Election manifestos: What’s in them for sport?

UK political party logos

The 2015 General Election is now only weeks away. You’ll already be aware of this unless you’ve been living somewhere only Paul Gascoigne can reach you, with some chicken and a fishing rod.

In the aim to show that politics infiltrates all aspects of our lives I thought I’d check out what the next government pledges to do for sport and in particular for football and its fans.

I’ve read the party manifestos so you don’t have to (although I urge people to even if it’s just to point and laugh at some of the projected costings/savings), and here are the summaries.

Conservative Manifesto 

We will build on our Olympic and Paralympic legacy – We want our sportsmen and women to win even more medals in Rio 2016 than they did in London 2012. So we will continue to support elite sports funding as part of our Olympic and Paralympic legacy.

Summary: UK Sport has, under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, withdrawn funding for a number of sports prior to the Rio Olympics in 2016; Basketball, synchronised swimming, water polo, weightlifting, Paralympic wheelchair fencing, Paralympic goalball and Paralympic football. The money will be put into sports where there is a significantly better chance of winning a medal. This redistribution shows it is definitely the winning and not just the taking part that matters in the legacy when it comes to funding sports.

We will deliver the Rugby World Cup 2015, the World Athletics Championship in 2017, IPC World Championships in 2017 and the Cricket World Cup in 2019, maximising the opportunities for tourism and jobs.

Summary: The first thing that sprang to mind was ‘well you’d better bloody had deliver them as you’ve now committed to hosting them.’

We will support new sports in the UK, in particular through greater links with the US National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, with the ultimate ambition of new franchises being based here.

Summary: This is an interesting one and could have an impact on franchises making their way in football. The Conservatives are keen to foster links between American based sports to bring new franchises to the UK. Amateur British Basketball may feel hard done to when the professional game is being wooed whilst their funding has been taken away. This could open the door to Red Bull Leeds or the Liverpool Red Sox becoming a distinct possibility under a Conservative government.

We will improve the quality of Community Sports facilities, working with local authorities, the Football Association and the Premier League to fund investment in artificial pitches in more than 30 cities across England.

Summary: Part of the £1bn promised by the Premier League from the colossal TV rights deal has been promised to grassroots football, although the exact figure is a bit grey and misty. This £1bn also covers parachute payments from the Premier League and money for the Football League and Conference. Sporting facilities may not be high on local authorities priorities as under a ConDem coalition they are struggling to provide even basic frontline services. The Football Association and Football Foundation have already been working on increasing the amount of artificial pitches so this pledge appears just to piggyback onto deals already done.

We will lift the number of women on national sports governing bodies to at least 25 per cent by 2017, and to seek to increase participation in sport by women and girls.

Summary: The Conservatives are the only party, other than the Green Party, to discuss women in sport in their manifesto. No figures have been placed on the increased participation in sport, I think it’s a fairly likely prospect as the Olympics and Paralympics usually create a surge in participation. As for all governing bodies having 25% female representation, this seems like an achievable and necessary aim.

Labour Manifesto

Football clubs are an important part of many people’s identity and sense of belonging. They are more than just businesses. But despite their importance in the lives of their members and supporters, too often there are no effective means for fans to have their say in how their clubs are run. Labour will provide the means for supporters to be a genuine part of their clubs. We will introduce legislation to enable accredited supporters trusts to appoint and remove at least two directors of a football club and to purchase shares when the club changes hands. We will also review the role of fan participation in other sports.

We will ensure the Premier League delivers on its promise to invest five per cent of its domestic and international television rights income into funding grassroots.

Summary: Labour has concentrated on football rather than sport in general in their manifesto and there isn’t a great deal more about sport in there. The focus on football could a limp handshake to its perceived core voters. Labour are the only party who have put in a definitive plan of how fan ownership could be legislated.

First supporters trusts will need to be accredited, which will require a new process. Some clubs have multiple supporters trusts so this may take some negotiation. Secondly, removing and appointing directors could be a motivational factor for the fans as it will potentially give them a voice on the board. Choosing the right people to be elected and deselected is important and not all fans will agree who those people should be. Also it’s not always the directors that are the issue, it’s the owners.

Being able to purchase shares in the club when and if it changes hands is also a balancing act. I remember the disparate shares that Sheffield Wednesday fans owned which made it difficult for an overall buyer to come in and own the club outright. It took a long time to attract someone who was interested and in that time The Owls got further into debt. However if the shares are bought by the supporters trust then this is a step towards fan ownership of the club.

Like the Conservatives, Labour also pledges to ensure the Premier League stick to their promise of sharing the TV rights money.

Liberal Democrats Manifesto

We will require the Sports Ground Safety Authority to prepare guidance under which domestic football clubs, working with their supporters, may introduce safe standing areas.

Summary: This is a pledge that will bring a smile to the Football Supporters Federation and it’s followers. The LibDems are the only party to pledge to start the ball rolling about bringing back safe standing. This would only be research but it would provide evidence for making a decision in the future.

We will promote evidence-based ‘social prescribing’ of sport, arts and other activity to help tackle obesity, mental health problems and other health conditions.

Summary: Take two Impressionist exhibitions a year, a tantric yoga class every fortnight and BBC4 three times a day. That’s what ‘social prescribing’ means right? Despite the name the aim is a step in the right direction towards prevention of health problems and an increased burden on the NHS. Using sport and culture to do this is a logical, if under used, resource.

To promote equality in relationships and for LGBT+ individuals, we will enhance the experience of all football fans by making homophobic chanting a criminal offence, like racist chanting.

Summary: It’s a pretty clear pledge and a worthy one.

We will give football fans a greater say in how their clubs are run by encouraging the reform of football governance rules to promote engagement between clubs and supporters.

Summary: This pledge is woollier than Labour’s and doesn’t address how the Lib Dems will achieve this. Gives them a get out clause if this isn’t achieved during their time in government though doesn’t it?

UK Independence Party (UKIP) Manifesto

Cutting the cost of Westminster – Abolishing government departments when their essential powers and functions can be merged into other departments. Such departments will include the Department for Energy and Climate Change, The Department for International Development, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Summary: This is where we step into the fringes of political thought. There are zero mentions of football or sport in the UKIP manifesto but if you want to smoke in a pub, fill your boots. UKIP are pledging to abolish the department that governs sport. The function would be moved into some other part of government but lord knows where. Any form of physical activity is also ignored unless it’s lifting a pint.

Green Party Manifesto

Support initiatives to make the arts and sports accessible to all. Set targets for participation in sports by women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in particular.

Summary: There are minimal mentions of sport in the Greens manifesto. There is a sizeable section about banning animal cruelty sports as you would expect. The generic pledge is to increase participation in sport without any direct proposal of how this will be done.

All parties other than UKIP, have proposed a minimum amount of time dedicated to sport and physical activity in schools.

So there we go. You’re not going to vote for these parties purely on what they can do for you and your football club but it gives you an idea of what sport has in store for the next five years.

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