Football: Banks outlines mission for fair-deal task force

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The Independent Online
The Minister for Sport, Tony Banks, yesterday outlined wide-ranging plans to ensure a fair deal for football fans.

Banks revealed the Government's Football Task Force would be chaired by David Mellor and would bring together all sections of the footballing community.

The task force has been asked to investigate and recommend new measures to deal with the public's concerns on issues such as racism, ticket prices, access for the disabled and the increasing commercialism in the game. The group will report back to Government by Christmas, drawing up plans to help:

Eliminate racism in football and encourage wider participation by ethnic minorities, both in playing and spectating;

Improve disabled access to spectating facilities;

Encourage greater supporter involvement in the running of clubs;

Encourage ticketing and pricing policies that are geared to reflect the needs of all, on an equitable basis, including for cup and international matches;

Encourage merchandising policies that reflect the needs of supporters as well as commercial considerations;

Develop the opportunities for players to act as good role models in terms of behaviour and sportsmanship, and to become actively involved in community schemes.

Reconcile the potential conflict between the legitimate needs of shareholders, players and supporters where clubs are floated on the Stock Exchange.

Banks welcomed the positive reaction of the organisations asked to take part in the Task Force. "The game of football has changed dramatically over the last decade," he said.

"Following the Hillsborough tragedy it was essential for football to think afresh about the safety and comfort of the spectators coming to watch our national game. The depth of top quality stadia in this country shows that we are well on the way to meeting that challenge."

However, Labour backbench MPs last night were furious over the appointment of Mellor, the former Tory arts minister, as chairman of the task force. "People are seething about it," one veteran Labour MP said. "Everybody is outraged. They could have appointed Roy Hattersley, Jack Charlton, Bobby Charlton or Kevin Keegan.

"The fans don't like Mellor. This is a big mistake by Tony Banks."

FOOTBALL TASK FORCE: Invited members: The Football Trust (Secretariat); The Football Association (Keith Wiseman); The FA Premier League (Peter Leaver); The Football League (David Sheepshanks); Professional Footballers' Association (Gordon Taylor); Commission for Racial Equality (Sir Herman Ouseley); Local Government Association (Chris Heinitz); English Sports Council (Sir Rodney Walker); Football Supporters' Association (Graham Bean); National Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs (Tony Kershaw); National Association of Disabled Supporters' Clubs (Steve Hennegan); League Managers' Association (John Barnwell); Association of Premier and Football League Referees and Linesmen (David Phillips); football academic (Rogan Taylor).