Community Sports: Impact on Young People - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 4:18 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Polak Lord Polak Ceidwadwyr 4:18, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Nye. I was weaned on golf. My late mother was the lady captain of the Lee Park Golf Club in Liverpool. I agree with everything the noble Baroness said.

I thank my noble friend Lord Wood, as I shall call him on this occasion, for initiating this debate. It is very important. He made a comprehensive introduction and has already done the bits I was going to talk about. We do not meet only here; we are often on the terraces together watching our beloved Liverpool.

I congratulate the two newbies, the noble Lords, Lord Shamash and Lord Hannett, on their excellent speeches. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shamash, will not mind if I call him a north Londoner rather than a Mancunian. He will understand, being a Scouser. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Hannett, a fellow proper Scouser, to the House.

Today is a bit like a local derby, with the noble Lords, Lord Wood of Anfield and Lord Hannett of Everton, here. This reminds me of the Scouse sense of humour. Noble Lords who know Liverpool will know there is a shopping area there called Liverpool ONE. Everton has a shop in Liverpool ONE and the shop is called Everton Two, so anyone who writes a letter to it has to put the address, “Everton Two, Liverpool ONE”. However, they beat us 2-0 this time.

People who know me assume, because of my involvement in politics, that I did PPE at university. I did not; I did PE. Sport is my great love. In preparing for this debate, I looked up Edge Hill University—again, up in the north-west—and noticed that it has an MSc in sport, physical activity and mental health, in association with Everton in the Community. The course examines how mental health can be improved with sport, physical activity and exercise, and I was really impressed. I ask the Minister how widespread these courses are around the country—once again, the north-west seems to be in the lead.

I promise not to stay too much on the topic of Merseyside, but my great interest, beside all sports, are cricket and football. The noble Lord, Lord Wood, mentioned the Chance to Shine cricket programme. It is an amazing programme that exemplifies the transformative power of cricket, fostering inclusivity, community engagement, personal development and access to sport, providing central life skills and helping to shape a positive future for disadvantaged and disabled young people. We cannot do better than that.

On the subject of football, my noble friend the Minister knows full well my interest in the health and well-being of the Premier League, so that the league is able to continue leading its funding and supporting programmes in over 100 club community organisations across the country. I hope the Government will do nothing that could impact the continued growth of the Premier League. That growth allows funding to increase, and that funding impacts positively on so many lives and communities throughout the country, whether through the Premier League Primary Stars programme, Premier League Inspires or, as the noble Lord, Lord Wood, talked about, Premier League Kicks. The importance of the Premier League to the economy is well known. I was thinking about the tourism that it brings into this country. Over 1.5 million tourists come from abroad into our country for game days.

I cannot resist coming back to the topic of my hometown. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannett, talked about, Everton in the Community has over 120 full-time staff offering more than 50 programmes covering a range of social issues—health, employability, anti-social behaviour, crime, education and so on. I refer noble Lords to its brilliant and excellent website.

Liverpool’s LFC Foundation is not that shabby either. As its website says, its mission is:

“To harness the power of the LFC Family to create life changing opportunities for the most underserved communities home and away”.

Last season, the LFC Foundation supported 123,000 young families across Merseyside and beyond.

I shall finish by focusing on individuals. Not just the sports themselves—we have all talked about that—but individuals can make a difference. I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Shamash, has just left the Chamber for a minute because I am going to ignore Marcus Rashford and what he did and talk about Jamie Carragher, the great icon who used to play for Liverpool. I do so because what he did and got involved in, the particular issue that I will raise, can change people’s lives.

During lockdown, I was watching the TV when I saw a guy talking about his son, who had passed away at a swimming baths in Liverpool at the age of 12. Oliver King sadly died of a heart attack, and there was no defibrillator at the school. I realised that the swimming pool he was talking about was that of my old school, where I learned to swim. I contacted the Jamie Carragher foundation and said, “Is there anything I can do to help?” It came back very quickly, and I subsequently worked a little with Jamie and with Mark King, who was in the year below me—the father who lost his son.

Thanks to Nadhim Zahawi, when he was Secretary of State for Education, and thanks to the brilliant work of someone such as Jamie Carragher, there are now—or will be—defibrillators in every single school where they were not before. That will change lives because it will save the lives of so many people, and that is what individuals have the ability to do in sport. I just hope that there will be many more Jamie Carraghers and, dare I say it, Marcus Rashfords.

I will also finish with a quote, because everybody seems to be doing it. I am going a little further back than the noble Lord, Lord Wood—to the late, great Bill Shankly, who I also talked about in my maiden speech. He said this:

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.