South East MEP calls on UEFA President to take zero tolerance approach to racism

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East of England, has written to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin following the racist abuse directed at England’s black players on Monday evening in Sofia, Bulgaria.

In the letter, which was co-signed by 35 cross-party MEPs, Judith says: “It is appalling to see players subjected to this kind of abuse and discrimination. While we welcome the measures already taken, such as the introduction of disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria and, in consequence, the resignation of the President of the Bulgarian Football Union, more stringent measures must be established throughout football in Europe.”

The letter specifically called for UEFA to increase action to prohibit Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, in order to ensure all football authorities and fans in Europe are aware that such behaviour will result in severe consequences.

UEFA today released a statement which read: “…the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory. The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.”

While Judith welcomes the statement, she is eager to impress upon UEFA the importance of taking a zero-tolerance approach. She says: “UEFA must take action against anyone found to be abusing player…this behaviour cannot be tolerated.”

Copy of letter to UEFA president 161019

Lib Dem candidate Judith Bunting challenges Council to work with Newbury Community Football Group

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury constituency has challenged Hilary Cole, Acting Deputy Leader of West Berkshire Council to provide assurances that they will work with Newbury Community Football Group on to protect and enhance the town’s Football Ground on Faraday Road.

JB football2

Speaking last Thursday to West Berkshire Council’s Executive on Football and children’s health and wellbeing, Judith Bunting said: “As the Council’s adopted Core Strategy requires the protection and enhancement of green infrastructure and cultural facilities in West Berkshire, … what investment is planned to safeguard and enhance the protected community green infrastructure and cultural facility at Newbury Football Ground in Faraday Road?

She went on to ask: “Are Councillors willing to work with the Newbury Community Football Group on a progressive strategy to protect and enhance the Football Ground with a view to encouraging a positive attitude to exercise, health and wellbeing which are at the centre of the Council’s Health & Wellbeing Strategy?”

Judith Bunting was a prominent supporter of Newbury Town Football Club in its fight against eviction by West Berkshire Council last year.

Speaking this week, she said: “In excess of 500 people including more than 350 children play club-based football in Newbury each week. Physical education is important for our children. In football, they learn good habits of cooperation, discipline and motivation, as well as getting fit and having fun.”

“Richard Benyon’s Conservatives on West Berkshire Council have removed school bus routes, they have cut back drastically on children’s mental health support, and have tried to close our libraries. Now they want to destroy the football club too.

“If the Conservative party, here, do not have some particular axe to grind against the health of our children, I ask them to please think again and try working with Newbury Football Club to encourage the work it does rather than to destroy such a great and useful organisation.”

You can read more about Judith Bunting’s campaign to support Newbury Town Football Club here: Open Letter about Newbury Football Club

Newbury Community Football Group is a new organisation that brings together Ladies, Men’s, Boys and Girls’ and Youth Football groups in Newbury. For more information please go to: NCFG.uk

Newbury Football Fun Day and update

It was lovely to meet everyone and see the action at Newbury Football Club today. The annual Fun Day and Penalty Shoot out at the ground in Faraday Road drew a huge crowd. Lovely sunshine, good turnout and an impressive amount of activity on the pitch – what’s not to like?

At the moment though the club is in limbo. West Berkshire Council (Conservative)’s plans for the development of the London Road Industrial Estate are still uncertain and little practical is expected to happen for 3 – 5 years. This week the Council offered Newbury Football Club a one-year extension on their lease. While that’s to be welcomed, NFC Chair Lee McDougall has proposed a longer extension with a break clause in it, to come into effect only when action actually takes place on development at the London Road Industrial Estate. The club would agree to move when that day comes. This is a very professional approach to the issues at hand, but no answer is yet forthcoming from our lovely Council.

When my own son was growing up, we were fortunate enough to live in the catchment of Brentford FC. Brentford runs a fantastic Football in the Community scheme and their Council in Hounslow and neighbouring Richmond and Twickenham, then LD, used to bend over backwards to help them do their work. They recognised the importance that lively community football could bring to the health and spirit of our children.

In Newbury, we are really lucky to have an efficient, active team at NFC. If only our Council could see the importance of this. By the time I left the Fun Day, Richard Benyon had dropped in [a little surprising given his formal position that this is a “local matter” in which it would be inappropriate for him to get involved (!)], but no one from the Council had visited to see the club in action.

On the club’s website Lee McDougall says: “We passionately believe football, like all sport, inspires young people and provides a focus  for personal and physical development from early years into adulthood. We’ve seen first-hand how sport can turn lives around. Newbury does not have enough community football facilities, the only all-weather outdoor, floodlit , artificial turf training venues are in a few large secondary schools and in high demand from commercial organisations. Also, the town is lacking quality grass pitches to meet the sporting demands of local children. If you value local youth sport, please help us by watching the video, signing the petition and sharing them with your friends and family …” Read more here.

Once again, children are bearing the brunt of this Council’s lack of engagement and indecision. I understand there is the potential for outside funding to pay for 3G Astroturf to create a pitch that could allow a couple of hundred additional boys and girls to play each week, on top of the 360 that train with the club already, but with no certainty of tenure and no alternative location being suggested, the club can’t pursue such possibilities. And NFC do pay rent for this pitch, by the way, and they pay themselves for the upkeep of the ground.

Back to the positive in of all this, though. Seeing so many Newbury youngsters fit, healthy and engaged with their sport, today, made for an uplifting morning. Keep up the good work Newbury Football Club and Newbury Community Football Group. Our kids need you!

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Couldn’t resist adding this photo with my own kids at Wembley to watch Brentford in the play-offs in 2013. A lovely day, tho Brentford lost (again!).