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.

Culture and Education Committee to Tackle Agents in Sport

Labour Party

Since the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has been given extra powers in the area of sport, with the Culture and Education Committee taking the lead.  So, yesterday in a meeting of the coordinators from each political group we decided that we should table an oral question with a debate about one of the more important issues facing sport today; the issue of players’ agents.

We’ve all seen the attention grabbing headlines about the likes of Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney’s former agent, but the problems surrounding this issue aren’t limited to the U.K. or even football.  In 2007 the European Commission issued a white paper on sport that, amongst other things, discussed the problems of player’s agents.  It said that there have been numerous reports of bad practices including corruption, money laundering and the trafficking of under-age players.  Not only is this damaging for the individuals involved but also the profile of sport generally.

Unfortunately not much has happened since then, so I think it is a good move on the part of the Culture Committee to try and put this matter back on the table.  The is a Europe wide issue, with players from various sports moving between countries and sometimes continents and at the moment the laws surrounding player representation is patchy across member states.  Perhaps we can look in to a pan-European licensing system for agents and/or an agent’s register to help clean up this rather murky world.  This is not to say that all agents are corrupt, but EU legislation could help by recognising good agents and stopping bad ones.  I look forward to a lively discussionin the European  Parliament and I hope we can find a workable solution.