Womens’s football

Labour Party

Most footballers can only ever dream of scoring the winning goal against Brazil at Wembley and certainly not at an Olympic Games.

However, this is precisely what England’s Women’s Player of the Year did – almost certainly to the envy of many of her male counterparts.

It was some achievement for the twenty-four year old Steph Houghton who subsequently became the poster girl of English women’s football when she was awarded Women’s Player of the Year earlier this month.

Despite this accolade she earns less in a year than Wayne Rooney earns in a day. The annual salary for a top female player is £20,000 per year. Wages for women footballers are so low they are permitted to take on a second job of up to 24 hours a week. Wayne Rooney earns £26,000 a day. Can you imagine the response if one of Alex Ferguson’s star players turned up late for training because he’d finished his second job late? No, neither can I. The disparity in footballers’ wages is quite shocking – I understand that premier league football generates significant revenue through sponsorship but I also find it depressing that a male footballer at the top of his game earns in a day what a top female footballer will earn in a year.

I’ve said before that a significant part of the Olympic legacy must be to encourage more women to participate and compete in sport. And women such as Steph Houghton have become an important champion to make this happen.

The Football Association still has a significant amount of work to do in this area; while it celebrates its 150th anniversary, it only started to run women’s football 20 years ago.

However, there is hope that the FA is beginning to take women’s football more seriously – it has committed to invest £3.5 million over the next four years with the aim to make the women’s game the second largest team sport by 2018 (overtaking men’s rugby and cricket).

It is only if other sports make similar commitments that we will see a generation of capable women smashing new records.

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.