Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 156 - 159)



  Chairman: Good morning, gentlemen. We have lots of questions and we will start straight away.

Michael Fabricant

  156. In your submission to us you say: "The desire to stage major events was partly based on the principle that a legacy should be left from the considerable investment made. It was the absence of a legacy for athletics in the original Wembley proposal for the World Championships in Athletics that prompted the then Secretary of State, Chris Smith, to withdraw athletics from Wembley . . .", and you agree with that. Do you still agree with that point of view?

  (Mr Moorcroft) I think there are a number of ways in which a legacy can be delivered. I think the purpose of having major events in the country is to leave a legacy. That legacy can be an inspiration to athletes and young people to wish to take part in events or future championships; or it can be a physical legacy. The Secretary of State made the decision that Wembley did not reflect good value or a legacy, and we were offered an opportunity of developing another site that did provide that legacy. I think one of our frustrations in the process has been that Picketts Lock has been referred to too often as a "stadium", the notion that it was just a stadium in isolation. It was very much the centre that was the concept; the notion that you could have young people, schools, clubs, league level athletes, indoors/outdoors, 52-weeks-of-the-year-athletics around that one site. Having said that, we do accept that Picketts Lock will not be going ahead, and that is not a call to reopen that debate. It was to deliver the legacy in that way. I think the challenge we have with major events in this country, if we have the courage to go for major events (and that is a big "if") but if we do have the courage that we can accept they come at a great cost and do our best to provide value for that cost. The Commonwealth Games come at a greater cost, and many of the facilities will be left with a lasting legacy for sport. It is probably a little unfortunate that the major stadium has to transfer to football to deliver the legacy; but every effort was made to deliver a legacy benefit from those games. I think you can have the best of both worlds but it does come at a cost.


  157. I am very proud of the fact that we have this wonderful stadium going up in Manchester, but if it had not been arranged after the Commonwealth Games that it was to be transferred to Manchester City Football Club what would it have been used for?
  (Mr Moorcroft) I think possibly that was the only outcome. I think it is fair to accept that around the world, including Sydney, the fantastic job of the Sydney Olympic Games was the problem of what do you do with the stadium. I think there are three options: one is that the stadium lays dormant, which is probably the Sydney problem; the other is that it is given then to football, because football, or maybe rugby, is probably the only sport that can sustain it from a business point of view—whether it has the community benefits is another point; the third option is what I think we are trying to achieve at Picketts Lock, to say that it comes at a cost, but it is a cost rather than a deficit, and there are ways in which you can fund that deficit/that cost but for huge community benefits. We tested that model, and that model has failed, I accept that. I think that is an alternative route that was worth considering.

  158. What is the benefit? Somewhere in north-east London it was decided for a while, until sense prevailed, to have this stadium. It was going to stage the World Athletics Championships in 2005. What would have happened to it afterwards? What would it have been used for? There is a limit to rock concerts and things of that nature. Would the legacy have been a beautiful state of the art stadium would have stood there?
  (Mr Moorcroft) There were actually more event days in the stadium than Twickenham, and clearly Wimbledon because of the nature of tennis. There were more event days but the difference was, a very significant difference, on each occasion that athletics took part in that stadium it would not necessarily be a full house. The value of it was in terms of the quality of the stadium, the ability to hold a multitude of events—from world championships, European championships and other major international events but significant domestic events like English Schools Championships and London Championships; and with the indoor facility, which currently does not exist and we are working to hang on to that, that you have a whole winter based programme of indoor competition that is hugely significant in the south of England, then a community track and a dedicated throws field. The massed number of people that would be on that site within a 12 month period is huge. The difference is, whereas Wembley is a relatively small number of professional footballers taking part in a facility viewed by hundreds of thousands of spectators, what you had with the National Athletics Centre was many thousands of people participating but not always in front of a big crowd. It was the crowd thing which I think caused the confusion. I had one of my aims to compete in White City. I went to meetings in White City where it was a full house and I watched Dave Hemery in 1967, Great Britain versus USA, but my aim was to try and compete at White City; it was a temple of athletics. When I did compete there, there was not a big crowd but it was a massive catalyst and a very important part of my development as an athlete. We do accept, and I am not trying to reopen the Picketts Lock debate, that that would have come at a cost and there were issues to do with transport and accommodation that clearly needed to come under other agencies to help solve. We do accept that judgment has been made and we now have to move on.

  159. The taxpayer did not pay for Wimbledon; the taxpayer did not pay for Twickenham; the taxpayer did not pay for Wembley; they were all private projects. Why should the taxpayer pay for this huge toy?
  (Mr Moorcroft) £120 million of Lottery money, which is therefore public money, as you rightly said earlier on has gone into Wembley and I do not have a problem with that.

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