We need to get these grounds open again to spectators in a controlled and safe manner.”
Lord Botham, an independent crossbench peer, urged the Government to provide 100% rate relief to community sports clubs to help them cope with coronavirus.
In his four-minute speech, he said cancer and other diseases could only be defeated by investing in research and warned Covid-19 had hit charities hard.
“The impact of this will not only be felt now but also threatens to slow progress achieved in research.”
Lord Botham said he hoped to use his time in the Lords to continue supporting charities and the “invaluable work they do”.
He added: “I am very much looking forward to contributing more in the House on the topics mentioned and other matters close to my heart.”
In August, Boris Johnson nominated 36 new peers in his dissolution honours list – including Lord Botham.
Lord Botham enjoyed a glittering cricket career, at one stage becoming England’s leading wicket-taker in tests, and is also known for his TV and charity work.
In his speech to peers, Lord Botham joked: “My whole life has revolved around sport – football, golf, fishing to name a few, and a bit of cricket.”
He added: “Sport has been more than a game to me. It has been my life. It’s given me life-structure, focus and kept me both physically and mentally fit.”
His speech came as peers debated non-domestic rating regulations, which were approved without a vote.
Tory former sports minister Lord Moynihan congratulated Lord Botham on his “powerful and impressive” start to a long career in the Lords and paid tribute to “one of the greatest cricketing all-rounders of all time”.
Lord Moynihan said his long-distance charity walks had given hope to “countless children, their families and friends”, adding: “It is clear from today’s speech that his time at the crease in this House will neither be wasted nor spent warming up.”
Housing, Communities and Local Government minister Lord Greenhalgh, wearing a Middlesex tie for the occasion, paid tribute to the “brilliance of Botham”.
The minister recalled his “moment of greatness” against the Australians at Headingley in the Ashes test of 1981 and his “swashbuckling talent.”
He said it was a pity that Lord Botham could not be in the House today but looked forward to fulfilling a “lifelong dream” of having a drink with him at Westminster when events allowed this to happen.