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Kate Hoey: The Government already intervene--in a way in which a Government who do not run the sport can do that. We are being as supportive and helpful as possible. We are also working with our European partners, who share our anxiety. Their football bodies have different views, but most agree that the Commission's initial proposals were not acceptable

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood and other hon. Members will remember the anxieties about the Bosman ruling. Contrary to fears expressed at the time, it did not destroy football. Although the ruling appears to have helped to usher in the present wage spiral for top footballers, much of that is down to the huge amounts of television money. The inflationary transfer market has been encouraged by agents who stand to make vast amounts of money from television. The football governing bodies pay great attention to the Commission's actions, but they and FIFA must do more to stop the clear abuses of the system by agents. All the factors that I have mentioned combine to shift the power in football from the grass roots upwards, as my hon. Friend said.

The ability to change clubs without a fee when out of contract, which the Bosman ruling granted, has sometimes been to the advantage of many players. Stuart Pearce's current renaissance at West Ham is arguably a demonstration of that. A fee may well have dissuaded his new club from rescuing him from Newcastle United's reserve team.

We hope that the Commission's review will have a satisfactory outcome, and that the flexibility that football has long shown will enable it to adapt to any new conditions. I can assure hon. Members, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood, that the Government will continue to help football to work towards a successful conclusion to the present negotiations.

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing the issue to the House's attention. It is clear that hon. Members from all parties believe that, whatever the ultimate system, it must protect the small clubs, safeguard talent and, as my hon. Friend rightly said, encourage home-grown talent. That is the future of our football.

Question put and agreed to.

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