MPs have debated a petition to allow football fans to return to matches.
The petition had over 200,000 signatures, with fans from across the country voicing their opinion that they should be allowed back into stadiums for matches.
The petition was moved by the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent North, Jonathan Gullis yesterday (Monday, November 9), with a minister from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in attendance from the government.
Mr Gullis opened the debate by saying this is not about fans being back in the stands before lockdown ends, but as quickly as possible as life returns to normal.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the English game teeters on the brink of catastrophe. Away from the glitz and glamour of the premier league, the stark reality is that many EFL clubs find themselves in a financially unsustainable position,” said Mr Gullis.
“The survival of many EFL clubs depends on the oxygen of matchday revenue. The very least we could do is give them a fighting chance by allowing spectators, albeit a reduced number of them, back inside football stadiums.”
“For Port Vale football club, that would mean 4,000 fans in a stadium that can accommodate 20,000; this is eminently achievable in a safe manner.”
During the debate, Mr Gullis also praised Port Vale owner and chair Carol Shanahan OBE for converting the club into a community hub during the pandemic.
“Club staff became volunteers and a massive team effort, in conjunction with local children’s charity the Hubb Foundation, saw Port Vale community hub deliver more than 170,000 meals to families in need across Stoke-on-Trent. That work, I am proud to say, continues to this day as the second lockdown bites.”
Neighboring Member of Parliament for Staffordshire Moorlands, Karen Bradley, asked the government to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ solution to allow fans back into stands.
“I have referred before to my community club, Leek Town, which is a step four club, so has been able to have spectators. It is unable to play any matches at the moment because of lockdown, and it fully accepts and appreciates that, but could I repeat this question to the Minister? When we do get out of lockdown, can we not have a one-size-fits-all answer to this?”
Dr Kieran Mullan MP, representing Crewe and Nantwich joined Mr Gullis in the debate. Dr Mullan highlighted that clubs might have to close if fans are not allowed back into the stands soon, “While fans are not present at matches, the financial uncertainty for clubs is huge. Matchday revenue is vital to local clubs up and down the country—without it, the future of clubs looks uncertain.”
Nigel Huddleston MP, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport responded on behalf of the government to the petition moved by Mr Gullis.
“We are in vehement agreement that we want to make sure that fans get back into stadiums as soon as possible. We want to get fans back as soon as it is safe. That is absolutely the government’s goal.”