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WHILE the 2019 general election next week will be fought and won over the NHS, taxes and – unfortunately – Brexit, there is a topic on which Labour should be dominating the polls and talking about more in debates and while canvassing — sport.
Or more specifically, football.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Arsenal fandom isn’t hidden, far from it. But it is something that should make him endearing to any football fan.
I’ve only met him once. He popped down to the Star offices and our conversation was about football.
This was before his time as Labour leader, but it was like we were friends having a chat down the local pub, discussing then Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Corbyn’s son coaching at Brentford.
Boris Johnson has been asked what makes him relatable to the general public and he has no idea how to answer such a simple question.
I can’t imagine ever discussing football with him. If we ever had a chat on the subject, I can picture it being awkward and full of lies, as he attempts to sound knowledgeable on a subject he couldn’t care less about.
Mr Corbyn’s love for the game makes him easy to get behind for the millions of football fans around Britain.
He knows what football team he supports – David Cameron flip-flopped between two, which highlighted just how inept and out of touch he was.
That Labour has a clear plan for the game should it be elected to govern shows that this is a party that has thought about everything.
Bury’s demise, Bolton’s brush with administration and the ongoing problems at Coventry are just a few examples of clubs in England that have been plunged into peril due to terrible ownership.
The Football League’s failure to run stringent background checks on people means that they are failing institutions up and down the country.
Under a Labour government, the “fit and proper person” test, which has allowed the likes of Steve Dale and Roland Duchalet into the Football League, will be reviewed to “ensure that supporters’ trusts have a proper role so that the professional game is properly run for all its fans and all its clubs.”
And it’s not just the “elite’ clubs that Labour will focus on, it’s everyone.
Plans for redistribution of wealth from the richest clubs in Britain down to the poorest are further proof that this is a party for the many, not the few.
Such a policy might have saved Bury and it certainly would make it harder for any club to go through what they did in the future.
“A Labour government will examine the state of the game, its governance and regulation, its ownership rules and the support and funding of the clubs that are vital to local communities.”
That the Tories are attempting something like this with their Community Ownership Fund shows that they are trying to appeal to football fans.
But how they have treated those on the terraces over the last few decades speaks for itself, from Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to force fans to carry ID cards to her government’s handling of the Hillsborough disaster — which will never be forgotten in Liverpool and the rest of the football family.
Labour’s 2017 manifesto mentioned football, the Tories were silent.
Without fans, there is no football. Players, managers and owners come and go, it is the supporters and community that are around forever, so they should have more of a say in what goes on at board level. Labour is offering fans that, should the party be voted into power.
“A football club is more than just a club, it is an institution at the heart of our communities. Clubs are part of the social fabric that binds us together.
“Sport must be run in the interests of those who participate in it, follow it and love it, not just for the privileged and wealthy few.
“We will ensure that supporters have a say over how their club is run and review how fans can have more of a say about how all of our sporting bodies are run.”
While all parties have pledged safe standing inside stadiums, it feels like those other than Labour are merely pandering to the masses.
Do people actually believe that Jo Swinson and Johnson care about sport?
They are using their screen time to bicker about how they will or won’t deliver Brexit.
Corbyn has met with Newcastle supporters campaigning to rid the club of owner Mike Ashley.
The Labour leader has called on football clubs to guarantee their staff the living wage, eliminate zero-hours contracts and improve access provision for disabled sports fans.
And he continues to pledge that there will be resources for playing fields so that the next football generation has a future.
Two years ago, I wrote a similar piece and mentioned: “As a dad myself, I want my son to be able to enjoy the luxuries I had playing sport growing up. That won’t happen if Theresa May and the Tories are in power.
“A vote for Labour on June 8 is the only way to ensure that the next generation will have a safe place to enjoy playing the game they love, with Jeremy Corbyn ensuring that the Premier League upholds the promise to put 5 per cent of its domestic and international TV rights money into grassroots football.”
We failed to get him in power that day and since then we have seen more playing areas destroyed for flats which working-class people cannot afford to buy.
My son is now four. Last weekend, he told me how much he loved football and it has been my dream since I was a teenager to be able to take my son to football on a Sunday morning.
Unless we oust Johnson and the Tories, that dream has a very real possibility of becoming a nightmare.
If we want our kids, and our kids’ kids, to have the same opportunities we had growing up, a vote for Labour on December 12 has to be the only solution.
If we want our clubs to be there in 100 years and to rid the game of the damaging owners, Corbyn offers us the best chance to do that.
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