On Thursday 8 June 2017 the British people will go to the polls to determine who will lead their country for the next four years and who will (almost definitely) oversee the nation’s exit from the European Union. It’s been almost a year since Britain voted for Brexit (to be precise, on Thursday, it will have been 350 days) and in that time much has been written about the possible, probable or preposterous effects of Brexit on the UK’s sporting industry and economy and its various stakeholders.
Legitimate questions have been asked and are still (for the most part) unanswered. For example, will The FA or the Premier League be successful in lobbying the new government that footballers should be exempt from post-Brexit immigration controls (this author would unequivocally argue ‘yes’) and, further, can The FA and the Premier League agree on the scope and extent of those exemptions? Or, will the UK’s position as the self-proclaimed ‘Sporting Capital of Europe’ be at risk?
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, what are the proposed sporting policies of the main political parties vying for our vote on Thursday in respect of sport in the UK and how have they sought to qualm the industry’s fears? Interestingly, the party’s manifestos are vastly different both in breadth and in depth in this respect:
The Conservative Party
The Conservative Party manifesto sets out that, if re-elected, it will “[c]ontinue to support school sport, delivering on our commitment to double support for sports in primary schools” to £320m and “support a UK city in making a bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games”.
The Labour Party
The Labour Party manifesto sets out that, if elected, it will:
- “… give communities more power to shape their… sports clubs…;
- … legislate for accredited supporters trusts to be able to appoint and remove at least two club directors and to purchase shares when clubs change hand…s;
- … review fan participation in sports governance more widely…;
- … push local sports authorities to make rapid improvements on access to provision for fans with disabilities…;
- … ensure the Premier League delivers on its promise to invest 5 per cent of its television rights income into the grassroots game to help the next generation of players and coaches, and to improve facilities and pitches…; and
- … enforce anti-bot legislation and implement the recommendations of the Waterson Review to ensure fair opportunities for fans to buy tickets.”.
The Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats manifesto sets out that, if elected, it will:
- “Move towards introducing ‘safe standing’ at football clubs, requiring the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to prepare guidance for implementing this change…”; and
- … Protect sports and arts funding via the National Lottery”.
The Scottish National Party manifesto sets out that it will “… make the case for the Scottish Parliament to have the power to decide which sporting events in Scotland are included in the list of those that are free to view in Scotland…”.
The Green Party and UKIP
Neither the Green Party nor the UKIP manifesto appear to put forward any sport specific policies.
To this author’s mind, it is startling that none of the party’s manifestos address the issue of sporting immigration in the post-Brexit era. This is particularly so given that the Premier League, the UK’s greatest sporting export, stands to suffer greatly if this issue is not pro-actively addressed.
This Thursday is, of course, about much more than just sport. But it does no harm to remember that sport and politics are, irrespective of what some may argue, inextricably linked…