Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 20 - 34)



  20. He said in his evidence three weeks ago that he had no knowledge of that either, "I certainly do not know of any discussions which may or may not have taken place at 10 Downing Street."
  (Mr Bates) That is probably so. It depends on whether they talked to him or not, but that is a matter for the various departments of Government. We made it quite clear that we had this £20 million because it had been decided to take athletics away from Wembley and he wanted to know if we could pay it straightaway and I said we could not. He asked if we could borrow it and I said, "Can you imagine any bank lending us money just to give it to the Government" which he accepted, and we therefore agreed to a staged repayment. I pointed out that, in view of that fact, we would be looking for other ways of possibly recouping that £20 million. These were discussions and I do no more than refer you to his own letter.

  21. I was going to ask you about that because, after your meeting, he then wrote to you on 7 January.
  (Mr Bates) Yes. I was very careful about that because he wrote to me but I felt that it was not my problem because I was Wembley and not FA, so I sent the letter on to Geoff Thompson, Chairman of the FA, and left him to reply.

  22. He replied on 31 January. Nowhere in either of those two letters is there any mention of naming rights but then, for some reason, when he wrote back to Mr Thompson on 9 February, he raises the subject of naming rights. Why do you suppose he did that?
  (Mr Bates) I have already learned in a court case never to try and anticipate what somebody else has thought. I am sure that, when Mr Smith is here in due course, you will be able to ask him directly.

  23. Can I also ask you about your own correspondence with Adam Crozier which prompted your resignation and, in particular, his letter to you of 30 January where, as I understand it, he effectively asks you to carry on doing almost the same job as you had been doing before: it says you are a key member of the team and many thanks for what you have done and that you will now be reporting to Sir Rodney Walker, the Chairman. What did you make of that letter?
  (Mr Bates) I thought the letter was pretty poor, particularly as it was two months in coming. I understand that in fact Sir Rodney had not had the opportunity of seeing the letter before it was sent. I had been asking for a letter of some kind for six weeks/two months. I thought it was a very equivocal letter which really said very little and I am used to clear-cut chains of command, clear directions and clear authorities. If you go right back to the beginning, as I have said in that particular letter in which I resigned, I made it clear that it could not be run by a committee and that we would have to establish a proper commercial operation, an autonomous company which would then report to its owners as any other company does. It could not be done by committee. That was accepted and I think that, under that principle, the management team did a great job and delivered a good design and a price without any interference despite, as I say, Kate Hoey constantly being on our backs during the last 19 months. I suspect that what actually happened was that, when the financing proved difficult, he panicked somewhat and decided to get involved but unfortunately has no experience of building or construction of this kind of operation and it has degenerated into the committee being run by a committee. If you actually take me away, the only person you have on the Board with any experience of construction at all is Dave Richards, the Chairman of the Premier League, and, if you look at the FA Board, you only have three people with experience of running a stadium, so you get a case of the blind leading the blind and I was not prepared to go along with such a woolly management command structure.

  24. In your letter of resignation, you are damning about the performance of both Chase Manhattan whom you describe as abject and Investec whom you describe as pathetic, a view which I should say is supported in Wembley's own evidence in a letter from Bob Stubbs which I will ask him about a little later. Would you not accept that some might say that it was the case that you, as the Chairman, and indeed the Board should have kept a closer rein on what Chase Manhattan and Investec were doing and that ultimately you should bear the responsibility?
  (Mr Bates) I agree that the Chairman always falls on his sword, unless he is a minister in some cases, but the fact of the matter is that Sir David Hill-Wood is or was the finance director of the FA and his job on the Board was to look after that part of the operation. In fact, he had meetings which I did not attend, but nevertheless I accept my share of responsibility for that.

Ms Ward

  25. You have launched a rather scathing attack upon the Sports Minister this morning. You seem very happy to have the involvement of the Government prior to that when they were supportive of the project. Do you think you want it both ways?
  (Mr Bates) No, not at all. One of the problems with the Sports Minister is that she has never once contacted me to have a briefing, to sit down and be talked through the project. We only know what she thinks about it when we read the newspapers, which I think is very regrettable. I know that spin doctoring is the buzz thing for the 21st century, but you cannot do your job properly if that is going on behind your back all the time. I see in the papers that Simon Clegg of the BOA defended her saying that there was a meeting which I did not attend, but the point I was making had nothing to do with Mr Clegg. Within a fortnight of Kate Hoey taking office, she said that Wembley's design should be changed and she made that statement without any consultation or prior briefing whatsoever and she has continued to do it. That is the point I am making. In the previous situation, before Chris Smith signed off and publicly supported our design, he took the trouble to have two presentations. We made one in the presence of Tony Banks, the then Sports Minister, and Mr Smith seemed perfectly happy, but he subsequently said that he was not satisfied and that he wanted another full presentation which we gave him. The point I am making is that he took the trouble to satisfy himself with the facts before he pronounced his position. Kate Hoey does the reverse: she pronounces her position before looking at the facts. For example, the return of terracing at football grounds. We read about it in the newspapers.

  26. That is exactly my point, Mr Bates. You said this morning that you disapproved of Government involvement in this sort of project and you in fact have made your views clear about the issue of Government involvement over public money. I would disagree with you and say that Government do have a responsibility over public money, not tax-payers money but public money which is the difference. However, you were happy for Chris Smith and Tony Banks to have been involved at the time and to have a whole range of meetings with you and you never made a criticism at that point of Government involvement.
  (Mr Bates) There are two points that I would like to make on that. First of all, I do not believe that Government should be involved at all. In fact, as far as I am concerned, I do not think Government has any legal standing in the matter of Wembley Stadium. Lottery money and indeed the millennium money was supposed to be set up by independent quangos who are supposed to be independent of political interference and it is unfortunate that, certainly in this matter and other events in sport, massive Government influence has been brought to bear in pet projects and otherwise. That is the first point. I am really making the point that I was happy to keep Government informed, but I do not think they have any right to interfere with the design of the project because they do not know what they are talking about. A perfect example is, again coming back to Kate Hoey, when they decided to have an independent review of the architectural design of the stadium which had taken three years. They called in Ellerbe Becket from Huddersfield and, in two, three or four weeks, they produced a report which was very superficial and which our team then took up and tore to pieces, so we never heard any more about that. So, there was another several hundred thousand pounds wasted and there is delay all the time, and all you have done is reinvent the wheel because I think you will find that Wembley is probably going to be exactly the design that was proposed 19 months ago and there in fact are no cost savings because it has gone through a very fine cost performance anyway, so all the Minister of Sport has done has mucked up the project for 19 months and, with inflation, has put about £20 or £30 million at least on the cost. It is all right if Government interfere providing they are qualified to do so, but unfortunately in many cases the quality of the person involved is not good enough for the job. I do not expect you to agree with that one either.

  27. No, surprisingly. In your letter of resignation, you appear to have objections to just about everybody as Mr Faber has already outlined: Chase Manhattan, other financiers, Kate Hoey and I think you actually refer to her lackeys.
  (Mr Bates) Yes.

  28. Do you not accept any responsibility at all?
  (Mr Bates) I think I have already answered that to Mr Faber.

  29. I am asking exactly about responsibility. What did you do wrong whilst you were Chairman?
  (Mr Bates) What I think I did wrong was to accept Investec's recommendation that we should go with Chase Manhattan. I personally would have gone with Barclays Bank and I have made no secret of that. At the end of the day—and this is to a certain extent like my argument with you about Kate Hoey—if you have professional advisers to whom you are paying a great deal of money and who strongly recommend a certain course of action, then it is very difficult for the Board to go against that recommendation, so we went with Chase. With the benefit of hindsight, which is 20/20 vision, I should have overruled the Investec recommendation and gone with Barclays Bank because I think we would have had the money by now.

  30. Did you ever argue with the FA for more money for the project?
  (Mr Bates) It was not just arguing with the FA. I actually said—and I stand by it—that the FA should not need to put any money into it at all because the old Wembley National Stadium Trust were going to build the stadium and the FA were going to be tenants and they had no money other than the £120 million; they were going to take the FA covenant to the City to borrow the money. I said that if the Trust is going to do it, why does football not do it and keep the profits for the grass roots because do not forget that it was a long time before the current explosion of TV income came about and I think the FA were making £2 million or £3 million a year and the idea that there should be a national stadium that should contribute £20, £30 or £40 million a year to the FA's finances was a first-class business decision.

Mr Keen

  31. Looking at it from a broader point of view rather than your own involvement in it, was the main decision influenced too much by the fact that you were bidding for the World Cup? The thing that shocked me when I visited Wembley for the first time on our previous inquiry was how little of the land around the actual present stadium was actually being bought. Could you not have put a stadium in somewhere else and called it the New Wembley Stadium to influence the nations who wanted to vote for us? It did not really seem to be in the right place to spend that amount of money and look out and still see an absolute shambles.
  (Mr Bates) Again, you have to remember that I came into the project after those decisions had been made but I understand, to be fair to the people involved before me, that Wembley was one of a number of sites to be considered, but the fact of the matter is that there is clearly no land of the amount you require to build a national stadium and its environs in the centre of London. Therefore, the question was, where could you put it? It would have to be on a green field site and so therefore it would have to be on the M25 somewhere and the only real area you could put it was somewhere near the M1 and M25 because you could not put it down in, say, Crawley in Sussex and expect people from the north to wade through London and get down there. I believe that area was examined in great detail but there was nowhere, believe it or not, unless they put it right in Paddington for example, where they could find a piece of land that size with adequate potential road and rail links. I understand that, under the chairmanship of Sir Nigel Mobbs, the Wembley Task Force, who I believe have done a good job, the whole idea was to regenerate that area anyway and rebuilding Wembley Stadium would be the seed-corn, if you like, which would make the rest of it happen. I understand that Wembley plc have ambitious plans to redevelop the whole of that in partnership with Brent Council and the Task Force once the Wembley Stadium situation is resolved. If you actually think about it, you have the North Circular and they are going to build a dual carriageway directly into Wembley. They are spending £80 or £90 million on refurbishing the three stations. Originally, the rail company were refusing to do so but again the Task Force persuaded them to do so, and I think the new stadium will eventually have first-class facilities. One of the other ideas was that, because of the restriction of car parking spaces to 3,500 in accordance with Government policy, we would pre-sell the car parking spaces so that people would know that, if they did not have a car parking space, it was a waste of time coming by car and that would ease the strain on the local residents who were greatly inconvenienced on match days because people come along in their cars to park on chance.


  32. Do you feel that the payment of £20 million to Sport England should still be made?
  (Mr Bates) No. There is no legal requirement to do so. Wembley have complied with all the terms and conditions of the Lottery Funding Agreement and the design of the stadium can take athletics by way of conversion. I think it is interesting, if I can draw the Committee's attention to the report by Mihir Bose this morning which says that New York has adopted the platform plan for the stadium they are proposing for their bid for the 2012 Olympics.

  33. The only reason that this Committee and this House of Commons has a running role in this matter is because public money, whether through the tax payer or the Lottery, is involved. The only reason this Committee had a role in the issue of the Royal Opera House was because of the fact that large sums of public money were going in. Is there not an argument for saying that it is the injection of public money which encourages ministers of all governments to poke their noses into matters which are best left to private interests who can either make a mess of them or succeed in them according to their talents and abilities?
  (Mr Bates) Yes, I would agree with you and the Millennium Dome is a perfect example.

  34. As the Prime Minister has acknowledged. Thank you very much, Mr Bates. We are grateful to you for coming along.
  (Mr Bates) Thank you.

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