Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witness (Questions 220 - 239)

THURSDAY 8 MARCH 2001

MR TONY BANKS MP

Chairman

  220. That is a very interesting thing you say, Mr Banks. Before I call Mr Faber I was going to follow up the point that Mr Maxton has made. After all, you have done more than most to get international sporting events into this country, including the World Cup. If you look at the fate of places which have had international sporting events, it is perfectly true that Barcelona did a wonderful job in enhancing its urban infrastructure and it is also true there is now a golden glow after the Sydney Olympics, but before the Olympics there was huge controversy in Australia about the mess and the burden that there was going to be and huge scepticism days before the Olympics opened. You can look at Atlanta and the mess that was there. You can look at the World Student Games at Sheffield that Sheffield is still living down and about which it is arguable that the Labour Party lost control of the city. Not carrying it too far, when we had the European Cup in Manchester we had a bomb which destroyed a large part of the centre of the city. It is a very dicey question of what happens to a city if it actually succeeds in a bid, whereas you have pointed out that the failed bid in Manchester got us the arena, it got us a wonderful concert hall. Maybe the thing to do is to bid but not to put your heart too much into it and reap the benefits rather than the difficulties that mostly ensue if you succeed.
  (Mr Banks) I am sure, Chairman, we would not want to encourage that level of cynicism amongst bidding cities. I know that Manchester as a city was desperately unhappy about not having been successful in the process, but they did have quite a lot of compensations that followed on afterwards. I think what you are showing is that there is a patchy framework to look at. Some have done well and some have done not so well and some have done badly. You are right with regard to the Student games at Sheffield, although there are facilities there that the people of Sheffield are able to enjoy. There is still some annoyance in Sheffield that whereas they had to finance the whole thing, Manchester and the Commonwealth Games, of course, can look to the Lottery. It has been Manchester's gain that the Lottery came along and it was not there when Sheffield were bidding for the World Student Games, because I am sure that they would have been able to get some Lottery money. That is just an historic accident and they have suffered at the end of that. It is more difficult to quantify but there is something to be said for, as you have described it, the warm glow that comes about after having organised a world event that has received the approbation of the world. It does reflect credit on a community and all sorts of things then stem from it. It will take years to work out how beneficial those Olympic Games have been to Sydney. If Sydney then becomes a city where people know that it is a can-do city, that they can organise things, who knows what that might mean in terms of decisions for inward investment for those who are looking round at various cities. There are some aspects in there that you can only, as it were, make an intelligent guess about and you really cannot assess until you are a long way down the road. It does seem a reasonable assumption to say that if you have shown yourself capable to put on a really good event and everyone has acknowledged it then there is enormous kudos which eventually is quantifiable to the city or the country that has done it.

Mr Faber

  221. I think you came in at the very end of Professor Tomlinson's evidence.
  (Mr Banks) I have read the paper.

  222. His view is that however hard you all worked and however technically good the presentation was for 2006, because of the political make-up of FIFA the bid was always doomed. Looking back on it, and you have put more time and effort into it than almost anyone else, if not anyone else, do you feel that was time wasted? Do you feel let down? Do you feel that it was a wasted effort? What good do you draw from it?
  (Mr Banks) May I say, Mr Faber, I do not feel that I can take, as it were, disproportionate credit for effort.

  223. I accept that.
  (Mr Banks) Because behind me are sitting an incredibly hard-working and professionally organised team from the Football Association and I wish to pay public tribute to them, as I have done in the past, for the effort of particularly Alec McGivan whose disappointment would have been the greatest of all in having failed. No, I do not in any way regret it at all. The only thing I regret is that we did not win, obviously.

  224. What do you think of Professor Tomlinson's view that it was always a non-starter because of FIFA's politics?
  (Mr Banks) Again, it is the benefit of hindsight. If you have got a decision that can go one way or the other you can take a decision at the beginning to say it is not going to work or it is going to work and you stand a 50/50 chance of being correct. I do not really feel that is something that would have impressed us even if we had been told about it at the very beginning. Of course, there are any number of people who are telling us now that we should not have done it who were not actually telling us at the beginning that we should not have entered into it. Maybe one of the few people who did was me. Just in case unkind Members want to remind me, I actually suggested that South Africa ought to host the World Cup in 2006 but, of course, the Labour Party having put it in the manifesto that we were going to support it, and me becoming Minister, as they say when circumstances change I change my mind, so what do you do? I had to loyally pursue it, and I did precisely that. The fact is I do not believe that ours was a doomed bid from the beginning at all, I think a number of things conspired against us, and no doubt the Football Association will be able to detail that with more complexity. The fact is we went up and down. There were times when even the press in this country were of the opinion that we were the favourites and we were going to win. The Germans certainly at one point thought that we were going to win. I would remind Members that when I was prepared to put £10,000 of my own money, which I did not have I might add, on a handshake with the director of the German bid that they would not win, he was not prepared to take up the challenge. I was grateful for that because it would have been really annoying to have been paying for the Germans to drink champagne on the night that they did win. No-one knew for sure. We all felt that at various times we were going to do well, we were going to win, and at other times we felt that we were going to lose. Those who just judge us on public statements must realise that, as in politics, if you are facing what looks like inevitable election defeat you do not say "we don't stand a dog's chance", you always talk it up. How you think privately and how you discuss it within your inner cabinet is another matter. I think those who cannot differentiate between public statements and what was going on behind the scenes should not accuse us of naivety, they are naive themselves.

  225. In my earlier questioning of Professor Tomlinson I dwelt at some length on the FIFA Technical Report and I expressed my incredulity at some of the remarks and comments in it. How did you feel when you saw that report? How did you feel when you read some of the patently nonsensical things that were in it?
  (Mr Banks) We were spitting blood. The language was pretty ripe, it certainly was coming from me. I just considered it to be a total stitch-up, an absolute stitch-up. I remember saying that if Mr Rothenberg, who was the Chairman of that Commission, actually believed that our football facilities were inferior to the Germans at that stage and only equal to South Africa then he clearly believed that Elvis Presley was alive and living on the moon.

Chairman

  226. Some people do believe that.
  (Mr Banks) It was absurd. Indeed, in the end I think that the FIFA members themselves turned against that. It was a clear stitch-up job. I think the Professor was right, there was a lot of politics involved in that, absolutely a lot of politics. We were always struggling against the politics, not least of all the fact that we were not backed by our own international organisation, UEFA, who indeed, again, tried another political trick on us, I thought, by giving a public warning with regard to England and Euro 2000, which again I felt was perhaps done more out of politics than it was done out of trying to restore order. They are the sort of things you have to put up with. We are used to that. Quite honestly looking at that report, talking about the hotel deal, the banner in Paraguay for God's sake when others had been doing all sorts of things but we got picked on, and overrunning on our presentation on one occasion, I mean it was pathetic and quite frankly it was a stitch-up too far that even Mr Rothenberg had to admit in the end. He denied, of course, it was a stitch-up but he is a rather sort of litigious gentleman so I had better put that in.

Mr Faber

  227. As Mr Bates found out last week I am sure you are okay whatever you like to say here. Can I move on to Wembley. You have reaffirmed your support this morning for the principle of originally having three sports at Wembley. You said you would like to expand on the principle of retractable seating and platform athletics tracks at Wembley. Do you still, a year or two on, believe that would have worked?
  (Mr Banks) I believe it could have worked but it was made quite clear to me that money was not available for it to work. It was an extra £40 million that simply was not going to be provided. So it was a question of accepting the economics of the situation, the Government was not prepared to put in any money. That was a fact that was made patently clear to me whilst I was arguing that we could have retractable seating. We could do whatever we wanted if we put enough money in.

  228. Surely it was in the original budget for an athletics track.
  (Mr Banks) The provision of athletics. I rejected the idea—and I made this quite clear—of a permanent athletics track that is visible. This led to some difficulties between myself and The Daily Mail which in the end I was happy to see resolved. They said that I had conspired to get athletics out of Wembley, out of the national stadium, which was a lie and I made that quite clear that it was a lie. Of course not. I was not in favour of a permanent athletics track, that is not the way that we do it. It did not seem right to me, given the fact that we only use the national stadium for something as significant as the World Athletics Championship or the Olympic Games on an infrequent basis and we mostly use it for football and rugby league, that we should actually, as it were, distort the economics of the whole thing. I believe, as I said before, I think there should be a national athletics stadium and I hope that Picketts Lock provides that in the end though personally I doubt it but that is another matter. I did feel that in the end the deck solution was the right one given the fact that we could not be certain we would ever get the Olympic Games, we can certainly get the World Athletics Championships. It made economic sense and as we thought at the time, and said at the time, the Secretary of State said it was a stunning design that I thought gave enough to everyone to make them all satisfied, clearly I was wrong.

  229. That £40 million, of course, is now going to be allocated to Picketts Lock as Lottery funding. In addition another £20 million—which I would like to talk about in a minute—will be coming back from the FA and WNSL. There is still a shortfall of at least £30 million probably to build Picketts Lock. Do you think that will be money well spent?
  (Mr Banks) It will not be the only money that will have to be spent if that is what happens. First of all, Mr Faber, I do not share necessarily your optimism, indeed if you were expressing optimism, that the £60 million package will be put together anyway. There is a feasibility study still awaited. There is planning permission.

  230. I have no optimism with it at all.
  (Mr Banks) Yes, I have little optimism, I have got a lot of goodwill towards the Department and the Government and athletics in getting this to work. The track record does not necessarily mean that one should be over hopeful on this one. Let me just say, it is not just about building a stadium, it is not just about building a national stadium at Wembley or a national athletics stadium at Picketts Lock on its own, there is the transport infrastructure, there are all the other things and that is only something that Government can provide. Unless the Government is prepared, as it were, to do that then quite frankly none of these projects are going to work. That is why I say in the end, and I come back to the point that I made earlier on, not a criticism specifically of this Government but of the whole culture in this country "Let us do it on the cheap. How can we find someone else to pay for it? Let us pass the hat round", metaphorically speaking, it does not work.

  231. You have also referred this morning to your long held opposition to the arm's length principle.
  (Mr Banks) Yes.

  232. You must, therefore, surely be pleased that this Secretary of State has really abandoned the arm's length principle when it comes to Picketts Lock. Dave Moorcroft last week said he had been given virtually cast iron assurances by the Secretary of State that not only would the £40 million be forthcoming but the £20 million would be forthcoming as well and then he said, quite literally, that the Government had promised, Chris Smith had promised, that he would help find the gap in funding. Now I share your cynicism that will happen or doubt that will happen but surely as an opponent of the arm's length principle you must welcome the fact that the Secretary of State is so willing to get involved?
  (Mr Banks) If it works out like that, Mr Faber, I shall lead the applause.

  233. Okay. When you were a Minster at the Department and dealing every day with Sport England and the other distribution bodies, did you understand the way in which Sport England and other distribution bodies put money aside for Lottery bids? Bridget Simmonds explained to us last week that the lowest level of giving money when a Lottery application has been made is an allocation that is made in the budget.
  (Mr Banks) Yes.

  234. It then goes up to the next layer which is called an in principle agreement to fund. The Secretary of State has always both in this Committee and on the Floor of the House used the expression in principle funding has been agreed for Picketts Lock. Bridget Simmonds told us last week that is not the case, they are still at the allocation. When you were a Minister you understood the difference between those two levels of funding. The Secretary of State should understand the difference between the allocation that is made in the Sport England budget and an in principle agreement by Sport England to fund Picketts Lock?
  (Mr Banks) Yes, obviously. Ministers can influence the process, they can influence the process not necessarily directly but they can influence the process. Obviously in politics one tends to travel optimistically. I think there is a great deal of optimism with regard to Picketts Lock at the moment and there is a long way yet to travel. I want it to work, obviously I hope it will work but there are other implications. It is not just DCMS. This is a problem that DCMS has always had, that is when we are talking about these events, it is not just about the investment in the immediate sporting infrastructure, it is all the attendant infrastructure that goes with it. That means going to other departments in order to get agreement and that is often where the problems start. That being so, even if you have an agreement that a stadium is going to be constructed, that is by no means the end of the story. There are a hell of a lot of problems that then have to be solved. I think to a certain extent we saw that at the Millennium Stadium with regard to the recent Worthington Cup Final, perhaps not enough thought had been given to how people were going to get there and away from it afterwards, particularly if they were coming from outside of Wales.

  235. Do you think the FA and Wembley should repay the £20 million?
  (Mr Banks) It seems to be a figure plucked out of the air to be perfectly honest.

  236. It was plucked.
  (Mr Banks) I do not know where the figure of £20 million came in. Why not £40 million.

  237. It was plucked out of the air.
  (Mr Banks) I do not quite understand why they should be required to repay it, after all the design that was put forward answered the brief which was to provide for athletics within a national stadium. If people subsequently decide that a stunning design is woefully inadequate it does seem to me to be a little unfortunate that those that were involved in it should then be asked to pay back an element of money. They have discharged their contractual liabilities and I think Sport England have done their necessary work as well. If people are willing to hand over money to be used elsewhere why should I try and stop them doing it, it is up to them. It is very helpful if they do.

Ms Ward

  238. Mr Banks, when you were Minister for Sport and involved in the negotiations with Wembley Stadium and with Ken Bates, you obviously enjoyed the support and good working relationship with Ken Bates at that time?
  (Mr Banks) I do not think you should make that assumption, Ms Ward, at all. I find Ken Bates as awkward to get on with as anyone, either on this Committee or anywhere else. He does not make an easy bedfellow, and I mean that in a non sexual way, of course.

  239. I do not think I want to go down that route.
  (Mr Banks) Neither do I, Ms Ward, I can assure you.


 
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