Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witnesses (Questions 248 - 259)

THURSDAY 8 MARCH 2001

MR GEOFF THOMPSON, MR DAVID DAVIES, MR ALEC MCGIVAN, SIR BOBBY CHARLTON, MR NIC COWARD AND MR FRANK WHEELER

  Chairman: Mr Thompson, thank you, and also to your colleagues for coming this morning. We much appreciate it. Mr Keen will kick off.

Mr Keen

  248. Good morning. It is good to see you have a full side out this morning. Was it true that UEFA had agreed to support Germany and, therefore, it was inevitable that we were going to find it difficult to win the bid because the promise had been made to award it to Germany? Was that true or not true?

  (Mr Thompson) I was not involved at the time, of course. Clearly you have read Sir Bert Millichip's statement as part of our evidence who clearly says that was not the case. Certainly in the FA records we did withdraw from bidding for the 1998 World Cup to allow France to bid for it. You can see in Sir Bert's evidence that he was not in a position to make any agreement, he was not authorised to or did not believe there was any such agreement. Clearly there were other people in UEFA at the time who felt there was some form of understanding.

  249. Do you think that was possibly a rumour spread in order to discredit our bid and make it more difficult for us?
  (Mr Thompson) No, I do not think so. I think there was a genuine misunderstanding. We are talking about something that happened, nobody really knows where, we talk about in the Black Forest in Germany some time in 1993, we talk about in Las Vegas if you read Jarvis Astaire's book. Clearly there was some misunderstanding of the situation.

  250. Can I say it is remiss of me not to really thank all of you on behalf of many people for the efforts the team, including Tony Banks, put in, in trying to acquire the 2006 World Cup. I think that was a commendable effort by everybody involved. Again, we have already talked this morning, Professor Tomlinson mentioned it, about the fact that England really had little influence over the past 20 years internationally possibly once Sir Stanley Rous had left the scene. That was obviously a mistake, was it not?
  (Mr Thompson) I think you are right, I think we failed adequately to invest in this way and punch our weight in international committees both in FIFA and UEFA. I am clearly delighted that I was elected on to the UEFA Executive Committee this summer. I can say that we were seventh in line on the number of personnel on UEFA Committees and panels. I can now say that we have 44 people from the Football Association and English football on UEFA Committees and panels, we are second now. I am pleased that we are trying to re-address that balance. I accept the point quite conclusively that we have not in the past done as much as we should have done.

  251. You must have found goodwill in order to get as many people involved. There is goodwill towards us?
  (Mr Thompson) Certainly, the President of UEFA, Lennart Johansson is an Anglophile and clearly has a great regard for English football. I believe that UEFA recognise the status of the Premier League, the status in world football that has. We attract in this country players from almost every country in the world. I think they do appreciate the fact that England should have a voice in the corridors of power.

  252. We have already talked again this morning about the democratic deficit in some of the world sports bodies. What do you think we should do about that from a Government point of view? Can we be of any influence? I am not talking just about football, I am talking about the Olympics as well. Can the Government really play a part? What should we do?
  (Mr Thompson) I think Government can always play a part. We are all citizens of this great country, this great United Kingdom. I think it is important we all play a part if we want to bring events here, if we want to influence decisions within the world.

  253. On the 2006 bid in principle, it was an awful lot of money we had to spend even to have a chance of gaining the 2006 World Cup. What thoughts have you got, and particularly those who were travelling around the world trying to win for us, about the amount of money that we spent and have you thought any more about changing the system? It does seem an awful lot to spend £10 million or so on just bidding when it would have been possibly better to give £10 million to South Africa and help them develop their game and have a better system altogether. What do you feel about that?
  (Mr Thompson) I am going to pass that to the Director of the 2006 bid because he is in a better position than I am.
  (Mr McGivan) I think, Mr Keen, it would certainly be a true reflection of probably most people involved in the process, probably not just from England but the other bids as well that there are a number of unsatisfactory features with World Cup bidding. One is the process is far too long, they have even extended it by three months since we saw this Committee last, it moved from March 2000 to July 2000 so they added to that timetable. Secondly it is too expensive a process for all involved. I have no reason to think that we spent very differently from any of the other bids. I have noted that we are the only bid to have published any accounts, which I think is to our credit but let us assume the other bids spent much the same as us. I think we all felt that it was a long campaign with a lot of expenditure involved. That said, on entering the race, as we said to this Select Committee before, we felt a budget of £10 million or thereabouts was necessary to run a professional campaign and to compete with the opposition and I do not think we have ever changed our minds on that. The Japanese and the Koreans spent five, six, seven times that amount to achieve World Cup 2002 so by their standards it was a pretty modest investment. Clearly for the result, you look at £10 million and you say "Well it is a lot of money", two thirds of it, of course, came from within football but nonetheless a lot of money but the potential return is an enormous economic benefit not just to football but to the country, as we saw from Euro 96. Prior to a result it seemed a reasonably decent investment for potentially a huge return. When, of course, you lose there are those who say "Goodness me, how did you ever think of spending £10 million on a World Cup bid" but as we all know after elections it is very easy with hindsight to claim wisdom that you did not express before.

  254. As one who saw every one of the 1966 games live, apart from the Final which I thought it was not worth trying to buy a ticket from a tout outside for, and one who went to the Olympic Games in 1948, I have great loyalty to trying to get these world championships here. It really was an awful lot of money. I did ask the question which you did not fully answer, what would you like to see changed in the bidding system? How would you like to see it changed for the future, because we have to make these movements?
  (Mr McGivan) I certainly think a reduction in the timetable of it would please everybody. People are already now bidding for the next one. The lobbying has started. I think you could probably say the lobbying started the day after the vote that we experienced, people were beginning to hustle and bustle around who is going to get 2010. FIFA have to some extent improved on that by talking about rotation, although they have not actually settled exactly how rotation is going to work. There is talk that Europe will come up in rotation rather more frequently than everybody else. No doubt that will cause a debate at some point. Even with rotation, if you allocate the World Cup, let us say, to Africa, Professor Tomlinson was assuming that was South Africa but the Moroccans are already saying they are going to bid and there were five African bids on the table originally. Even within rotation you will get lobbying, you will get campaigning, you will get expenditure, and some group of people have got to make the decision. If you could reduce the length of time, if you could reduce the costs and if you could, as I think was referred to earlier, somehow move away from what in effect are the likes and dislikes and political opinions of 24 very powerful individuals to the merits of the bid, the technical abilities of countries to stage the tournament, if you could somehow shift the emphasis that would improve the system enormously.

  255. One final question. If we wanted to, it looked from reading the FIFA report that we could have taken legal action, although that would not help for any future bid. It did not seem fair at all, did it?
  (Mr McGivan) No. Some people have asked is the process fair or unfair. I think anyone who has been involved in a political environment gets used to the rough and tumble of these situations. I think one would be naive if one did not assume that politics at the end of the day dictates these results on the current system more than on technical merits. As far as that report was concerned I think it was a scandal, the way it came out, but bear in mind that for us it was the final body blow because we had already got the hooliganism in Euro 2000 on the table at that point and with ten days or so to go, which was when the report came out, we knew in our heart of hearts privately then that we could not win. Indeed, we had very realistic assessments with the FA Board at that time to tell them so. The report was a blow but it came as a further blow to a set of circumstances we were then in which we felt meant victory was not achievable.

  Mr Keen: Thank you again for the effort.

Ms Ward

  256. The low markings that were given by the FIFA Technical Study for government support and approval, do you think that was a misunderstanding by FIFA of the way that Government were supporting the bid or do you think we were weak in the way we dealt with this? I do not mean weak in your sense but weak in terms of the Government.
  (Mr McGivan) Others may want to comment on this but I think Government support could not have been more forthcoming than it was and, indeed, all-party support was a very valuable asset to us because we started under one Government and continued under another and we were always at great pains to be able to show off to visitors that all parties were supporting us. The Government could not have done more and I think no-one at FIFA could possibly have misunderstood that. In the production of that rather dubious Technical Report, they somehow saw fit to cast doubts in one or two areas for no good reason.
  (Mr Davies) If I may say so, I do not think anybody that we were aware of during the campaign, until that document, believed that there was any lack of will in this country. If we think back to your own Committee, and if we may return our thanks to you for the words, "well conceived, well managed, well executed bid", that was very helpful. I can remember going to Downing Street to discuss the bid with the then Prime Minister, John Major, and coming to this place to talk to the then Leader of the Opposition, Tony Blair, and the commitment from the Labour Party to support the bid in the manifesto, that was immensely helpful. The embassies and the High Commissions did come up trumps for us, as we hoped that they would. The Royal Family were helpful in this bid and played practical roles. People also talk about the media. Because of the daily contact we have with the media we do not spend our time complaining about the coverage of the media. It is entirely correct that certain journalists were unhelpful but the press in this country does not see itself as having the job of flag waving for any bid. I think people who are not in the media have to understand that. Having made that point, I think the media also need to understand that the English media is very, very widely read around the world and one damaging article is seized on by one's opponents, sometimes from countries where such articles are not as easily forthcoming. Overall we think we had considerable support and it was recognised.

  257. What was the comparison then between our bid and Government support and other bids and obviously the successful bid? In comparison with the level of government support, what was it that other governments did that we should learn from them?
  (Mr McGivan) I do not think there was very much difference. The Chairman referred to us asking him to attend a lunch for one of the members of the FIFA Executive. If you look at all the other bids and the activities they were undertaking, Heads of State, Members of Parliament, Ministers were all being asked to back their country's bids. The Germans certainly did that. People talked to us about the tremendous effort we made to facilitate the technical team that came here to do the report. They came here hotfoot from Germany where they spent five days doing exactly the same sorts of things which we laid on for them: red carpets, helicopters, the Government, Prime Minister, Heads of State. Every country was doing the same. One does feel a slight sense of absurdity in the final days of the process when we were slightly out of it by this time. Everyone knew in the final couple of days that we could not win. You heard talk of Mandela had phoned these six people and the Heads of State in Germany had made these calls and so on and so forth. It does seem to reach that scale. We could not complain at all, I think, about what the Prime Minister and his predecessor did to start the campaign and the support we had from Tony Banks, both as a Minister and then as a Special Envoy. This country politically could not have done more and I think we did just as much as, if not more than, our competitors in that regard.
  (Sir Bobby Charlton) I felt, like everyone else on our committee, a sense of outrage that we had been insulted. We had taken great lengths over a great period of time and put a lot of effort into taking people to see what we had to offer. We took them to Sunderland, we took them to Liverpool, to Arsenal, to Chelsea, to Derby, to Manchester United. Every time we took a group of people there they always said "we have never seen anything like this, this is the most fantastic presentation we have ever had". You can imagine a few days before the event when Mr Rothenberg stood up and his report came out that we were third, and all the criticism they had of us. We actually collared him just before we went into the session when they were voting and he did not apologise but he said he had been misinterpreted. It is all right apologising after the fact, he should have thought about it before. We worked really hard. I was insulted, and I must say this in all honesty, not particularly because of the effect that it would have on the Government but the effect that it would have on all the people in football and in our country who were relying on us to come up with something that was really special, and we did. I was really insulted for the young people at Sunderland, the young people at Derby, who were waiting out in the rain for these people waving flags. Sunderland actually brought some of the FIFA delegates to tears because they were so impressed with what they saw. The Government, as Alec has already said, were absolutely first class. I can never criticise any of them for the efforts they gave. In fact, when we set off on the process of trying to get the World Cup in 2006, we wanted to show them what was the best of British, certainly what was the best of English. The help that we had with regard to overseas embassies etc was absolutely first class. I will certainly defend the Government in everything with regard to this bid, we could not have had more help if we had asked for it.

  258. In terms of the future, there will be bids for other events, not just football, Olympics, other championships, what can you advise those who will be in the teams to put forward bids in the future? What lessons can we learn? Do you think there has to be a whole cultural change in the way that we operate in this country in order to be successful?
  (Sir Bobby Charlton) If I think there is a chance of winning one of the major events like that I think we should go for it, as long as we are capable, as long as we think we are capable of doing it. We certainly have a lot of bright young people. We have the facilities, we have the will, we have the wherewithal, we have the enthusiasm to go for everything. If we are not capable of doing it because we do not have Government backing or we do not have finance or we do not feel we have then I think, fair enough, we should say "Well maybe we should leave this until we are in a state where we can" but at the present time I am all in favour of going for everything. We are good at what we do. In football terms we are a world leader and I am very pleased that Geoff Thompson has got on to the Executive Committee of UEFA and it is about time, it is one of the things that we have been lacking, and it was really noticeable in our bid. We have to have representation. We are good at what we do and when we do organise events we do it well. I think we must never be afraid to throw our hat in the ring, if there is an Olympic Games or a Commonwealth Games comes up or a World Cup comes up. Certainly I hope the next time the World Cup is in Europe it will be here and I hope we will go for it as wholeheartedly as we went for the last one.
  (Mr Thompson) We put something in the report, of course, Alec may want just to add to that.
  (Mr McGivan) I think, looking back, one would have to advise any other sport—and I think probably football, obviously, gets more attention than most sports perhaps—to have the backing of your Confederation body. There is no question that UEFA's support for Germany right across the board damaged us enormously. We have talked about the so-called agreement and I think we had realistic prospects of perhaps picking off a couple of European votes for a long period of the campaign but at the end of the day seven out of eight Europeans voted for Germany and not to have the backing of your own Confederation from the start was clearly, looking back, very damaging, not just because it meant a certain number of votes were going the wrong way but it also meant it was very difficult to do deals at the end. If you look at it—without going into a lot of detail—it was all Confederation block voting in the end, it was all Confederation wheeling and dealing, one with another, Asia with UEFA, Africa with South America and we were simply squeezed out. We were literally squeezed out of the operation simply because we did not have that Confederation backing. That is fundamental to anyone looking to bid, yes, you need proper funding, yes you need Government support, you need professionalism, you need the right infrastructure in the country to have good facilities but you also need political clout and presence in the corridors of power and that is obviously a lesson that we have learnt. We were aware of that as a weakness. We thought we might be able to overcome it and every sport looking to bid has got to seriously assess those things. The only other thing I would add is that I think any sport that goes in for an international bid will find the most surprising obstacles occurring and a number of compromises that have to be made. If I look back over the difficulties that we had, hooliganism was a long term problem which we had to confront and which came up in Marseilles and again in Euro 2000. We had things like the FIFA presidential election, who do we back? Do we back Johansson, do we back Blatter? We had the Kelly/Wiseman crisis, now I do not want to go into that particularly but here we were, a Football Association bidding for the World Cup that had lost a Chief Executive, a Chairman, and a month later even a national coach. It did make us look in a slight state of disarray. We had Wembley, it did not turn out to be the plus card that it should have been. We had Manchester United and the World Club Championship. We were even being asked by everyone we could come across to play fixtures with the England team. Now all those issues, people do not realise how many times everywhere you go, you get requests for this, asked to do that, things which we could not possibly deliver in certain cases. Any sport bidding for a national event will find itself time and time again, sometimes publicly, sometimes privately being asked to overcome hurdles which you would never have dreamt of at the point that you launched your campaign.

Mr Maxton

  259. Let me play a little bit of devil's advocate. If Germany had beaten Argentina in the World Cup Final in 1966, do you think anybody would now remember that England held the World Cup in that year? Do you think again that match would still be being shown on television roughly every three weeks to the collective groan throughout Scotland every time it takes place?
  (Mr Thompson) I think I ought to ask Sir Bobby who actually played in that to answer that.
  (Sir Bobby Charlton) I remember at the end of the match when my brother said to me "Well, what about that kidda", I remember saying to him "Well, your life will never be the same again" and it has not been. There has not been a day gone past that the World Cup Final in 1966 has not been mentioned to me. Had Argentina played Germany then I do not think the match indeed would have finished, not if there was the series of incidents we had. We were lucky in as much as we had good management and we had a good team and we had good enthusiasm. I think that the World Cup Final is something which gives everybody a sense of pleasure and a sense of joy when they talk about it and I think maybe that is in the back of our minds when we go on a bid like this, that we want that sort of feeling, feeling well and feeling self-satisfied and proud of our game. That is what we have to try to achieve. I hope that one day we will be able to repeat it.


 
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