Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2001
60. So you could actually build
(Mr Sheard) Technically.
61. A bit clearer than "Technically it is
possible" or ...?
(Mr Sheard) Well, I mean for a project
like this to proceed it needs support. It needs people getting
behind it and there has not been a huge amount of evidence in
this particular case in the past.
62. Before calling, I would like to pursue three
lines of questioning. First of all, if, instead of rejecting before
the print was dry our report recommending Wembley with a platform
solution, the Government had accepted that, would that have been
ready in time for the 2005 championships?
(Mr Sheard) Well, all I can really say
is that it is a 39 month build period and that 39 months starts
from when we actually get on site, so ... you can do the mathematics,
63. Can I take that as a yes?
(Mr Sheard) Personally I believe it would
64. So we could have had the World Athletics
Championships at Wembley, other things being equal, if Mr Smith
had not decided within half an hour of the publication of our
report that we were fools.
(Mr Sheard) The evidence would seem to
lead to that conclusion.
65. I think there was a word along those lines
in the rejectiondirected at me, no doubt. Secondly, taking
into account that the original Wembley Stadium was built in 300
days between 1922 and 1923 without a penny of government funding
being contributed, why should governments get involved in building
(Mr Sheard) That is a really interesting
66. Yes, but I want an interesting answer.
(Mr Sheard) Britain has actually had
a long history of not funding stadiums whereas most other countries
have had a long history of building stadiums. There has hardly
been a stadium built on Continental Europe in the last 15 years
that has not had significant government money. Even in the United
States, where people believe everything is completely free enterprise,
if it was not for, not necessarily federal government but local
state or local city money that went into building those buildings,
we would not see anywhere near the number of stadiums that have
been built over there. But it is really doneI can only
assume that it is donethat public money goes into these
buildings, because these buildings change communities, they change
societies. They are used in many places around the world to develop
places that have fallen into disrepair. The Colonial Stadium in
Melbourne that we built has started a dockland development which
they could not kick-start themselves. Our stadiums in Baltimore,
really it is the same thing there. They are really tools. These
buildings attract one million/two million visitors a year. Once
upon a time, I suppose 10 years ago, you would have described
that as a million football hooligans, whereas in this day and
age, in the 21st century, we all recognise them as customers,
because people want the same things that they want when they go
to cinemas and shopping centres and everything else. They want
good environments and they are prepared to spend money on them.
I think that probably most countries around the world have woken
up to the fact that you can use these buildings to build your
cities and make them better places to live.
67. On that basis, surely it would be even better
to build Domes all over the place because, whatever the criticisms
of the Millennium Dome, it regenerated the Greenwich Peninsula
and 6.5 million people went there.
(Mr Sheard) I do not think that is a
Wembley question, is it?
68. Let me ask you a directly relevant question
and perhaps Mr Maslin could assist. What happened to the £120
million of Lottery money? Who has got it?
(Mr Maslin) Effectively the £120
million was used in two ways. First of all, £106 million
of that £120 million was used to buy the site of Wembley
Stadium from Wembley plc: £103 million and stamp duty of
a further £3 million. The remaining £14 million has
effectively been used to take, if you like, the design up to the
planning stage. So £120 million has effectively bought you
the site and bought a design. So, ongoing, all additional finance
would have to be provided essentially by the private sector.
69. That is a very clear and authoritative answer
and it places me in some doubt. £106 million has been spent
perfectly reputably on buying the site but there is an agreement,
about which I would like some information, that £20 million
of that should nevertheless be paid back to the Government. So
you are going to be £6 million short. You are going to have
to find £6 million in view of the fact that there is this
(Mr Maslin) Well, as your earlier report
certainly portrayed, the whole issue of £20 million is at
best a confusing area. At the moment, the whole issue of the £20
million is wrapped up within negotiations between the FA and Patrick
Carter and his team, which are on-going at the moment and the
results of which you should know by the end of this month.
70. I am afraid that will not do. I do not mean
that will not do in the sense that you are to be criticised in
any way, but it just will not do, will it? We have had the former
Secretary of State coming before this Committee periodically to
say that £20 million is going to be repaid because of the
fact that Wembley was not going to have an athletics facility.
Mr Smith said that over and over and over again. We never knew
the wording of the agreement although we understand it was an
informal handshake between Mr Smith and Mr Bates. There is no
piece of paper around on which it is written down that £20
million of public money will be transferred back from WNSL to
the Government. If this Committee and this House of Commons is
about anything it is about safeguarding public funds. So, again,
may I make clear, Mr Maslin, without any criticism implied or
explicit on yourself, we need to know more about this £20
million and I am interested to hear that it is now being negotiated
about since we were told utterly categorically that it was coming
(Mr Maslin) As I said, I can only repeat
my former answer to you, Chairman, that WNSL are not involved
in these negotiations, and it is a matter of discussion between
the FA and Patrick Carter and his team over the coming weeks.
Chairman: Again, without being critical
of you, that reveals a profoundly unsatisfactory situation. This
is, after all, public money. It is taxpayers' money and it is
Michael Fabricant: Of course, I suppose
it would be academic if it were still to be held at Wembley Stadium.
I have been doing some calculations
Chairman: Except, Michael, that what
we know above all is that if these gentlemen's plans go ahead
we cannot build Wembley Stadium in time for 2005.
71. This is the very point I was going to make
with my calculations. I suspect, Chairman, you are right. However,
you say 39 months and I was looking at the schedule that the warm-up
events begin at the end of the June. I think that is the very
latest when it would have to be handed overend of June
2005which means that provided there was no over-run, in
theory if you were given the go-ahead (and this is a question
not a statement, so confirm if I am correct) by May of next year
to start the construction, you could hand-over by the end of June
2005. Or have I got it badly wrong?
(Mr Maslin) You have lost a year.
72. Everyone is looking confused. Clearly I have
got it wrong. Could you explain?
(Mr Maslin) I think if, for instance,
we had an early start on the site, let us say January 2002, and
then had 39 months to build, that takes us to March 2005. So,
again, the issue then would be the element of risk in being able
to deliver a championship effectively in June 2005 with the relevant
amount of warm-up time that is necessary. So that would be the
73. Could you make it very clear for me, because
I missed the last few words of what you were saying? Are you saying
that there is, in effect, a deadline that if the Government were
to say "Go ahead with Wembley Stadium site", by all
that has passed over the last couple of years you could do it
in time. If that were the case what is the deadline? What month
are you saying the Government would have to make their decision
(Mr Maslin) What I am saying is that
to be able to start this project, and looking where we currently
are in this project, it would be very optimistic to assume that
we could start even in January 2002. Assuming we could start in
January 2002, you have a full 39-month programme, so inevitably
there are concerns about time delays in huge projects, and this
is necessarily a huge project. Therefore, you are obviously taking
a huge risk on being able to guarantee delivery of that facility
in sufficient time for the event owners to be able to guarantee
a championship of world class.
74. Marginally, it is too late, you are saying?
(Mr Maslin) Yes, in short.
75. Even if it were not too late by your calculation,
what Mr Maslin appears to be admitting, very frankly, is programme
(Mr Maslin) Not so much the programme.
In the sense that we start from where we are today, to deliver
an athletics solution for 2005 would be extremely risky.
76. The bottom line is that the Government does
not have the option any more; because of what has happened over
the last two yearsam I right in sayingthe Government
does not really have the option any more to say that the event
could go ahead at Wembley despite the fact that you are saying
that you have had the meeting with the International Olympic Committee
in Lausanne and they think the sightlines for the platform are
adequate for athletic events? You are nodding in the affirmative.
That New York are going ahead with the same type of platform with
the same type of sightlines and they will be making an Olympic
bidand would it not be ironic if they actually win the
Olympic Games, which might well happen apart from anything else
because of recent eventsand yet this Government rejected
it, and now it is not an option.
(Mr Sheard) I think it is important to
see the context of that rejection, because that rejection is based,
from what we can tell, on a report that was prepared by another
firm. That report, really, in the fullness of time has been proved
to be fundamentally flawed, and the point you are making is quite
Michael Fabricant: They have now, of
course, come up with a third option, an alternative platform,
which leads, one might say, Mr Chairman, to a conflict of interest
here. Anyway, I would not want to suggest that because I am not
as waspish as you.
Chairman: You could have fooled me.
77. Have you seen this third platform?
(Mr Sheard) We really have not had the
opportunity. I do not think many people have seen it. We have
not had the opportunity of studying it, or anything like that.
All I would really say is that I understand it is a scheme which
tries to squeeze a new 90,000-seat stadium between the existing
old twin towers and the railway line. We went through that in
huge detail four years ago when we first started the process because,
obviously, the first preference is to try and do that. There is
huge social pressure on us, if nothing else, to try and keep those
twin towers. The reality is yes, you can crow-bar a stadium in
there but not a 21st-Century, state-of-the-art stadium, and not
one that you can really put your hand on your heart and say is
a safe stadium. We have not had the opportunity of studying it.
It would be interesting to have that opportunity but we have not
Michael Fabricant: I fear, Chairman,
this is going the same way as the inquiry into Covent Garden and
the Royal Opera House. There are certain similarities.
78. At least we got our way on that. Can you
tell me, Mr Sheard, what has gone wrong with construction in the
past 80 years? Wembley Stadium was started in April 1922 with
the stipulation that it must be ready for the 1923 Cup Final in
April of that year. It was ready. How is it then that now, when
construction methods are much more refined than they were in those
primitive days, stadiums take such ages to build?
(Mr Sheard) Yes, that is a really good
question. I think, really, the answer to it is that what we design
today as a stadium is a totally different beast to what was produced
at the beginning of this century. Just to give you a feeling of
scale, the original Wembley had I think something like 200,000
sq ft of facilities in it, whereas ours has 2 million sq ft. It
is just a totally different scale, a totally different standard
of health and safety, and exit routes and everything else. It
is a different animal completely.
79. I am afraid I was not on the Select Committee
before, so I have rather different views about what should be
at Wembley or not. I have never understood why we should have
anything at all at Wembley. It is at the end of a rotten tube
line and there is no decent public transport system at all. It
would not be fit in time for the Olympics and it is now completely
impossible, as far as I can see, unless you are going to take
enormous risk on being able to deliver anything by the year 2005.
So if the previous discussion was academic, this is completely
academic, is it not?
(Mr Sheard) Firstly, I do not agree with
you about transport links. We look at an awful lot of sites around
the world where people want to try and build stadiums, and I can
assure you Wembley is probably one of the better sites we have
had to try and assess. One of the problems that Wembley causes
is when people drive there, but if we can get people to use public
transportand the indications around the world are that
we are managing to achieve thata huge proportion (and I
cannot tell you the exact percentage) of the people at the Stadium
in Australia took public transport and it was really a very simple
rail system. It was less well-served by public transport than
the present Wembley is. In terms of being able to deliver it,
it probably is academic I suspect. All I can really give you are
the facts: it takes 39 months to build. Realistically, mankind
can do amazing things but it probably cannot get a stadium built
in the time available for the athletics, I suspect.