The following article was published by LabourList on 23rd March 2013.
For Football, For Labour – Labour Friends of Football
At a time of economic difficulty, football stands out as an industry that seems, at face value, to be doing remarkably well.
As living standards are squeezed for the many, player pay continues to rise at a staggering rate for the few, with ticket prices increasing at a similar rate.
Football clubs paradoxically operate as the playthings of wealthy owners, whilst serving a social purpose in local communities up and down the country.
There is an ever increasing disconnect between football and the real world.
The disconnect is one of the reasons that we launched Labour Friends of Football, last Tuesday in the House of Commons.
Over the coming weeks, months and years, Labour Friends of Football will serve two purposes.
The first purpose is social. Labour Friends of Football will organise a number of social events around football.
In the first instance we are looking to organise a range of five-a-side football tournaments between Constituency Labour Parties and the wider Labour, Co-operative Party, unions and affiliates family to provide Labour members and supporters with activities to complement the staggering campaigning work they do all year round.
These events have the potential to strengthen relationships within and between the Labour family, with the ultimate purpose of contributing to the team spirit we need to win the next election.
The second purpose is policy-based. In the run-up to the general election, Labour Friends of Football will be working to secure a big and bold Labour Football Policy for 2015. As Andy Burnham MP, a founder of Supporters Direct, said at our launch we only want to be involved in Labour Friends of Football if it is going to be radical. The football establishment and vested interests appear to have closed ranks. We are pleased to have the support of the Labour Party, Mr Burnham and other current and former sports ministers and shadow ministers.
The nature of that support and the policy development will be debated over the coming months and that process started on Tuesday. We will be organising more debates and social events across the UK and in Europe.
At our launch, a number of issues were raised that will be up for debate. Fan ownership, club licensing, ticket pricing, player pay, stadium accommodation and the future of the FA were among the topics raised. No doubt these will continue to arouse passion as we attempt to shape Labour’s Football Policy.
We already have over 800 followers on Twitter, numerous email enquiries, offers from passionate volunteers, and over 60 key participants on Tuesday, drawn from the FA, Premier League, Supporters Direct, Football Supporters Federation, Members of Parliament, local councillors, supporters trusts, and Labour Party members.
If you are interested in joining them, we have a number of activities planned and we want as many Labour Party members as possible involved.
Football is a game that should be for the many and not the few.
Oliver Deed and Councillor Andrew Pope
Founders, Labour Friends of Football – For Football, For Labour