Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Third Report


Appendix 1

  Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Chairman of Sport England

Since giving oral evidence to your inquiry on 1 March, I have continued to take a close interest in its proceedings, and thought it might be helpful if I clarified a number of points which emerged during yesterday's hearing:

—    first, it was suggested that Sport England had long regarded the Copelands School site as a "non-starter" for the new Wembley Stadium's warm-up track. This is not the case. We have always made it clear that Copelands School could have provided an acceptable warm-up track for the World Athletics Championships in 2005. We have been equally consistent in saying that it would not have been suitable for a Wembley-based London Olympics, in the event of the BOA choosing to launch such a bid. This position has been made clear on several occasions—including (i) in our evidence to last year's Wembley National Stadium inquiry and (ii) in a detailed follow-up letter to the Committee Clerk [9 May 2000], who had asked for further information on our approach to the Copelands option. As the DCMS Press Office was aware that a journalist, from the Financial Times, was about to publish a story on this subject, I copied this letter to the Secretary of State (also on 9 May);

—    second, the Committee heard that Sport England had "committed" £60 million to Picketts Lock. Again, I believe this needs to be clarified, as we have long made it clear that no such money has yet been committed to the project. While we knew that UK Athletics and its partners were likely to seek such support for a new national athletics centre, and this figure was duly 'factored' into our financial plans, we could not commit—and have not committed—Lottery money to a project that has yet to come forward with an application for funding. We have made this clear at every possible opportunity, and it is almost exactly a year since I wrote to the Secretary of State (on 23 March 2000) to express my concern at statements which suggested, unconditionally, that we had £60 million to devote to an athletics facility. Indeed, the Secretary of State's reply (19 April 2000) stated that "the Government is fully aware that no funds have been guaranteed to UK Athletics for their [proposed] stadium and any Lottery grant will be dependent on the merits of the application submitted". This remains the position. In fact, when I chaired our Council meeting in February 2001, Picketts Lock was debated at some length and, as the minutes state, we concluded that "No pre-judgement could or would take place", and we would have to await the Lottery application from UK Athletics and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, which would then be judged "against the Council's standard criteria". Again, copies of this documentation went to the DCMS; and

—    third, I must beg to differ from the suggestion that the £20 million payment was "agreed between the Football Association and Sport England". As we indicated in our evidence to the Committee, this agreement was reached between the Secretary of State and Ken Bates (the then Chairman of WNSL) on 23 December 1999, without any Sport England involvement.

I hope this information proves helpful to the Committee as it concludes its inquiry into Staging International Sporting Events. For obvious reasons, a copy of this letter goes to the Secretary of State.

22 March 2001


 
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