Women’s football ticket sales surpass men’s…but their pay is still lagging

Labour Party

Some 50,000 fans are expected to watch England Vs Germany at Wembley on 23 November. There is nothing either revolutionary or ground breaking about this, except that it is, because I didn’t mention it’s the England women’s football team. The record ticket sales (currently 45,000) are already more than the 40,081 who paid to watch the England men’s team last friendly against Norway in September.

Women’s football is now a serious sport, and this should be reflected not just in the pay, which is notoriously bad, but its players deserve far greater respect from the FA than is currently offered. Indeed if the Football Association wants to draw big crowds then it need not look any further than to the women’s team to bring in the fans.

It would also be helpful if the likes of Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, stopped making misogynistic comments concerning women’s attire in the game. For those who have forgotten what he said, Blatter suggested women players wear tighter shorts in order to promote a more ‘female aesthetic.’

“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” he said.

Despite these ridiculous comments, young women and girls are taking to the sport in their droves. It is now played by 250,000 females in England and it is the fourth most participated team sport after men’s football, rugby and cricket. It’s predicted (by the FA) that by 2018, at its current rate of growth it will be second in the table surpassing rugby and cricket.

Despite its popularity and its ability to fill Wembley Stadium, women footballers are still paid significantly less than a Premier League player’s weekly wage.

The game at Wembley this month will be an important milestone, and surely this will be the much needed wake-up call required to change how women in the sport are paid.

Football isn’t the only offender of course, but other sports (tennis for example) have addressed the issue and prize money for the Wimbledon tournament is now exactly the same as their male counterparts.

It’s simple. Nothing bad will happen if parity for women footballers is achieved. After all, they train just as hard and are rivalling their male counterparts in the numbers of crowds they can draw.

European Commission calls for reduction in football transfer fees

Labour Party

The measures agreed voluntarily by the Premier League last week will dramatically reduce transfer spending  by England’s top football clubs.  The last decade has seen some truly astronomical amounts of money going on transfers. I can only assume that the Premier League took pre-emptive action in the face of massive pressure, from both UEFA and the EU, to curb expenditure.

The European Commission has welcomed the reforms with Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner responsible for sport, stating:

“The Premier League’s decision to introduce new financial regulations in order to improve the financial sustainability of its clubs is definitely a move in the right direction. It follows the same principle as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play initiative and will secure long-term viability that can only benefit the league, the clubs, the fans and the game,”

The new rules, agreed in principle by the 20 clubs in the Premier League, mean that from next season Premier League clubs will not be allowed to make a total loss of more than £105 million over the next three seasons. Teams that break the rules could face a deduction in points.

The decision by the Premier League clubs was announced on the same day as the European Commission published a study calling for changes to international rules on transfer fees.

Football, clubs spend around €3 billion a year on player transfers, but very little of this money trickles down to smaller clubs or the amateur game, according to a European Commission study published today. The number of transfers in European football more than tripled in the period 1995-2011, while the amounts spent by clubs on transfer fees increased seven-fold. But most of the big spending is concentrated on a small number of clubs which have the largest revenues or are backed by very wealthy investors. The situation is only increasing the imbalances that exist between the haves and have-nots, as less than 2% of transfer fees filter down to smaller clubs and amateur sport which are essential for developing new talent. The level of redistribution of money in the game, which should compensate for the costs of training and educating young players, is insufficient to allow smaller clubs to develop and to break the strangle-hold that the biggest clubs continue to have on the sport’s competitions.

Transfer rules are set by the sport governing bodies – for example, FIFA for football and FIBA for basketball. FIFA’s online Transfer Matching System (TMS), which is used by 4 600 clubs worldwide, has increased transparency in international transfer operations but more needs to be done at national level. The report finds that the current system continues to mostly benefit the wealthiest clubs, superstar players and their agents.

It recommends that FIFA and national football associations’ rules should ensure stronger controls over financial transactions and for the introduction of a ‘fair-play levy’ on transfer fees, beyond an amount to be agreed by the sport’s governing bodies and clubs, to encourage a better redistribution of funds from rich to less wealthy clubs.

The report also calls for full implementation of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rule and stronger ‘solidarity mechanisms’ to enhance youth development and the protection of minors.

It’s Time to Take Action against Corruption in Sport

Labour Party

In a recent European Parliament Culture and Education Committee hearing, “Playing by the rules: financial fair play and the fight against corruption in sport”, MEPs and experts debated the growing levels of debt among sports clubs, recent corruption cases and possible remedies.

The experts unanimously agreed that the EU should take the lead in promoting transparency and stepping up the fight against corruption, match fixing and betting, which are now serious problems not just in Europe, but worldwide.

The unrivalled success of sport as a global entertainment industry has come at a high price. The old amateur structures have not been able to defend the best interests of sport against an invasion of people who use sport as a vehicle for fast, unethical and sometimes illegal business practices. The most high-profile scandal is undoubtedly the International Sports and Media Marketing (ISL) and FIFA case, but during this hearing there were many more examples from across the world of sport; from volleyball to cricket.

In his presentation Jens Sejer Andersen, International Director, Play the Game, and organisation that campaigns for good governance in sport, made some very interesting recommendations.  Here they are below:

1) It is your right and duty to protect tax-payers’ money. Sport is receiving massive public subsidies at all levels, from support to grass-root activities and local sports facilities, to investment in bidding campaigns for big events, grants to Olympic athletes, elite sport structures etc. Governments and other public authorities are entitled to set the necessary conditions to ensure not only that these grants are used exclusively for their purpose, but also that the beneficiaries live up to certain standards for democracy and transparency.

2) At the European level, you can uphold a permanent pressure on the European and international sports organisations, demanding that the ISL affair, the World Cup bribery allegations, the volleyball scandal and other major affairs are fully investigated, errors corrected and cases of possible criminal conduct taken to the courts.

3) You can define standards of governance for those sports organisations which seek formal cooperation with the European Union. Such work has already begun in the framework of the Expert Group of Good Governance in Sport established by the Council of Ministers, as well as in a number the Preparatory Actions financed by the Commission. One of these actions is run by Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies and entitled Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations, in cooperation with six European universities and the European Journalism Centre. We will present an open tool to measure standards of governance in sport in April, and we invite you to join the launch event.

I think that those would be good first steps towards making sport more accountable across the world.

FIFA: Bringing Sport into Disrepute

Labour Party

Sepp Blatter

It’s difficult to read about the current crisis in FIFA without a slight sense of schadenfreude.  Since England lost the chance to host the World Cup 2018 with an embarrassing two votes going to our bid, there has been a general mood of antipathy towards world football’s governing body.  The fact that the World Cup went to Russia, who have a rather questionable human rights record, limited press freedom and what some have described as a ‘mafia state’, made the loss all the more painful.  But that day FIFA managed the double whammy of bad decisions and awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country where there are many problems, one of the worst being homosexuality is illegal.  There was a sense that something ‘wasn’t right’ and it’s hard not to feel slightly vindicated by the current crop of accusations and recriminations carrying on in Zurich.

Self-regulation have always been the watch words when it comes to governance in sport, but perhaps the current situations shows that there is a space for legislators.  I’m not suggesting that the EU or any other supra-national governing body get involved in the allocation of World Cups, that sounds like too much of a headache, but there may be a need a for more scrutiny and more legislation.

The Lisbon Treaty means that the EU now has greater competence in sport and the Commission has handed down its first communication on the subject.  This communication looks at, among other things, doping, sports betting and player transfers.  These are areas where the sports organisations have little ability or willingness to intervene.  Sport affects the lives of so many across the EU, it is only right that we ensure that it’s held to the highest standards.  Otherwise organisations such as FIFA, with their huge amounts of money and power, can end up bringing sport into disrepute.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round Up

Labour Party

So what exactly did happen to Gordon Brown since he opened the door and walked out of Downing Street with Sarah and his two sons in May this year?

The Guardian interviewed him yesterday and while it wasn’t the most revealing interview – there were many things he just wouldn’t be drawn on – it did reveal he is a man of integrity. He has absolutely no desire to take on a big corporate role, or head of into the financial world as many thought he might, instead he is working diligently for his constituents,  doing the work you’d expect of any other back bench MP. 

Although it’s difficult to really weed out his true feelings from this interview he seems to have taken Labour’s defeat in his stride, but he does feel responsible nonetheless. The full interview, here, is worth a read even though it doesn’t reveal as much as I’d have liked, such as more about his next plans, how he moved on from the election in what must have undoubtedly been a painful period and if he’ll stay on in Westminster beyond the next election. Still the photographs show him to be relaxed and smiling from ear to ear, something we’ve not seen in  a long while.

I was troubled to read today about the effect closing NHS Direct will have on the country.  In a bid to save millions of pounds the Heath Minister is planning to replace the successful NHS Direct with a  cut price version ‘111’ which is manned by call centre staff. In today’s Sunday Mirror a senior nurse exposes the new system and threatens it will be a disaster.

The whistleblower nurse who had worked on a trial revealed that the cost cutting measures led to a culture of incompetence in which, the report alleges, unborn twins may have died because of advice given by 111, Call-takers with just 60 hours of training failed to spot the ­symptoms of life-threatening strokes and epileptic fits and that 111 call takers panicked and sent ambulance staff to non emergencies.

What on earth is the minister thinking allowing the good work and highly efficient and successful NHS direct be phased out and replaced by something which is at best incompetent and at worst out right irresponsible. There are some things which should not be messed about with and this is one of them. Aside from the obvious lack of training these call workers have there is a serious issue that untrained staff have access to millions of patients data.

Earlier in the week I wrote how Panorama exposed leading FIFA officials over allegations of bribery. Whether or not it scupperd our chances of securing the hosting of the 2018 World Cup is irrelevant. First it was right that the journalists exposed the wrong doing when they did. Second, if the allegations are true the body must work hard to restore the faith it has lost, and this, I fear, will take many many years to restore. One suggestion is higher regulation, which I am in favour of and which I made suggestions on in my blog which you can read here.

England is the best country to host the World Cup

Labour Party


I have been following with interest the recent Panorama investigation in to leading figures within FIFA and the allegations of bribery.  It seems uncertain now whether or not this story will impact our bid for the 2018 World Cup, I hope it doesn’t and Michel Platini doesn’t think it will, but we have to maintain the BBC’s right to journalistic independence and if the allegations are true then they should certainly be exposed.  I think it would be wonderful for England to host the World Cup, just as it is such a boon for London to host the 2012 Olympics, but we can’t suppress the reporting of corruption just for the sake of this opportunity.

FIFA is obviously a very powerful, supranational organisation that maintains a massive amount of independence from governments around the world.  This is probably for the best, but looking at this situation made me think of the work that bodies such as the EU can do in terms making sport fairer and more accountable.  Within the next month or two the commission will be releasing a communication on sport that will put forward a number of proposals that will hopefully go some way to dealing with some of the major issues facing sport in Europe.  The first of these is player’s agents, which is something that has marred the reputation of some sports (I’m thinking of football in particular here) in recent years.  Due to the many levels of authority that exist in the sport world at the local, national and international level, you can see why there is so much confusion in the regulations surrounding the representation of athletes.  I think what we have to bear in mind is that people usually enter sport at a very young age and they need to be protected.  Hopefully their families can offer them support, but sometimes this is not enough.  Agents must be held to account and I think they should be required to pass exams and gain licences, which could be revoked for misconduct.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a licensing system run by FIFA or UEFA, or other relevant sporting bodies, but for it to be effective it would have to be mandatory.

I hope that we can introduce some legislation that will properly protect professional athletes across Europe.  Sport is such an important part of all our lives, whether we are professional athletes, amateur enthusiasts or just keen observers, so I think we should be making sure that the sports men and women who we look up to and inspire us are properly protected and represented.  I am very much looking forward to the Commission communication on this and hope to work closely with them to see that we achieve the best result possible.