At AlongComeNorwich we believe politics and football do mix.
As such, we put a series of questions, including some submitted by you our readers, to those people seeking your vote on Thursday 8 June. Here are their answers...
At AlongComeNorwich we believe politics and football do mix.
Whether it is the change in the law required to legalise safestanding, the cost of tickets, or the threat of government control over the FA if they do not reform, politics plays a key role in shaping our national game.
With that in mind, as well as Brexit (which could affect who can and can’t play here), there are some ongoing footballing issues at stake on June 8th. So we asked the parties standing for election in Norwich, their position on the following questions and received answers from Clive Lewis (Labour), Chloe Smith (Conservative) and, a very honest, Richard Bearman (Green). The photo was also submitted by Clive.
Their answers are as given, unedited and offered without comment, for you to decide who deserves your vote.
What is your position on FA reforms?
Clive Lewis (Labour) - "As some of you will know the FA is slowly embarking on an attempt to reform itself under Greg Clarke but to me it still looks like too little, too late, with some mainly symbolic representation of women and BAME groups but no deeper change. It’s window dressing. For me the FA is still far too dominated by the needs and wishes of the Premier League and it’s a priority that has made our game ‘top heavy’ with far too little input and involvement from the lower leagues and of course the amateur and kids games. The base of the pyramid is where the future comes from, the great players, the supporters. Yet the EPL has the lowest proportion of home grown players of any league in Europe. No wonder the national team struggles. We need the FA to start governing for the whole game, not just the billionaires at the top."
Chloe Smith (Conservative) - "I want to see the FA modernise and hope it will meet what is being asked of it by fans, government, and the general public. I am encouraged that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, spoke to the FA following the recent allegations of corruption, and it confirmed it is working across football to investigate. More widely, UK Sport and Sport England recently launched its Code for Sports Governance. UK sports bodies and organisation that want to receive public funding have to adhere to this new Code to help ensure that the highest levels of ethical standards and leadership are present across sport in this country."
Richard Bearman (Green) - "I have absolutely no interest in Football whatsoever, neither watching nor playing, never having been to a match in my life and therefore as such I feel I am completely unqualified to comment on your questions.”
What can the government do to stop situations like those occurring at Leyton Orient, Blackpool, Charlton, Coventry etc happening again?
Clive Lewis (Labour) -"We have said that we will legislate for accredited supporters trusts to be able to appoint and remove at least two club directors and to purchase shares when clubs change hands. This should give fans a clear voice on the board and also give them access to much information that at present is kept secret. We will also review fan participation in sports governance more widely – because we understand that football clubs are a whole lot more than just businesses, they are deeply bound into our local communities."
Chloe Smith (Conservative) - "I think you're referring to fans' concerns at poor management. I hope you've seen this which the Conservative Government has recently published. I would always want to see a good club wanting to keep the confidence of its fans and I hope the measures in this report help encourage that."
What is your position on changing the law to make safestanding legal?
Clive Lewis (Labour) - "Allow it, of course. If it is possible for major European countries like Germany to have safe standing in their stadiums then there is absolutely no reason why it isn’t possible in the UK. In fact because so many of our football grounds are still in old sites that have never been big enough for decent capacities as all seated stadiums, it would be a major boost to the game here, not to mention the obvious boost in atmosphere. The suspicion has always been that mandatory seating was always less about the safety of fans and more about creating a sanitised ‘product’ with a chronic shortage of tickets and ticket prices to match. At the very least, clubs should be able to choose what they want, provided safety is ensured, why not?
Chloe Smith (Conservative) - "I know the Football Supporters Federation has been calling for the return of standing areas and I also know some NCFC fans who are in favour of this move. Fans know the tragic history of the debate, following Hillsborough. The Conservative Government remains of the view that all-seater stadiums are the best means to ensure the safety and security of fans, whilst providing comfortable facilities. This is a policy that is supported by the football authorities, the police and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. However, I've been reassured that a future Conservative Government will monitor the introduction of safe standing in Scotland closely, once evidence becomes available."
Would you like to introduce legislation to cap ticket prices and if so, how much?
Clive Lewis (Labour) - "I think everyone is starting to realise that pure free market doesn’t work in many parts of our lives and football’s a good example. Even the FA have understood this and are introducing a £30 cap for away supporters for the next 3 years. If we keep squeezing the maximum possible in the short term we are killing off the game for future generations, we know that the average age of a season ticket holder in the UK has been going up for two decades, at some point there’ll be no one coming through, then we’ll have killed the golden goose. When I was a kid growing up in Northampton you could go and watch them on the money you made from a paper round – who could do that now? If you can get a season ticket at Barcelona for just over £110 why is it going to be between 3 and 10 times that in the EPL? It’s not like our football’s any better than Barca’s, let’s be honest!"
Chloe Smith (Conservative) - "I am not convinced this is something that can reasonably be legislated for. If football, then surely calls follow for every other sport, and then surely for everything else that sells tickets for anything - it would be a very slippery slope. Ticket prices are a matter for clubs, and I certainly welcome the recent announcement by those in the Premier League to cap the price of away tickets to £30 for the next three seasons. I believe the sport minister has regular meetings with the football authorities, and continues to ask that all clubs keep under review ticket prices, as well as working on the ways mentioned above to ensure greater engagement in clubs by supporters. Surely no club really wants to price its loyal fans out."
How do you see Brexit affecting English football?
Clive Lewis (Labour) - "It could make things very messy and in the short term there’s going to be a lot of confusion. Right now, any player from an EU country is able to come here and play under EU Freedom of Movement. When that goes then it looks like we are under FIFA rules which are supposed to allow only top internationals to play abroad. According to the BBC that means over 330 players in the EPL during 2016-17 would not qualify for work permits here. This would disproportionately hit clubs like Norwich because we aren’t going to be signing the Christiano Ronaldos and Lionel Messis (at least not in the foreseeable future, but we can dream!) But of course we do buy great players like Klose. It’s not clear to me that he’d qualify for a work permit under Brexit – only 23 out of 180 EU players in the Championship last year would qualify. I’m extremely worried by the way Theresa May has set about negotiating Brexit – she is winging it on the back of policies decided by focus groups in marginal constituencies; she needs to be laying out the truth to the British people not playing to the tabloids to win a couple of marginal seats in the Midlands."
Chloe Smith (Conservative) - "I don't think there is any particular impact that is unique to football. Obviously, more generally, to get a good Brexit deal is one the biggest challenges of our times and I hope that your readers will consider really carefully what leadership they want to see us through Brexit and beyond."
Finally are you a Norwich fan and what were your first and favourite Carrow Road memories?
Clive Lewis (Labour) - "Yes, I support Norwich. I've got a season ticket in the Barclay but don't get to go as much as I'd like. Fridays and Saturdays are the only full days when I'm able to be back in constituency. So many of my afternoons in Norwich are spent doing community visits and advice surgeries. This isn't really a Carrow Road memory but it's an unforgettable one nevertheless - going to the play off final in 2015. The final came not long after the last General Election when I got elected as an MP for the first time but Labour lost the election as a whole.. As ever here, in my constituency of Norwich South, while the country went blue*, we proudly did differently and elected a new Labour MP (me!). The match aside, it was truly humbling to look at the 40k Norwich fans at Wembley with me and realise so many had put their trust in me a couple of weeks earlier. And there I was standing shoulder to shoulder with them willing City to win.
* not a great colour - either for a football team or a political party ;-)"
Chloe Smith (Conservative) - "Of course I am! My earliest Canaries memories are from growing up in West Norfolk with an older brother who was a huge fan, and to this day still is - all the way over in New York. I was trying my best to play football then too but sadly did find it hard to break in as a girl at primary school. More recently, sorry to say, I went to Carrow Road a few days after being elected for the first time, only to see us lose so heavily to Colchester that summer of 2009. Coming up to date I'll add something that will be big for Carrow Road although it's not football - I've got tickets for Take That in June which, after the terrible tragedy in Manchester, I hope will show that concerts can still be positive and special for the community around a great stadium venue."