Examination of witnesses (Questions 260
THURSDAY 8 MARCH 2001
260. I have to say in Scotland, of course, it
is the game at Wembley the following year that is considered more
important. The point I am making is that it was the winning of
the World Cup that was so influential on English football rather
than the fact it was held in this country. It is winning that
will inspire more youngsters to play the game than whether it
is held here, whether it is held anywhere else. That is even truer
now with modern transport and with modern television where we
can watch the game wherever it is played instantly and live.
(Mr Thompson) I think that we have got to remember
that the bid was held up, thought about certainly prior to Euro
96, certainly, because it was 40 years since we last held the
world championship in England. Euro 96 was a great success on
the back of a lot of traumas both in this country and in Europe.
We had the Heysel disaster. We had been banned from European competitions.
We had had the Hillsborough disaster, very close to my home. We
had rebuilt the stadia, brought world class stadia to some of
the clubs who moved into greenfield sites. Some of them developed
the sites of older stadia. We brought stadia into the 21st century
because of that Hillsborough disaster. Then we ran a tournament
without any problems that was hailed at that time as the best
European championship ever. It was on that, that the final decision
was taken that we should bid for the World Cup in 2006.
261. Mr McGivan said that it was an economic
success. How do you quantify that for football, not for the nation?
(Mr McGivan) I think the Government did quite well
from the taxation point of view, as I recall. There were various
economic reports produced after Euro 96. I think the figure of
the number of foreign visitors was approximately 250,000 who came
into the country and there was a figure produced for how much
money they had spent. You mentioned 1966 and if England had not
won would people have looked back on that World Cup? I think an
awful lot of people do look back on Euro 96 as a great moment
in English football and we did not win, we did not even get to
the final but Wembley was packed for that final. I remember many
people coming along and saying "Oh, after the disappointment
of being knocked out in the semi-finals it was all going to fade"
and in fact the country celebrated the end of Euro 96 in great
style. People look back on that tournament with a great deal of
affection and I think it did a great boost for English football,
probably football across the UK. We did not actually win the tournament.
262. Where did the money that football made
go to? To the clubs, to professional clubs, to the grass roots?
(Mr Thompson) It went back to UEFA primarily. The
funding available for the FA at that particular time, and they
have changed the regulations since then, in fact the organising
committee of the Portuguese FA are not only getting government
money to assist them but also getting money from UEFA to organise
the tournament, we did not get that, we were only allowed to keep
263. As I said earlier, with the television
and modern transport, air transport, and Mr McGivan was making
the point that FIFA is talking about rotation and that will be
on a continental basis, nowadays there is not any reason why a
continent should not, through its organisations, bid collectively
for the World Cup. There is no reason now why you should not play
the World Cup throughout Europe rather than in one single country.
Therefore, it may come down to bidding for the final rather than
bidding for the whole event.
(Mr Thompson) Certainly there are joint bids emerging
now. Japan and Korea obviously did not start off as a joint bid
but ended up as one. We had Belgium and the Netherlands hosting
Euro 2000. There are those who say let us see how Japan and Korea
goes before we have any more. That seems to be the view of the
President of FIFA, that he does not want any more joint World
Cups until the first one is tried and tested. My own opinion,
and I think it is shared by some others, is joint World Cups,
as you say, are very much likely to be something for the future.
Some people talked at one stage in our bidding process of England
and Germany coming together. Some people raised their eyebrows
and said that is politically completely unacceptable and we could
not possibly go down that road, what would the tabloid press in
this country say, etc, etc, but from a practical point of view
it would have been perfectly feasible and it may yet be something
which we will see in the next 50/60 years. Two countries like
England and Germany coming together could be done. I think, as
you say, the argument would be over who staged the finals, which
I think the Japanese and Koreans also found quite a difficult
issue to resolve.
(Mr Davies) Mr Maxton, can I say that this was a subject
that certain of us did think about at considerable length. If
you did have rotation between six continents and it was strict
rotation, Europe would only see it once in 24 years. You are absolutely
right, were that to happen, and if you say there are basically
five countries in Europe that might host it on their own, it would
be in Italy, in Germany, in England every 100 years. Just to go
back to the basic point, there are those who have been here this
morning who have said perhaps we should not have bid at all. The
reality is by the end of the year 2006 a 32 year old person who
has been born and brought up in Munich will have seen two World
Cups in their country; a 40 year old person in this country will
not have seen any. For us not to have bid in the current circumstances
would have been unthinkable to us. In terms of the future that
you have referred to I think it will be very, very different.
Mr Maxton: My concern is not so much
with the World Cup or football but certainly with the Olympic
Games. Bidding for the Olympic Games is possibly going to be a
major distraction from ensuring that proper facilities are built
for grass roots sport in this country if we spend all of our time
thinking about the Olympics and facilities that have to be provided.
That is not a criticism of the World Cup, I have to say.
264. Having listened to all of you this morning
and Mr Banks before you expressing with considerable passion your
views on what happened, we should say that you behaved with great
dignity at the time because it must have been a great disappointment
and you did not let it show more than was absolutely necessary.
Sir Bobby, we have heard a lot from Mr Banks and from Mr McGivan
about the political nature of the whole process, and they are
both very experienced in actual politics but you are not and yet
you were very much a figurehead amongst the team. How did you
find it going around the world in what were such overtly political
(Sir Bobby Charlton) I felt reasonably comfortable
in as much as I had helped the Japanese in their bid for the World
Cup in 2002. I had a little experience of what to expect with
regard to the politics of it. We did have Tony Banks, who was
absolutely superb in everything that he did on the political side.
I tended to work really hard on producing a picture of what people
should expect in our country with regard to the state of the game,
the health of the game, etc, how we would benefit helping the
rest of the world, rather than the politics. Unfortunately I did
get involved in the politics in lots and lots of cases and I found
it okay. I tend to always go back to Sir Stanley Rous who once
was having a dinner in Moscow and at dinner the Russian delegate
came across and tried very, very hard to influence Sir Stanley
Rous in making the decision that would be helpful to the Soviet
Union as it was at that time and I remember very clearly he said
"I cannot do that because it is not the correct thing to
do". I think that should be everybody's yardstick in politics,
especially when they get involved in sport, but unfortunately
that is not the case. At the same time you have to have those
sorts of principles if you want to handle the whole thing correctly,
and that is what we try to do. I understand the politics of it
but when we first got together to discuss the approach there was
never any talk of any way that we should use politics and use
politicians to help influence the bids, other than to paint the
picture of what was good about the country.
265. Ironically we were criticised for not having
sufficient Government support, even though we have patently heard
that was not the case.
(Sir Bobby Charlton) Not at all.
266. There was one other thing that fascinated
me in your supplementary memorandum to us, Mr McGivan, on the
issue of Government's written guarantee where you say that FIFA
questioned the validity of Mr Smith's signature. Do you mean that
they thought it was a forgery?
(Mr McGivan) No. I think the problem arose, and I
think it was within the bureaucracy of FIFA with their staff probably,
that they somehow expected every government department to submit
separate guarantees, although they had not made that clear in
any paperwork to us. We did an all-embracing guarantee from the
Secretary of State and that was what they then questioned. I do
not think they were questioning the validity of the signature.
This was why then the letter went from the Prime Minister to underline
the point that this was a Government guarantee across the board
and that it was not necessary for individual Ministers to be sending
267. Mr Wheeler, you also served all over the
world in the interface between politics and business, how did
you find it coming in on this campaign? How overtly political
did you find it? What changes could you anticipate being made
to the process?
(Mr Wheeler) Undoubtedly it is a very political environment
in which one is operating. I do not think any of us were under
the impression that the intrinsic merits of our bid, which were
very considerable, would in themselves be sufficient to win. We
were realistic about it, we realised that we had to persuade other
people to our point of view to look at what we could offer. To
that extent I suppose we were operating in a way which is in some
ways similar to other aspects of politics. That said, I do not
think one could say that this is an ideal environment. I think
FIFA have recognised this in advocating a move towards rotation
which might to some extent simplify the process a little bit.
The realities are, of course, that when there is a big prize at
stake there will be much competition for it. To that extent, politics
probably would be an angle.
268. Mr Thompson, I wonder if I can change the
subject and come to the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium and the
FA's involvement with that. With hindsight, do you think that
greater financial commitment from the FA at the very outset would
have solved a lot of the problems Wembley has had as a result.
(Mr Thompson) It was before my time, Chairman, at
the FA, as you will appreciate, but I certainly was on the council
at that time. It was clear that we needed to set up a subsidiary
company if we were going to take over Wembley Stadium, if you
remember it was the Wembley Stadium Trust initially, and we were
given assurances that the FA's money, which I am very conscious
about, I think we are only custodians of it for the whole country,
and particularly the grass roots game of this country, I feel
very passionate about that, I come from that side of the game.
Consequently our initial reaction was that the FA's funding would
be ring-fenced. At that time we were making something in the region
of £2 million a year profit. Over the years, of course, we
have always ploughed money back into the game at the end of each
financial year. Our only assets were the buildings we had at Lancaster
Gate and at Potters Bar, and a little bit of liquid asset, something
in the region of £3 million.
269. By Christmas 1999 you were involved, and
I wonder if we can just examine the repayment of the £20
million in a little more detail. As I understand it, the sequence
of events was that Dave Richards attended a meeting or a presentation
of some sort at Downing Street launching the Football Foundation,
and in some way the suggestion was made that this money should
be repaid. Mr Bates then went to see the Secretary of State on
22/23 December and an agreement was made. The Secretary of State
then wrote to Mr Bates on 7 January formally placing those discussions
on record. Mr Bates then in some way passed it on to you as Chairman
of the Football Association and you wrote to the Secretary of
State on 31 January. You mentioned in your letter a release of
some of the commercial constraints on WNSL, can you tell us what
you understood those commercial constraints were and how it would
(Mr Thompson) Yes. Let me go back one stage further,
if I may. You have seen the correspondence from the Secretary
of State. Before that he had asked Sir Nigel Mobbs, who was Chairman
of the Wembley Task Forceyou may have seen the letter that
the Secretary of State wrote to Ken Bates regarding the appointment
of Sir Nigel Mobbsto look into the position of athletics
at the stadium. He was also asked to consider what compensation
might be payable if Wembley were released of the obligation to
have athletics. The figure of £20 million was arrived at
by all involved and because it appeared to be fair. I believe
that it is not a legal obligation. I believe that it is rightly
described as a moral obligation. The Secretary of State, I believe,
himself has agreed this in evidence to you previously. That is
the position. We were asked by Sir Nigel Mobbs to meet to discuss
the issue of Wembley Stadium and, perhaps, the removal of athletics
from it. Dave Richards, you are quite right, led our delegation
with our accountant. He came to the conclusion that it was right
that we should do that. I asked Ken Bates to see the Secretary
of State, because he had not seen the Secretary of State. They
had this meeting, rather hurriedly, just before the Secretary
of State was going off on holiday.
270. My question was about the issue of release
of the commercial constraints. Let me explain it in a little more
detail. Ken Bates has told us that he discussed at the meeting
the release of certain commercial constraints, and in particular
the issue of naming rights at the Stadium. The Secretary of State
said that this was not the case, that naming rights were not discussed
and not agreed upon. In your letter of 31 January to the Secretary
of State there was mention of commercial constraints, but there
is no mention of naming rights. When the Secretary of State wrote
back to you the following week he brings up the issue of naming
rights. What I am trying to get at is, why does the Secretary
of State claim that the issue of naming rights arose when there
was no mention of it in previous correspondence?
(Mr Thompson) I can only assume that that took place
in the discussion he had with Ken Bates on the morning of 23 December.
Ken Bates reported to me what had happened and that is why I sent
that letter to the Secretary of State, and you saw the reply,
you have seen the correspondence.
271. Thank you for that. Subsequently the FA,
and Mr Crozier in particular, decided that the whole issue of
Wembley should be looked at and the decision was taken that Mr
Bates should stand down as Chairman. Why did the FA feel that
that should take place?
(Mr Thompson) Let me clear the issue on that, first
of all Wembley National Stadium Limited is a subsidiary company
which has its own board of directors, including five independent
members. Those directors of Wembley National Stadium Limited following
the unsuccessful syndication of the project asked Mr Bates to
step aside, which he agreed to do. They clearly wanted to still
have his expertise and offered him the position of Executive Vice
Chairman, which he accepted, and subsequently resigned.
272. I was also going to raise the letter which
Mr Crozier wrote to Ken Bates on 30 January which prompted his
subsequent resignation from the Board. I must say, reading the
letter I can quite understand why Mr Bates took offence at that
time. It basically suggests that he having stepped down as the
Chairman of Wembley he will still have a key role to play during
the construction phase and they will continue to utilise his experience.
Basically, it must have looked very much to Mr Bates that he was
going to carry on doing most of the work unpaid, as he always
had been in the past, but that Sir Rodney was going to come in
and be the Chairman. One of the things which was, perhaps, most
distasteful about the letter is that it constantly refers to Sir
Rodney, it says, "He sees the role, he believes", whereas
Mr Bates had been assured and he told us that he had not even
seen the letter before it was sent. Do you accept that, perhaps,
the FA could have acted with a little more caution in this respect?
(Mr Thompson) My understanding of the situation is
that Sir Rodney Walker did see the letter and authorised it to
273. That is very helpful, thank you. Have the
FA signed your staging agreements for the staging of matches at
Wembley and the commercial agreements which you have with them?
(Mr Coward) As you will recall from the last time
we gave evidence we had at that time, as part of the Lottery Funding
Agreement process, had to decide a staging agreement for a considerable
period of time and that still exists. Perhaps that answers that.
274. Does that expire in a certain period?
(Mr Coward) It is a 20 year term. It is still going.
As you can imagine, the provider of the Lottery Fund needs to
ensure security and has requested, quite rightly, that that agreement
keeps going until the new financing is in place. That is why,
I think, the question was raised in an earlier evidence session
before you as to payments being made by the FA to Wembley. That
is quite right and we were required to do so by Sport England.
275. The staging agreements will carry on into
the new stadium as well.
(Mr Coward) They would inevitably have to be renegotiated
and we are doing that at the moment, because that is the process
we are going through at the moment with the City.
276. Finally, in the last year or so you have
moved to new offices in the centre of London, did you at any stage
consider moving your offices to Wembley, both as a show of financial
and, perhaps, moral support for the project?
(Mr Thompson) It has always been an opportunity that
we may go to Wembley. We clearly needed to get out of Lancaster
Gate because it was not big enough. We have taken a lease on premises
in Soho Square.
277. But did you consider moving to Wembley?
(Mr Thompson) It is an opportunity that we have considered,
we have not pushed it to one side at all, but we needed at that
particular time to get out of Lancaster Gate and move into bigger
Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much
indeed. You have rounded off a very valuable morning for us.