Liz Truss urged to act with Britain facing biggest loss of sports facilities in a generation4 min read
“My group are well aware of the wide range of challenges facing the new government,” Bernstein told The Telegraph. “However the reform and governance of football is an issue that commands considerable support across the nation. Accordingly we submitted a letter to both leadership candidates seeking reassurance there will be no back-tracking on current government policy.”
The government promised a white paper earlier this year followed by legislation to create English football’s first independent regulator.
Telegraph Sport understands Premier League clubs will meet this Friday to finalise details on their “New Deal for Football”. The league has yet to get a mandate to press ahead but clubs are broadly supportive of plans to eventually increase payments for the lower tiers in return for spending pledges on infrastructure rather than salary increases.
With a new prime minister in post, executives are also expecting to be updated on timescales for the government’s fan-led review
Grass-roots and public leisure crisis
Many grassroots sports clubs and leisure facilities were pushed to the brink by Covid and are again now left fearing for their future due to spiralling energy prices.
They are warning of widespread closures and an associated crisis in the country’s physical and mental health without targeted government support.
They also warn that any price increases for the millions of people who rely on fitness and leisure facilities will simply increase inactivity.
The Football Association also wants Truss to honour Boris Johnson’s pledge to provide £550 million to improve grass-roots facilities. There has been a huge spike in demand for women’s football following the final of Euro 2022, when more than 20 million people watched the Lionesses triumph at Wembley.
The biggest review of gambling laws since 2005 – and a potential ban on betting sponsors on football shirts – has been promised within government since 2019. Finalised proposals for reform were postponed for a fourth time in June amid the Conservative leadership turmoil. But 70 per cent of recipients to a Clean Up Gambling survey this week say the long-trailed White Paper for reform should now be brought forward.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of Clean Up Gambling, told Telegraph Sport: “The new Prime Minister has the chance to take immediate credit for a review spanning many years by announcing the oven ready Gambling White Paper, in full.”
New deals with betting firms were struck by Fulham and Everton recently so it is likely sponsors will be allowed to continue on sleeves in English football’s top tier. Carolyn Harris, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, told Telegraph Sport: “The gambling white paper is completely ready, having been through cabinet twice. It is critical that the incoming PM expedites this reforming white paper as a matter of urgency. It has taken far too long already.”
Truss will be urged to make tackling an inactivity crisis among children and young people a national priority.
The Telegraph revealed stark differences in the provision of sport between the private and state sector last week, with students from independent schools offered more opportunity to play sport and more likely to succeed at an elite level.
A parliamentary committee has recommended that the job of sports minister is elevated to a cabinet post and that PE is given core subject status in the national curriculum in the same way as maths, English and science due to its wider life-changing benefits.
Almost a third of children are currently deemed inactive and most parents do not even know that their children should be active for an average of an hour each day. The Youth Sports Trust wants Truss’s government to “halt the squeeze of PE” and ensure that schools deliver at least two hours a week. They are also calling for funding to help children from poorer backgrounds to access more after-school sport and make facilities increasingly available outside the usual school day.
Dementia in sport
It is now almost three years since the University of Glasgow clearly proved the link between football and dementia, with former players 3.5 times more likely to die of the disease.
The usual threshold for a disease to be recognised as an industrial injury is that a former participant is twice as likely to develop the illness than someone who did not work in the industry.
A parliamentary committee has since accused the Health and Safety Executive of a “dereliction of duty” for appearing to delegate risk management to independent sports governing bodies. “What is astounding is that when it comes to reducing the risks of brain injury, sport has been allowed to mark its own homework,” said Julian Knight, the chair of the DCMS committee.
The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council has been studying an application to categorise dementia in a football as an industrial for more than two years and is extending its investigations to include rugby union and boxing.