Labour 'to make football a sport for all'

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Indy Politics

Political Correspondent

Labour lined up an array of high-powered endorsements for its Football Charter yesterday, to back the party's claim to speak for "the national game".

Jimmy Hill, the television pundit and chairman of Fulham FC, applauded Labour's plans to crack down on British football hooligans abroad and to reform the bodies which run the sport. "To achieve even half of its good intentions in office would be miraculous," he said. He singled out for particular welcome "the concern about uncivilised behaviour both on and off the field, the encouragement for the Football Association to streamline its organisation and for a wider spread of wealth throughout the entire game".

Most of the leading figures in the sport came to hear Jack Cunningham, Labour's national heritage spokesman, launch the party's charter at a Westminster news conference. The plans were welcomed by David Davies, of the FA, Rick Parry, of the Premier League, David Dent, of the Football League, representatives of the two main supporters' organisations and the Professional Footballers' Association.

Mr Cunningham said Labour would attempt to amend the forthcoming Broadcasting Bill to ensure that "major sporting events", including the FA Cup Final, would be protected for viewing by all.

Mr Cunningham said: "We want football genuinely to be a 'sport for all'. One of our first priorities on taking office would be to establish a task force which would report within one year."

The charter proposes a number of legal changes to clamp down on violent or racist supporters, including increasing the punishments for failing to comply with restriction orders, designed to keep persistent offenders out of football grounds.

A spokesman for the Department of National Heritage said the Government had taken a leading role in tackling football hooliganism.