As you know, we have had a meeting this morning between the people you see assembled here and a number of Ministers. Part of its purpose was to congratulate the Football Association. The Football League, players and the two football trusts and of course, thanks to the police for their success in bringing good behaviour and good crowd behaviour to football over this last year. [end p1]
You are aware of the problems we had. We all came together to tackle them. Everyone played their part. The players led; Mr. Millichip and Mr. Croker were marvellous; and the two football trusts cooperated tremendously in doing closed-circuit television, in doing safety on the grounds, and in getting family enclosures which we are so anxious to obtain, because we want more spectators back to football.
I think this year that we can say we have been reasonably successful, but we want you also to know that we are going to be very vigilant next season. It is, of course, mainly up to these gentlemen. We are building up a record, we are building up a reputation.
You saw how superb it was at Mexico. We want to get back into Europe in due time—not next year, but hopefully the year after that—and so we shall build up a reputation for football in England of the highest, and hope to get back to playing in Europe after that.
I am now going to hand over to Mr. Millichip and our guests.
I would like to endorse everything the Prime Minister has said. We had a modest, qualified success in Mexico and throughout the last domestic season. We [end p2] shall not relax our efforts to get rid of these few hooligans who will insist upon following us around, but we shall exert vigilance in just the same way that we did last year and hope for continued progress. Thank you very much, Prime Minister, for the very kind remarks that you made.
Now, Mr. Carter is now in the Football League. Would you like just to have a word? I think we should hear from a player.
From my point of view—this was my first meeting of this nature—I was very impressed with the spirit of cooperation that actually was held throughout the meeting itself.
My own feeling from the Football League is that we have a very good base from which to start our season, but as has been expressed many times this morning, we must not allow our vigilance in any way to be deterred for the future. Our concern is that not only do we get back into Europe, but we actually improve the overall standard here in this country. That is our ultimate aim—that we have to make football the prime sport to which people [end p3] will be attracted and will come back in their hordes, and it is with that in mind that I am absolutely delighted that we have collectively today been discussing the major problems that have faced us in the past and the methods by which we will attempt to control them in the future.
Thank you. Now, I think you should hear from a player—Mr. Talbot represents the players.
We are very pleased how it has gone last season from the playing side and we do feel that the spectators have improved tremendously, but it is obviously our example on the field which is going to help, and we strove very hard to tell players in our AGMs and regional meetings that they have got to behave themselves; and we have a code of conduct now and are doing our utmost to produce the goods on the field and also show the right behaviour; so hopefully, in the new season coming, it will produce the good standard that we think we have set ourselves from last season. Thank you.
I should also add that Mr. Talbot says that the players are doing as much as they can to help young [end p4] people who are interested in football, and also to provide other activities for young people where football grounds can be used. We are very grateful for that.
Mr. Croker, I am sure you would like to say a word.
The only thing I think we could add, Prime Minister, is how much we appreciate the reaction of the general public. I believe that if there has been a vast improvement last year, and I do not think anyone would doubt that, it has been this enormous reaction from the general public against hooliganism. There are so many people who are dedicated to football, who realise that this traditional game of ours is not just our national game, but the world's national game and that it does mean a great deal to this country; it means a great deal to the young people who play it—the millions of young people who play it—and there is this enormous public reaction and it is an extension of that public reaction that we hope will ostracise these few individuals who would try and kill or damage this wonderful game of ours.
In other words, determination to beat the hooligans who would otherwise ruin the game.
Would anyone else like to say anything? [end p5]
Dick Tracey will continue, of course, to be very vigilant in this field and to work with all of the football authorities, so it really is a success story of cooperation.
Thank you very much.
Question (BBC Television News)
Prime Minister, could we just ask you for your reaction to the news that another team has pulled out of the Commonwealth Games?
No, you may not. We are talking about football and our success here this morning and our success not only here this morning, but our success through the season, and I hope you will report the very good news for Britain; that we are beating hooliganism in football and we are determined to go on.
At the week-end, there was an unfortunate incident in Bradford, where three sectors of hooligans, loosely associated with football clubs—not necessarily football supporters—were involved in street violence in Bradford, which resulted in the death of one youth. [end p6]
Obviously, it was not related to a football match, but it was a hooligan element.
I think that must be a matter for the police and, as you know, once it is a matter for the police, we cannot comment.
We would like to say how much we admire the work that the police do.