Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that his party will ensure that the Premier League will invest five per cent of the income it receives for broadcast rights into grassroots football and add women’s sporting events including the Fifa World Cup to the list of key events to be broadcast free-to-air, should it form a government in the UK.
Corbyn was speaking after recently holding a meeting with fans of Newcastle United who are campaigning against the Premier League club’s stewardship under owner Mike Ashley. He touched on multiple issues on how Labour would seek to empower fans and communities and review football governance, including aspects related to the media.
The Telegraph newspaper said the Premier League currently contributes just over £100m (€111.6m/$122.7m), or around 3.5 per cent of its broadcast revenue, annually to projects and facilities below the professional game, as well as a further £100m in solidarity payments to the English Football League.
It added that the current Conservative government and the Premier League have agreed on the contribution for the first season of the new broadcast rights cycle, spanning 2019-20 to 2021-22, adding that the figure for projects below the EFL increased beyond £100m in line with the League’s slight rise in global rights revenue.
However, this is still some way below the recommendations of the 1999 Football Task Force which had called for a minimum of five per cent of income directed primarily “primarily for investment in grass roots”. Corbyn’s pledge would increase the contribution to around £140m.
The so-called ‘crown jewels’ legislation governing sporting events reserved for broadcast on free-to-air television in the UK has been the subject of much debate in recent months. Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, last month reopened the discussion by stating that disabled and women’s sport deserve “equal recognition”.
Addressing the Royal Television Conference in her first major speech in the role, Morgan stated that while the government had no intention to undertake a full review, the Listed Events regime does need to be reviewed.
In June, Labour said it will look to revise the current legislation by adding more women’s sport and the Paralympic Games. In a speech to the British Screen Advisory Council, Tom Watson, Shadow Culture Secretary, said a Labour government will review the list and look to diversify the events included.
Corbyn has now added to these comments, also saying that a Labour government will legislate to give supporters trusts the power to appoint and remove at least two members of a club’s board of directors.
Labour would also seek to enable supporters trusts to purchase shares when clubs change hands and review all aspects of football governance, including fan participation. Corbyn said: “A football club is more than just a club, it is an institution at the heart of our communities. Clubs are part of the social fabric that binds us together.
“They are too important to be left in the hands of bad owners like Mike Ashley who put their business interests ahead of everything else, marginalise supporters and even put the financial security of clubs at risk.
“Sport must be run in the interests of those who participate in it, follow it and love it, not just for the privileged and wealthy few. We will ensure that supporters have a say over how their club is run and review how fans can have more of a say about how all of our sporting bodies are run.
“Under a Labour government the Premier League riches will be used to invest in grassroots football for the good of all our communities, fans will be protected from rip-off online ticket touts and staff who work at football clubs will get security and a living wage.”
In response to talk of a implementation of a five per cent levy on its broadcast revenue, a Premier League spokesman told The Telegraph that it would take its time to study the detail of the proposals and would “respond in due course and through the appropriate channels”.