Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witness (Questions 180 - 200)

THURSDAY 8 MARCH 2001

PROFESSOR ALAN TOMLINSON

  180. I have questions as to whether or not they would have won those wherever the Olympics were but that is another matter. You mentioned the Gold Coast then, and this is something which does make the point about facilities. The Gold Coast which has a population, I think, of about 60,000 people—plus a large number of holiday makers of course—has more Olympic standard swimming pools than the whole of the United Kingdom. Australia has 118 Olympic swimming pools in total, we have five.
  (Professor Tomlinson) Yes.

  181. It is no wonder that Australia wins gold medals at swimming.
  (Professor Tomlinson) No, that is true. If you combine facilities with some of those characteristics and very, very importantly appropriate backing in terms of time and specialist personnel then obviously you will hope to get positive outcomes from that.

  182. Is it not better, therefore, to build a swimming pool and to have the facilities to ensure that our athletes then do very well at the next Olympics, wherever they might be, rather than concentrating a lot of money and effort on facilities and getting these facilities in one city or in one area to ensure that we get the Olympics at some point in the future, and my bet would be 2020 is probably the first feasible date?
  (Professor Tomlinson) I would agree with what you say there because in lots of ways the key challenge in terms of sports development and in terms of one's reputation in Olympic circles is to do with excellence in performance and achievement wherever the events are held. I think it can become a very big diversion to become obsessed with the staging of the events themselves and it deflects and diverts such a vast level of resources away from precisely what you are saying, the grass roots in terms of facilities, development and provision.

Chairman

  183. Could I just interrupt here because you have raised a matter very dear to my heart which I do not want to slip and that is this. Would it not be better for Sport England to invest a very small amount of money into helping the Wright Robinson Sports College in my constituency to build a sports hall to train young athletes of the future rather than get entangled massively in this spider's web of Wembley Stadium which is grief to everybody?
  (Professor Tomlinson) In terms of the grass roots' argument which I think I conclude with in my written evidence, I think that is true. I think there is a tragedy in British sport at the moment in some of the big boom sports of recent decades. Take athletics in particular, which was the big boom sport and rich sport of the 1980s. We see such a dreadful lack of infrastructure that I think it is close to a scandal in this country. After we have been a nation with top gold medallists and world champions for some years, and in a sport which was bringing the biggest level of television money in at a key stage of transformation of the wider economy of sports, we now have athletics stadia going to rot and local clubs looking with great problems for somewhere to flourish. I think that is a real indictment of the United Kingdom's position in terms of sports policy and development. I do think to get the grass roots right, the base of the pyramid in the common metaphor, is utterly critical.

Mr Maxton

  184. Would you therefore agree with me that it would do more for British football if Scotland won the World Cup than if the World Cup was actually held in England or not?
  (Professor Tomlinson) The World Cup is a very, very tricky issue because British football, English football is such a sensitive issue in worldwide FIFA terms because of the special privileged status of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to have so many teams. It is still on the agenda of people in FIFA that there should be one Great Britain football side.

  185. Not in terms of Scotland there is not. Can I, however, suggest to you is it not a bit of a myth that, in fact, the United Kingdom, Britain, does not get major sporting events? After all, we have had had the Olympics since the Second World War, we have had World Cup football since the Second World War. Why should a small nation of 55 million people on the fringes of Europe expect to get these major sporting events? We have one of the major golfing events, we have one of the major tennis events.
  (Professor Tomlinson) Formula One.

  186. We have the World Championships in badminton, cross-country, whatever it might be, across the whole country. Why should we expect to get these particular events?
  (Professor Tomlinson) My view is that we should not expect to get them. One of the problems in the bidding process, and I will come back to England 2006 here, is that if we do expect to be seen to have the strongest case we can be seen to be acting rather patronisingly and, in a sense, almost close to arrogantly. What the world sports' governing bodies do like is what I would call a can-do culture rather than a have-done culture. If you go out suggesting that we should be able to stage this event because we are the best, because we are the home of football, for instance, because we have dear old Wembley Stadium, which a lot of the world does not give a damn about, then in lots of ways people will think "what are you talking about?" We are in a different world now.

Mr Faber

  187. Can I just carry on from exactly where you are at the moment. In your written evidence to us you note that in one of our Reports we described the 2006 bid as "well conceived, well managed and well executed".
  (Professor Tomlinson) Yes.

  188. And we said that Government support has been exemplary. But you go on to say that the English bid was always doomed. Are you criticising our description of the bid, ie the bid itself, or are you saying that for other reasons the bid was always doomed?
  (Professor Tomlinson) I am not criticising the description of the bid. In a sense I am realistically putting the bid in the context of what the wider process is. There may have been obviously exemplary characteristics of the bid and so on, and again the FA has written about this quite reflectively in its long written evidence to your Committee, but there were reasons, factors, why the bid never really stood a chance.

  189. Such as?
  (Professor Tomlinson) One of the strongest ones was the very widely discussed gentlemen's agreement between Sir Bert Millichip and colleagues in UEFA about Germany having a run through.

  190. In fairness to the FA, in their evidence to us they acknowledged that absolutely. I actually spent the last day reading their evidence, which is a potboiler in itself, a description of how they went around the world.
  (Professor Tomlinson) A good thriller.

  191. I have also read the FIFA Technical Report which was presented before the meeting. I would suggest that that report is arrogant, not the behaviour of our bidding team. You said a moment ago that we are perceived as being arrogant. Some of the remarks about our bid in this report simply cannot be accurate, cannot be true, and they themselves are arrogant.
  (Professor Tomlinson) No, I agree with that. They certainly are because they have the power.

  192. If I can just quote one to you. They summarise their findings in the Technical Report by saying "It has been brought to the inspection group's attention that the England bidders' behaviour was not always in compliance with FIFA recommendations to national associations interested in bidding to organise the 2006 World Cup Final competition and they have been asked to adhere thereto again". It sounds like a school master ticking off a naughty school boy. It is extraordinary.
  (Professor Tomlinson) It can be an exchange of arrogances in this kind of process, there is no doubt about that. The wider issue about the Technical Report is whether those reports were ever conceived seriously and can be taken seriously at all. Again, what I said earlier was, in fact, if you go into that process saying "we have got everything in place", it is the "have-done", it is "already there", "we are the best sort of emphasis", rather than the can-do culture which these organisations prefer to support.

  193. I understand that and I understand you are saying this is not necessarily your view but how it is perceived in the rest of the world. Having read the Technical Report, if I were the gentlemen sitting behind you who had slogged all around the world trying to sell this bid, my heart would have sunk when I read this. We are rated lower than South Africa on security which just seems absolutely astonishing. Some of our stadia, newly built, were rated lower than stadia where the first sod of earth had not even been dug. This report clearly went a long way towards convincing some people—it may have come too late for many—not to support our bid and it is patently and manifestly wrong.
  (Professor Tomlinson) It is wrong, there is no doubt about that. You have to see that these documents are not produced on any basis of rational logic and objectivity, they are produced in terms of the dynamics of power and the blocks of interest within those organisations. The Chair of the Technical Committee is one of the biggest movers in the politics of world football now, the man who ran the USA 1994 World Cup, Alan Rothenberg. With my colleague, John Sugden, I have written quite widely on what kind of motivation drives a figure like Alan Rothenberg. I have asked him face to face whether he considers what we would see normally in terms of business dealings as conflicts of business interests as relevant to the decisions that bodies like FIFA and so on take, and he said very, very clearly to me "no, there are no conflicts of interests in these sorts of areas". We have to see the Technical Reports in this sense as convenient fictions. I am in full agreement that they cannot be taken so seriously. The point that I would make is that we cannot be surprised—

  194. That we are in that position.
  (Professor Tomlinson) —that this sort of report emerges out of this kind of process.

  195. I assume this is just an extension of what you have just said, but you say that the hooligan troubles at Euro 2000 were—you used the word—"irrelevant".
  (Professor Tomlinson) I do not believe that they were relevant to the voting intentions of the members of the Executive Committee. I think they were a convenient smokescreen for some football authorities to say "really England could not do it, this would be too problematic".

  196. So given everything you have said, and given that hopefully Wembley will be built and will once again hopefully want to bid for another World Cup in due course at some stage in the next however many years, what do you say we should do, undergo a complete sea change of attitude as to how we approach the bid, or are you saying that it is almost physically impossible for a country like ours that already has an infrastructure? The other thing that astonished me in terms of the governmental guarantee was that a letter from the Prime Minister rated lower than a signed guarantee from a ministry, ie some civil servant in a ministry of another country could sign a guarantee and yet a personal letter from our own Prime Minister rated lower than that. Are you saying that we can never break this culture?
  (Professor Tomlinson) No, I am not saying that. I am saying that one has to enter those corridors of power, exactly as the FA is now seeking to do and is seeking with its Chairman having been elected into UEFA Committees, to seek to effect policy and one has to keep in touch with what I call the geo-politics of power. It is very likely that the President of FIFA will be challenged next summer for the presidency. England and the home nations, if they work together and aspire to look at things in terms of some general United Kingdom interests, need to be aware of these sorts of developments and strategically place themselves clearly around what they see as the most beneficial potential figures of power but also in terms of some wider principles and policies. The whole problem with world football at the moment is that behind a veil of idealist values of wonderful harmony between nations and an importance of sports for youth, there is a lot of big business, there are lots of big political deals going on really, led by people who have no serious interest in sport and no serious commitment to the broader morals and philosophies of sport.

Chairman

  197. Thank you, before I call Mrs Golding, can I say along the way that when I hear the quality of the questions from Mr Faber, it is a matter of serious regret to me that he has decided not to seek re-election to the next Parliament. Could I put two points. First of all, the approach of these bodies, to which Mr Faber has referred, is among other things utterly ignorant. It is interesting to go back, as I have been doing, to the history of the construction of Wembley Stadium in which there was no Government involvement of any kind, apart from the Government guarantee against losses of the whole British Empire exhibition of 1924. But what is interesting about the opening of Wembley Stadium is that the first Cup Final held there in 1923 resulted in Government involvement because of the fact the police, including mounted police, had to be called out because of disorder among the crowd. So it is not new and this idea that British football crowds have suddenly become brutal hooligans out of the blue is absurd. These people ought to know better. Secondly, what Mr Faber has highlighted, and what we have seen on previous inquiries is this, these major events are decided not on the basis of the quality of the case but on all kinds of extraneous matters such as the personal characteristics of people on the awarding body so that on our Olympics bid, for example, and the same with the Australians, they had to go right down to find out names of dogs of the families—
  (Professor Tomlinson) The size of shoes of partners.

  198. It is ludicrous that there should be such things. In some of the bodies, I am not saying which, there is obviously blatant corruption. When a country like this, which is among the leading sporting countries in the world overall, has its application treated with the disdain that Mr Faber has mentioned, would you agree that this is a comment upon the selection process and makes one wonder whether the efforts of the gentlemen behind you and Mr Banks, who worked his socks off, are worthwhile. I attended a dinner for some obscure Minister in the Thailand Government in an effort to wheedle—sorry, not a dinner a lunch.
  (Professor Tomlinson) I agree that it is indisputable that many of the decisions about the placing of these events are made on the basis of what you call reasons extraneous to the sports, that is indisputable. My point consistently is that we know that but very few people, very few nations, very few sports organisations feel able to stand up and say this because as I say, I have said before, these organisations are on the whole unaccountable. They claim to speak for the world body of their sports and so on and they are usually accountable to something like the notion of the congress, which happens once every couple of years, or once every few years and the kinds of issues that arise at those sorts of congresses can be dealt with very quickly in terms of block votes of nations around motions and so on. The key question is, would a nation be willing to state explicitly from the heart of its sports administration what you, Mr Kaufman, have just stated. As far as I can see in terms of the International Olympic Committee and FIFA the answer on the whole is no. Sometimes some people have tried like Lennart Johansson on behalf of, if you like, the European bloc of nations and some of the African ones in his bid to become FIFA President, asking for transparency, asking to open up what he called the black box of FIFA's economy and look what happened to him.

  Chairman: Mr Maxton has asked me to point out that the appeal for funds by the Prince of Wales for the Empire Exhibition, including the building of the Wembley Stadium, which incidentally took one year, April to April, was responded to by a grant of £100,000 from the City of Glasgow Council.

Mrs Golding

  199. Do you not think that some of the decisions made in the funding of sport, right across the board, are often inexplicable, not only based on ignorance but based on not really bothering to find out what they are doing? A subject which is very dear to my heart, fly fishing, if you remember Sport England turned down the funding of the International Fly Fishing Championship in England on the grounds it was of no account but gave money to blind golf in the same budget. It seems to me there are a lot of people who are giving out money to things and do not bother to ask the questions. They are not really concerned about promoting high standards in sport, all they are interested in is giving out money.
  (Professor Tomlinson) The theme of staging international sports events is a very interesting catalyst for a lot of wider issues and this is one of them. What is the fundamental rationale for sports policy for different forms of funding: the public, the private, the mixture of public-private around different sports developments? In this country our problem has been that there are so many institutional organisational stakeholders that it has been very difficult to get right down to the basics and establish who speaks for these constituencies and the constituency of high level sport, and its relationship to building the necessary layers in sports performance and sports development. The obvious outcome of that will be rather ad hoc, you used the word inexplicable, rather ad hoc and rather difficult to account for certain sorts of decisions about who gets what and why. My own view is that around the theme of staging international sports events which is about the public, obviously, as well as the excellent performers and the elite performers, we do need probably to look at a fundamental review of sports policy provision and development in this country.

  200. Do you think that we should have one minister responsible for doing that with the power to alter things and bang heads together?
  (Professor Tomlinson) Some of us have observed the necessity for that for probably a generation now.

  Chairman: Professor Tomlinson, thank you very much. Your viewpoint on this has been of great value to the Committee. Thank you.





 
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