Examination of witness (Questions 220
THURSDAY 8 MARCH 2001
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.
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
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.
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 ideaand I made this quite clearof 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 millionwhich I would like to
talk about in a minutewill 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
(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
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
(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.
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
239. I do not think I want to go down that route.
(Mr Banks) Neither do I, Ms Ward, I can assure you.