Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340 - 355)

WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001

SIR RODNEY WALKER, MR RICHARD CALLICOTT AND MR JOHN SCOTT

  340. Can I now switch to what may seem quite a wide question? I have been consistently saying that participation is my concern in sport; it is not big events. What assessment has been made by your organisation and the Sports Councils of how many people now play organised team sports in this country in comparison with, say, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years ago?
  (Mr Callicott) That is a very difficult question to answer for us. UK Sport has been given a specific responsibility for high priorities across the whole of the United Kingdom on world class performance programmes, the world class performance funding that you saw, the rewards benefiting our athletes in Sydney. We look after the anti-doping programmes of the whole of the United Kingdom. We are coordinating the United Kingdom Sports Institute and all that goes with that. We look after international relations in major events on behalf of the United Kingdom. The responsibility for the development of sports participation is ultimately that of the four home country Sports Councils, but we recognise that if there is no base, if there is no development, if there is no participation programme, the purpose of our being ceases to exist in a matter of time. Within the context of trying to encourage young people to participate in sport in the first place—and we have all seen recent publicity about levels of obesity amongst young people and the levels of inactivity and so on—the reality is that young people are also motivated to participate in sport by heroes or heroines and people who are role models at the highest level. 85 per cent of the population watch the Olympic Games at some point or other. These are not our figures; these are as a result of proper research. Two-thirds of the public want more Lottery investment as a result. As a result of the success of sailing, courses for sailing are now totally oversubscribed in this country. In rowing, universities are reporting increased numbers to such a degree that they cannot cope with them. In British cycling, the velodrome in Manchester which was built a relatively short time ago is now oversubscribed and there is a six week waiting list. Providing at the top level does stimulate people to want to get involved in activity, but there has to be a link.

  341. I happen to know through my connections with rugby of clubs that were running four, five and six teams every Saturday. I know one in particular in Scotland at a fairly high level, third division premier, can only put out one team on a Saturday and therefore the participation level appears to be dropping. That probably would be true in football as well. Mr Faber may contradict me but certainly it would be true in cricket as well. In these team games, we are not necessarily getting the participation levels, are we?
  (Mr Callicott) It is an area that we are not directly responsible for developing. As an observation, I would point out that the Government has just announced some major developments to take place in school sport, in school sports colleges and so on. Indeed, there is a whole session on that at Loughborough tomorrow which some of us will be attending, because a great deal of that revolves around getting people into the right habits at the right ages.
  (Mr Scott) One of the issues that the Committee did address previously which we were very conscious of was the need to see what direct impact there was from the hosting of major events on participation. We are about to stage the Manchester Commonwealth Games. We are involved in a very significant research study in Manchester which is to address just that question. One of the problems however has been the lack of base line data. One of the difficulties is that both in terms of the governing bodies, the clubs, local authorities, the way the data is collected is not consistent so you cannot compare apples with apples. There is not a great deal of historic data. One of the first things we have to do is get good base line data and we are then, over a four year period in this 18 month run up to the Games and then two and a half years afterwards, going to be looking at what has been the direct impact on the programme of sports in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the north west region. We might have some empirical data.

  342. What is the biggest area of growth in terms of participation in physical exercise, not necessarily in sport?
  (Mr Scott) It is the high risk sports. The extreme sports are seeing an enormous growth across the world. People are moving much more into a whole range of extreme sports.

  343. The biggest growth area in this country is in individual, physical fitness in terms of gymnasiums, is it not?
  (Mr Scott) I think you will find that, if you are talking about sporting activities, extreme sports are the ones that are attracting the numbers. If you look at the growth that there is in all these new types of sports, that is where young people are increasingly looking to get their excitement. I agree that it is individually based. The big threat to team sports is that more and more people are looking for self-expression individually.

  344. Mr Scott, I know that your 11 year old son is one of the under 12 British sailing champions. What would be more important to you: that he won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, wherever they may be, or that he failed to win a medal when they took place in Britain?
  (Mr Scott) As a parent, my concern is that he is happy doing what he is doing and that he gets personal satisfaction out of it. One of the things that we would wish to see is that he has some balance in his life. In terms of his opportunity to progress, what I am delighted to see is that there is a system that is recognising that talent and providing some pathways for him to take that route if he wishes.

  345. You know what I am saying?
  (Mr Scott) I do.

  346. Is it not better that we have success? People then can be inspired by it to participate, rather than that we over-react and go overboard about having the Olympics here in this country.
  (Mr Scott) I think we need both. Maybe I want my cake and eat it, but you clearly need the opportunity to secure the athletes. The inspiration that hosting the games gives and the opportunity for people to see the games—let us not forget: how many people physically go to the Olympic Games? They rely on the images of it through the television. Having had the privilege of attending the games, it is significantly different being there to watching it on the television.

  Mr Maxton: At the moment. In 20 years' time, we will probably have televisions that will give you the smell, the sound and everything else.

Mr Keen

  347. Can I congratulate you also on the success that you helped bring us in Sydney? I am a happy, optimistic person. I do not think I have felt so miserable as I do this morning. It is not just because of the people who have been here before you. It is because I feel that there seems to be an awful lack of coordination. First of all, Mr Scott has cheered me up by saying he wants his son to have a balanced life in sport. That is vital when we talk about supreme athletes. Is there anything you can tell me that would cheer me up? Can you tell me something about the sports cabinet? I am vice-chairman of the All Party Sports Club and I have never heard of it.
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I am sure it will not surprise the Committee that in the two weeks since I last had the pleasure of being with you I have dwelled on the point that was made about my own potential conflicts of interest. It seems to me I am caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place because I do my best to help wherever I can. If, in the minds of some people, that represents a conflict of interest, the situation with Wembley is a good one. When I was asked by the Football Association to become chairman of Wembley, to help hopefully solve the problems so that we can build the new national stadium of which we can all be proud, as I think I said two weeks ago, I sought consent from the Secretary of State. I went to the supreme governing body of the Rugby League and put to them would they be happy if I did it. I spoke to the Chief Executive, the accounting officer of UK Sport, and he said, "All power to your elbow if you can help solve the problem. It is good for British sport." I endeavoured, as I did in the Commonwealth Games, to assist wherever I can. I found it somewhat disappointing therefore for all of that to be perceived possibly as a conflict of interest. If there was a specific problem, I would be pleased to know about it. Within the limits of my responsibility which at the moment is as Chairman of UK Sport, I do what I can. Nobody in their right mind would create a system of sports governance such that we have in this country at the present time. I have said that to the Government that appointed me back in 1994 and I have said it to the present government on more than one occasion. As I said to the Committee two weeks ago, I am a servant of government and I do what I can.

  348. Can you tell me anything about the sports cabinet?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) The sports cabinet was created—forgive me if the timing is not precise—about two years ago. It was set up specifically to deal with the effects of devolution and to bring together the various Secretaries of State in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, together with the Secretary of State, Chris Smith, to meet to discuss areas of concern in areas of sport so that a joined up approach could be made. Indeed, it was the sports cabinet that set up the Cunningham Review to look specifically at certain aspects of sports governance.

  349. You have cheered me up a little. At least somebody like you recognises that we would not have planned an organisation, or lack of organisation, as we have now. Without stepping on too many toes, what would you like to see happen in the next six months to change the situation? How could it be put right? How could we begin to put it right?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) You are at the risk of even exhausting my ability to find solutions. The solution can only be found at a political level because the solution does involve Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. As Richard Callicott said, I think UK Sport is doing as good a job as we are able in bringing all the four home countries together to work in a unified and joined up way. In truth, we lack the ultimate authority to insist, as you have heard with the Ryder Cup, and perhaps even if my place was taken by a minister they too would have the same difficulty because at the end of the day there seems to me to be a right. If someone wishes to make a bid, provided they are not asking a Government-funded organisation to resource it, it is difficult to resist someone's right to make a bid if that is their choice. The solutions will take a great deal longer than six months to find. There needs to be a much more simplified system. We have a situation with the United Kingdom Sports Institute, which I chair, having been requested by the Secretary of State. We take the lead but now we have institutes, organisations in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. You may feel that that is an unnecessary level of duplication, but it is difficult to see how, in the present political climate, you would eliminate that.

  350. It is Tony Banks's theory that the arm's length principle from the Department should be changed. Would that be a main change you would make if you could make one decision to begin to put things right, or do you think it would make things worse?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I agree with Mr Wyatt that sport overall simply does not have the highest level of recognition in terms of its importance to the community. Whilst within the resources that have been made available to sport everyone concerned—all the Sports Councils, all the bodies—do their best, the fundamental problem is the under-resourcing of sport generally. There needs to be a much simpler system of governance of sport within the United Kingdom. Who the ultimate supremo of that should be is for Parliament to decide.

Mr Faber

  351. When you were here a fortnight ago, we discussed 2003 and 2005. You say in your document to us that Birmingham will be in a position to submit its application and budget in March 2001. Has that happened yet?
  (Mr Callicott) We were with them in Lisbon at the World Athletics Championships this weekend where a presentation was held to the IAAF. We now have their local organising committee. We have now almost completed looking at their draft business plan. It may not be March. It is probably going to be another month or so yet.

  352. Have you any idea of the level of subsidy they will be seeking? Will they be looking for funding from you?
  (Mr Callicott) Yes. Our ultimate is £1.6 million and we are already committed to funding one or two other events in that same financial year. We are confident we will be able to meet the requirements of Birmingham within the sums that we have available.

  353. Birmingham looks as though it is going well and, if not bang on time, is pretty much on time. In 2005, will the system be the same? With a shortfall in funding, would any bid be made to you?
  (Mr Callicott) If there was any bid made to us, we would not be funding it. We would be referring that, as is already happening. The bid committee are already working up their draft business plan, but they are finding that a little more difficult until they know where they are going to stage the event.

  354. The signing of the staging agreement might be something you would be involved in?
  (Mr Callicott) We could not take responsibility for 2005. It would be beyond our remit.

  355. Signing the staging agreement would give you a financial responsibility and you would not be able to deal with that?
  (Mr Callicott) No.

  Chairman: Thank you, Mr Faber, and thank you, gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you, Sir Rodney. I shall miss you next week.


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 30 March 2001