Examination of Witness (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
360. Why do you think we did not get this right
to begin with? It took us 20 minutes when we were on our first
visit to Wembley to say, "If you do not own all that land
over there and if there is no improvement to transport, this was
a mad decision", but it did not seem to appear to anybody
else that it was a mad decision not to have the whole area.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) I think I would agree with you if
one was starting with a clean sheet of paper, which unfortunately
one seldom ever can do. That is the obvious conclusion to draw.
There is however a range of very fragmented ownerships in the
area, particularly between the stadium and Wembley Park Station
and the adjoining corridor. The ownership is a difficult nut to
crack and would have certainly involved a very substantial purchasing
need, either by way of CPO or other means, which I should have
thought would have probably made it even more difficult. The role
of my task force is to try and encourage owners to collaborate
in a privately-funded regeneration which will come, but I am afraid
the catalyst for that is going to be the commitment of the stadium.
361. When we look back over this in the next
five or ten years, when the stadium has been opened, we hope,
do you feel essentially that what we should have gone for is a
new Wembley at terminal five or the M25 and it is a total mistake
to try and regenerate this area as it is, given how complicated
an area it is to get to?
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) No, I do not. I think the location
of Wembley, looking at it in the context of a national stadium
within the area of London, is a good location. It is extremely
well accessed by road and rail. Unfortunately, both the road and
rail systems are in need of reinvestment, which would probably
be needed in many respects if there was no stadium there. If we
were just looking at it as a regeneration of a very deprived part
of London, we would certainly be looking to improve that infrastructure.
I think the Wembley location is a good one for it. On the point
you make about the ownership of land, I think it is a great pity
that when Wembley plc sold the footprint of the stadium to the
stadium company they did not embrace the areas related to car
parking, access, etc.
362. When you look therefore to a bid, we have
not been good at bids. Manchester was given to us on a plate,
thankfully. Let us hope we make a great success of it. When you
look ahead, do you feel we have the core competence within culture,
media and sport? The Department for Culture, Media and Sport does
not have any money for sport. It is Lottery led which is arm's
length. The DTI does have access to European and United Kingdom
money. Since you have taken over the chairmanship, where do you
think it ought to be placed? If you look at the Olympic bid in
particular, it is clear there has to be a bond of £2 billion
or £3 billion. The Government is not going to pay that.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) Looking at it very specifically
from my role as Chairman of the Task Force, I am accountable to
both the DETR and DCMS. It happens that DCMS have been perhaps
more in the headlines over this issue because of the stadium,
but a lot of the work which has happened has been within the remit
of DETR and has more recently been in the remit of the GLA. Clearly,
if one was embarking upon a mega bid, one has to look at it in
a completely new and creative way, which is not the normal way
in which bidding for sport perhaps occurs. There are other difficulties
which are associated with looking at the Wembley location for
a mega bid of, say, something like the Olympics, which is the
town planning blight which would be imposed upon the area at a
time when regeneration and new jobs are very desperately needed
in a deprived area.
363. After our Report on Wembley Stadium, you
wrote a letter which was appended to the Secretary of State's
response to us in which you criticised the Committee for not taking
the wider regeneration of Wembley into account in our Report.
In the first point of that letter you said, "The possible
future use of the stadium for the Olympics in 2012 or beyond would
require substantial land adjoining the stadium to be reserved
for such use pending the outcome of any bid. This would result
in land available for essential regeneration being blighted. This
blight would also add to the economic deprivation of the Wembley
area." In our Report, we did not recommend a 2012 bid; we
were talking about the 2005 World Athletics Championships. Do
you really feel you were justified in supporting the withdrawal
of athletics from Wembley on the basis of something that we did
not actually say?
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) We made the comments based upon
the advice we had already given to the Secretary of State, which
was at a time when there was the concept of the stadium being
used for the Olympics. In a way, the whole of the principles of
the promotion of the stadium in July 1999 was about it being an
anchor for a future Olympic bid. That created considerable uncertainty
in terms of land use in the area. I did advise the Secretary of
State that the 2005 question could be accommodated because it
could be done on a temporary basis, albeit quite expensive.
364. That is very interesting because the Secretary
of State relied very heavily on this letter of yours in his response
to us. You are now telling us that your advice was that 2005 could
have been held. We never saw that; we never heard that.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) I cannot answer for the Secretary
of State's response.
365. You are saying 2005 could have been accommodated
and that the blight arguments applied to an Olympic bid because
it was so much further down the road?
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) Yes.
366. Brent Council continue to support Wembley
as a possible athletics venue, or at least they have done in evidence
to us. Presumably, their best interests are in the regeneration
of the area so they clearly do not view athletics as being incompatible
with the regeneration of the Wembley area.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) I think one needs to put into context
what is involved in accommodating athletics. Perhaps too much
emphasis has been put onto the accommodation within the stadium
and not enough about the necessity for a warm-up track which has
to be effectively contiguous with the stadium and which could
be accommodated but at a cost. I know there have been some very
hairy costs thrown around over the whole project of Wembley, so
I would not want to be held to say it has been a properly evaluated
costing, but we believe that a warm-up track in that location
would cost probably about £17 million to £20 million
to buy the land and another £8 million to £10 million
to create a facility. That would then depend too on whether or
not it was a permanent legacy provision or of a temporary nature.
The question is who funds that.
367. This Committee probably has the costs of
the warm-up track imprinted on its brain. We supported in our
Report the much cheaper version of a warm-up track which Wembley
itself had suggested, Sport England agreed with and WNSL, the
company, agreed with. There was at the time and there is still
considerable debate as to how the cost of the warm-up track has
been arrived at. We as a Committee felt that the more expensive
version has now become a convenient amount of money to be put
into Pickets Lock, whereas it was never going to cost that much
in the first place.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) You are looking at the other options.
One of the other options never stood up to engineering scrutiny
over the railway. Copelands School was probably very remote in
terms of the management of the world athletics.
368. Could I ask a little more about Mr Fearn's
question to you about the £20 million repayment? I wish we
had seen you months ago because we have spent months trying to
pin down who was responsible for this £20 million repayment
and it turns out it was you all along. You said a hand shake agreement
was reached. Who was the hand shake with?
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) Mr David Richards.
369. That was as a result of this initial meeting
at 10 Downing Street?
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) I do not know what happened at 10
Downing Street. I was not present.
370. How was the figure of £20 million
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) There is no precision in this figure.
The original request from the Secretary of State was for £40
million which the FA were deeply concerned about on questions
of affordability. The haggling led to a figure of £20 million,
which was acceptable to the Secretary of State.
371. You have used the word. You haggled on
behalf of the Secretary of State with Mr David Richards on behalf
of the Football Association.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) Yes, which followed an earlier meeting
I had with Mr Thompson at the FA and then the subsequent discussions
with Mr David Richards.
372. At some stage Mr Bates went to see the
Secretary of State in his home as well.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) So I have recently gathered.
Mr Faber: It is quite a tangled web.
373. Mr Faber, you have teased out from this
tangle one or two interesting questions that I would like to follow
up before you continue. I have been looking at your response which,
as it happens, was published precisely a year ago today. It is
the anniversary of your response. Many happy returns. In your
response, as Mr Faber has elicited from you, you say, "I
support the decision of the Secretary of State . . .". Am
I now to understand accurately that you said you supported the
decision of the Secretary of State on the advice of the Secretary
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) No. I do not think that would be
a fair interpretation.
374. That was the impression I got from your
reply to Mr Faber. Furthermore, so far as I can gather from your
reply to Mr Faberplease correct me if I am wrong, as I
frequently amyour support for the decision of the Secretary
of State in deciding that the proposed new stadium should not
include an option for the stadium to be adaptable for use for
athletics was relating not to the World Athletics Championships
of 2005 but to an Olympic Games bid for possibly 2012.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) One needs to look at the circumstances.
My advice to the Secretary of State was that the stadium could
be adapted for athletics for the 2005 because it could be done
in a way which was tied in with the initial construction of the
stadium. It would therefore vary from the idea that you opened
the stadium, subsequently closed it and put the table in and then
subsequently took the table out. You could do it probably most
economically, if you were going to use that route. I agreed with
the Secretary of State's view that broadly speaking athletics
and football do not mix in terms of the design of the stadium
without extreme cost, inconvenience and disruption. Therefore,
the better solution is probably an alternative, but the advice
was very much couched on the basis it could be achieved. It would
not necessarily be the right result.
375. I find what you are telling us truly fascinating.
You went on in your response to talk about the possible future
use of the stadium for the Olympics in 2012. You dismiss the possibility
of it being used for athletics on the basis of the very occasional
use of the stadium for world class athletics, but you are now
telling the Committee that you saw no reason why it could not
be used for the World Athletics Championships of 2005.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) On a one-off basis.
376. I understand that completely. The World
Athletics Championships of 2005 are a one-off event. It is not
going to happen in other years, is it? What you are telling usand
I compliment Mr Faber again; I hope he does not get embarrassed
by the compliment. He laid the groundwork on thisis that,
despite the impression that we have from the statement rushed
out by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport literally on
the same afternoon as we issued our Report last year, you have
never opposed the idea of Wembley being used on a one-off basis
for the World Athletics Championships of 2005.
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) Provided that the question of the
funding of the warm-up track and other facilities that go with
it was dealt with.
Chairman: Certainly. I can quite see
that and nothing is simple. Very few things are capable of yes
and no answers unless the question is phrased with great comprehensiveness,
but at the same timeplease accept that I am in no way critical
of youwhat you have been telling us in the last few minutes
is totally contrary to the impression that we obtained a year
ago. I will now hand back to Mr Faber because Mr Faber is leading
counsel on this.
377. It may sound a rude question; I promise
you it is not meant to be, but did you draft this response yourself?
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) I cannot recollect at this stage
whether I did or did not. I think I saw it but I do not think
I drafted it. I would need to refresh my memory on that particular
Chairman: I must say that Mr Faber, being
so eminently polite and courteous a gentleman, is able to ask
a question which I hesitated to ask myself.
378. The trouble for us is that everywhere we
have gone the decision to remove athletics from Wembleyevery
single supporter of that decision which the Secretary of State
has prayed in aidtheir argument has subsequently fallen
apart, one by one. You are now telling us that this very strong
letter which was attached to the official response to our Report,
which was made in the normal time although, as the Chairman said,
a press release was put out at the very moment we released the
Report, was not even drafted by you and does not even mention
2005 which is basically what the whole Report was about. I find
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) I am not going to commit myself
to whether or not I drafted that letter without having a chance
to refresh my memory on it.
379. Did you make a telephone call?
(Sir Nigel Mobbs) I can revert to your secretary on
Chairman: Thank you.