Norman Baker MP calls for greater investment in grassroots football following record Premier League TV rights deal

Norman Baker MP has called on the Premier League to redistribute more money to grassroots football and for ticket prices to be slashed in the wake of the record £5.14bn TV rights deal announced last week.

The Premier League puts £12m a year into its grassroots sports charity the Football Foundation – a figure that stood at £20m a year in 2000. If this figure was instead index-linked to increases in TV income, the investment would now stand at around £100m a year.

Since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, ticket prices have increased by around 1,000%, with the average price of a season ticket now £508. Young people are being priced out of attending live football matches, as football fans in England are forced to pay nearly four times as much as supporters in Germany, where the average price of a season ticket in the Bundesliga is £138. German clubs voluntarily sacrifice extra ticket revenue in order to preserve the bonds with their community and continued growth of the game in their country.

By contrast many Premier League clubs are privately owned organisations with wealthy, overseas investors who have few ties to the local communities of their respective clubs. Many owners appear to view lifelong supporters of these clubs as mere consumers, who can safely be charged excessive ticket prices in order to fund high-salaried players, whilst refusing to even pay stadium matchday staff the living wage.

Lewes Lib Dem MP Norman Baker says: “I am a proud shareholder of my local team, Lewes FC, a club that has embraced the sustainability of fan ownership. I believe football clubs have a duty to serve their local communities, and an obligation to keep ticket prices affordable for their fans. The Premier League is now swimming in billions of pounds and yet so little of that is invested back into grassroots football, as players and agents continue to get richer. The salaries paid to Premier League footballers are frankly obscene.

I want to see ticket prices cut, salaries reduced and greater investment in grassroots causes.

An open letter to Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the Premier League

18 February 2015

Dear Mr Scudamore

I am writing to you to express a number of concerns I have following last week’s announcement that the Premier League’s domestic television rights have been sold to Sky and BT Sport for a record £5.1bn.

As I understand it, the Premier League, the government and the Football Association puts £12m a year into its grassroots sports charity the Football Foundation, which amounts to below 1% of broadcasting revenue. This figure stood at £20m a year in 2000, as the Premier League originally vowed to donate 5% of its revenue to grassroots causes. It seems baffling to me that this figure has dropped so dramatically, especially when the escalation in TV income every three seasons is considered – and the current deal represents a 70% increase on the last agreement. If this figure was instead index-linked to increases in TV income, the investment would now stand at around £100m a year, and go some way towards revolutionising grassroots football in this country.

Since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, ticket prices have increased by around 1,000%, with the average price of a season ticket now £508. Young people are being priced out of attending live football matches, which I find troubling. Football fans in England are forced to pay nearly four times as much as supporters in Germany, where the average price of a season ticket in the Bundesliga is £138. German clubs voluntarily sacrifice extra ticket revenue in order to preserve the bonds with their community and continued growth of the game in their country.

I would like to see the Premier League do more to encourage self-sufficiency and sustainability in the wake of the new TV deal. Many Premier League clubs are privately-owned organisations with wealthy overseas investors who have few ties to the local communities of their respective teams. Many owners appear to view lifelong supporters of these clubs as mere consumers, who can safely be charged excessive ticket prices in order to fund frankly obscene high salaries to footballers. I find it particularly troubling that of your 20 member clubs, only Chelsea have pledged a commitment to paying the living wage to stadium matchday staff.

I feel that it is inevitable that the money from this latest deal will be squandered by clubs, making players and agents richer rather than filtering down the leagues and improving football infrastructure in this country. The Premier League has come to represent an emblem of corporate greed, with its coffers busting at the seams. By contrast, the FA now appears to resemble little more than a twitching corpse, its income dwarfed by that of the Premier League, and crippled in its attempts to overhaul grassroots football due to the lack of resources it has available.

It is clear to me that by increasing its investment in grassroots football, for example by investing in young players, building more 3G pitches and producing more coaches, the Premier League could be a force for social good whilst continuing to produce an excellent product and ensuring that its clubs continue to generate wealth.

I would be grateful if you could respond to the matters raised and I welcome any further comments that you may wish to add.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Norman Baker MP

St George’s Retreat, Ditchling: Local MP Campaigns for better accessible local services

Norman Baker MP is supporting local residents of St George’s Retreat in Ditching in their call better local services, access and provision.

St Georges is a large residential area, specifically for people over the age of 60.

Norman says “It makes sense that a residential area with a high concentration of older people and limited transport options for residents is looking for more accessible provision and access to services. The community is just in Lewes District, in East Sussex but naturally look to West Sussex for their services. This has left the residents of St George’s in limbo

  • The first issue raised was the lack of availability of fibre broadband at St George’s Park, despite ongoing promises of provision.

Norman explained:I raised this issue with BT and have been advised that the premises at St George’s Park are connected to the Burgess Hill exchange. BT’s supplier, Openreach, did initially have a wayleave issue in siting the fibre cabinet but this has now been resolved and the relevant cabinet is being upgraded as part of Openreach’s commercial deployment.  The deployment of fibre infrastructure still needs to take place and the current estimated completion date is late spring 2015.”

  •  The second issue that was raised was the availability of health services for St George’s Park residents.

Norman saidAs the community is right on the border, residents naturally look across to West Sussex for their health services. They are then faced with difficulties in accessing the services they need as they technically reside in East Sussex. East Sussex’s position is that the premises are so near the West Sussex border that residents should be accessing West Sussex services. As such people can find themselves in limbo without proper services. I recently secured a debate in Parliament concerning local health issues affecting my constituency, and in doing so raised this specific issue with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Dr Daniel Poulter. The minister agreed to look into the situation more closely following the debate and to write to me in more detail

In the meantime I also corresponded on this issue with the Clinical Chair of the High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Gill. She advised me that following extensive discussions with all health and social care partners in the area, The Brow practice in Burgess Hill has agreed to extend their boundary to include St George’s Park. Other practices in Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath may accept patients from St George’s Park but are not under obligation to do so. As such, all residents do have access to GP services. However, the Clinical Commissioning Group is currently working closely with local GP members and NHS England (Surrey and Sussex) to see what further can be done for residents.”

  • The third issue that was raised concerned the bus stops at the entrance to St George’s Park.

Norman saysIt was brought to my attention by residents that the kerbs at the bus stops are very low, which can make boarding and alighting from a bus difficult and even dangerous, particularly for residents with impaired mobility. I am entirely sympathetic to residents’ concerns on this matter, I believe the county council should provide kerbs of adequate height and specification to ensure that residents have proper and safe access on and off the buses at the entrance to St George’s Park, and that wheelchair users are able to board and alight from buses without the use of a ramp. I am pleased to say that a scheme to raise the kerbs is to be included in the draft Capital Programme for Local Transport Improvements and I have written to both Rupert Clubb, the chief officer on transport issues at East Sussex County Council, and Cllr Carl Maynard, the council’s Lead Member for Transport and Environment, to express my support for this.

Local MP pushes for supermarkets to do more to protect dairy farmers

Local Lib Dem MP Norman Baker is urging the government and supermarkets to do more to protect dairy farmers from sharp falls in milk prices.

Norman is concerned that farmers are being forced out of business, a view being shared by The Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee which said farmers were forced out of business every week by factors beyond their control.

Norman saysWhile supermarkets are raking in record profits, dairy farmers are being screwed into the ground, forced to sell their product at less than the cost to produce

Supermarkets also have a moral duty to ensure their suppliers are not having the screws turned to force unfair prices that do not meet the costs of supply

“Clearly, the current system is not currently working in the best interest of all dairy farmers and I agree with the report and are calling for the Groceries Adjudicator to further improve the relationship between dairy farmer and supply chain, including supermarkets.

Local MP welcomes latest further drop in unemployment figures

Lib Dem MP Norman Baker has welcomed the record drop in unemployment figures. The number of unemployed claimants in the Lewes Constituency in December 2014 was 651, which represents just 1.6% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, that being 261 lower than in November 2013.

The number of claimants is 211 lower than in December 2013.

Norman says “The strong labour market performance has not happened by accident. The Lib Dems have taken steps to ensure our labour market is fair and flexible – delivering opportunity for everyone and preventing exploitation of the most vulnerable, including preventing the Tories’ fire-at-will policy.

“The employment growth that we are now witnessing is one of this Coalition Government’s key achievements.

“It is encouraging to see a continuing upward trend in the numbers of people entering employment. We have record numbers in work and unemployment falling at the fastest rate in over a decade. This can only help in pulling us out of the economic downturn, both at a national level and in the local area “

“Helping local people to find jobs is a key priority for me. Quarter by quarter, job by job we are rebuilding Britain’s economy. Every job created is a family helped and a boost to our economic growth. Lib Dems are building a stronger economy and fairer society.”