Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 179)



  160. It was £65.3 million from Sport England to Picketts Lock. It is a lot of money, is it not?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Yes.

  161. Then there was a gap for the taxpayer to fill. It is a lot of money to provide somebody with a wish list, is it not?
  (Mr Moorcroft) One of the frustrations of this whole process is, when the concept of a National Stadium for Sport began to be developed in the early 1990s and came to fruition in the mid 90s, part of the reason to have a National Stadium for Sport was to attract major events; that was stated in various strategies. The major of the major events were Olympic Games, World Cup Football and World Athletics Championships. There seemed to be an assumption then that it was a good idea to attract major events to this country. One of the frustrations I have felt throughout this process—and people have rightly challenged whether or not it is actually a good idea to have those major events, and whether it does represent good value—is that we are having that debate now, when actually that should have taken place in the early 90s. I think this whole process has tested our desire to have events of the magnitude of the World Athletics Championships. What we need to decide as a nation is, do we want these events, and are we prepared to pay the cost? If we are prepared to pay the cost we accept, therefore, that the challenge is to deliver good value for that cost. Moving forward: what do we now do? One of the questions we need to ask in sport is: what is more important—major games or investments in sport? I actually think you can have both, and I think Australia have proved that. Maybe, if the choice is between investment in grass roots or major events, maybe we need to be strong enough as a nation to say, no, we will go the route of investment in sport. I think that needs to be led by government. If we are going to deliver major events and major capital projects, government have to be pivotal. Governing bodies and the other statutory bodies are supportive but cannot lead that. We have shown that with this process.

Michael Fabricant

  162. I take the view, in any event, that attracting major sporting events is prestigious for the nation. I suspect if one were to do a cost benefit analysis it would turn out not to be as costly in the longer term as we think and it brings in tourism. However, I have made myself rather unpopular by suggesting that we can only really attract international events by having them in London. I do not represent a London constituency and I am not a Londoner; but London has its attractions as far as people from outside are concerned. Talking about locations in London, Picketts Lock is dead. It seems to me we are almost going round in a complete circle now as far as Wembley is concerned. We had a very interesting witness last week, Rod Sheard, of the World Stadium Team who suggested that we could indeed have held the Athletics Championships at Wembley with new designs of platforms. I wonder if you would like to comment on that, particularly given that you said in 1999 in December in Building Magazine, a magazine which we all read avidly, "We are as convinced as ever that the new Wembley will provide a great home for flagship athletics events". Your latest memorandum seems to express a change of view. Would you like to expand on that?
  (Mr Moorcroft) I neither subscribe to Building Magazine nor can I ever remember making comments to it, so I have a problem with that quote. I do not think anyone has ever doubted that Wembley, even two or three years ago, had it gone ahead could have delivered athletics. The decision the Secretary of State made was, does it reflect good value? The position we are at now, the major issue to do with Wembley is that of risk.

  163. When we were talking to Rod Sheard last week there was the whole question which he felt not really valid of sightlines. Criticism was not so much that the Wembley Stadium plan was too expensive, but rather that it was impractical as far as athletics and, indeed, football were concerned. You are saying that is not the case?
  (Mr Moorcroft) No, I think Wembley would argue (and they are the only ones qualified to do it) that actually the sightlines issue was irrelevant. As far as sightlines were concerned the platform solution would have worked well with athletics, and I have to accept that. I do not think that is the issue. It is very difficult to be assertive as a sport like athletics when you do not have an enormous amount of money in the process. There is a danger of being bounced around between the various organisations involved in this. Just to return to the current Wembley situation: there is a huge degree of risk associated with Wembley as it is now. Irrespective of whether a platform represents good value, irrespective of issues to do with land acquisition for warm-up tracks, were we still locked into Wembley—with all the uncertainty surrounding Wembley and the fact that Wembley has not gone ahead as a project—we may well be facing the IAAF with the same embarrassment saying, "We cannot deliver on Wembley". Clearly a number of people would have said, "The issues to do with the withdrawal of athletics from Wembley have actually made the situation worse". I could not really comment on that, other that to say, as far as I am aware, within the business plan athletics is fairly neutral. If the city did not support the business plan and Wembley as it stood on the basis of the business plan without athletics, it was unlikely to support it if athletics was in there. I think there would have been a large amount of risk. Clearly Sir Rodney is now looking at a potentially different solution within Wembley that possibly is more affordable. We would still have that same risk, and the IAAF would still have that same dilemma of saying, "Is there that degree of certainty that Wembley will be built and ready on time?" I think it is all wrapped in the lessons we have learnt from this collectively and, hopefully, moving ahead in a more co-operative and united way in the future on projects like this.

Alan Keen

  164. It seems to me (we are all convinced on the Committee) everything has been such a muddle. We have had people in front of us who are dedicated to their own sport and to sporting as a whole and all the benefits it brings to people of all ages. Do you agree that we seem to have been driven along by the staging of international sporting events. I give a couple of examples to you. I believe that the bidding for the World Cup meant we had to go to the Wembley site, an unsatisfactory location in many ways, because of the history of it and the attraction it would have to people around the world. Then with the athletics we ended up with proposals for Picketts Lock. I have heard you just say now, and I agree, all the wonderful facilities it would give all the year round for athletics and the development of athletes, whereas really the thing has fallen because of the staging or wanting to stage a major athletics event. I think the problem has come because previously we did not have the Lottery money and then suddenly lots of people were attracted by the major events; and instead of looking from the bottom and deciding what sort of different types of stadiums and athletics, what sort of facilities we needed, we have been driven along by these major events. Government works on very short timescales and to put the infrastructure right for all sports we need to work on long timescales. What would you like for athletics? Could not Crystal Palace have had events and the big events take place in somewhere like Wembley?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Patrick Carter looked at Crystal Palace as an option for the World Athletics Championships and identified similar issues that were at Lee Valley, with transport, accommodation, planning, land availability and other things. Maybe it is more a reflection on London as a problem area for major events, rather than necessarily Lee Valley. I think you are right, in the sense that we have tried to adapt things around a desire to have a major event. I hate to say it, but maybe the Australians have got it right. Back in the mid 70s they had their worst ever Olympic Games in Montreal—no gold medals. They came away from Montreal and said, "We as a nation need to invest a massive amount of money into sport". They began by developing sport. Then at a point in that period they said, "Actually I think now we can hold major events", and they have done both spectacularly well. Possibly, on reflection, we have tried to do too many things too quickly, and we became over-dependent on Lottery. I think one of the frustrations Sport England would say is that there is an assumption that Lottery is 100 per cent funders of these events, when in fact they can only be partial funders albeit very important ones. Now what we have to do as a nation is say, "What are our priorities?" If we feel we are developing sport now so well through Lottery funding we are in a position in the near future to attract major events, then that is a reasonable decision to make as long as everybody recognises what the implications of that decision are. I really think it is incumbent upon Government to lead in that. Like Australia and every other nation, if we are going to have major national projects, and major international events like the Olympics, World Cup and World Athletics Championships, then we need the comfort of knowing that Government and cross-Party support is there; so through the duration of the process there will be support, and that support will be absolutely unequivocal until the thing is delivered. Alternatively, as a nation we could say, "Now let's get on with developing sport and then worry about major events". I think this decision actually forces us (because we lost our international credibility) to take the latter route. It is one that should be taken by sport collectively, but a process led by Government.

Derek Wyatt

  165. David Hemery, if it is important that the IAAF World Championships be held in a capital city, what is the point of Sheffield even thinking about it?
  (Mr Hemery) At this stage it is a great question. UK Sport was saying they had changed their view following Edmonton to have it primarily in capital cities. Following the carpet being pulled out from under them, we are reneging on our promise to host it. A fairly cold comment from the President of the IAAF was, "Sheffield will not get that games". That was not just because of Sheffield. "We have given it to you. It is yours until November. If you wish to come back and say, `We will put it on in London', it is your championships, but if it goes beyond that don't expect it to come to the UK because you reneged on your promise".

  166. It seems to me that £150 million from Treasury is not much to ask for. It is diddly squat in the whole business. It is your feel that there is just not the political will within government to do this and, therefore, Carter was commissioned to actually close down Picketts Lock and not find a solution.
  (Mr Hemery) I do not know what his brief was. Investment of that kind would be fantastic if it included the legacy. If we had a choice from early days to say whether we would like a large amount of money to go into legacy or major championships, we probably would have chosen the legacy. I truly believe that sport has such an incredible impact, not just on performance level but on social inclusion, on health and education. It could actually act as a hub for a large amount of human development, it is on that basis we have been writing up our proposals that we got pulled into, "Could we put on major championships?" If it was possible to get Treasury or Exchequer money to do both then that, in my view, would be a very healthy future for UK sport.

  167. It is just an observation—we do not have an all Party athletics point in the House and maybe that is something we should think about. Do you think the IAAF has devalued the World Championships by having them every two years?
  (Mr Hemery) Probably. That was done for a commercial reason. There are now a huge number of championships. The Olympic Games still hold the major one. If you have a look at it (the world championships) from international representation—208 countries take part in athletics; it is the largest international representation of any sort. In terms of the UK wanting to have it, there was a survey done by the UK Sports Council which showed that only one per cent less of the UK's population wanted to see the World Athletics Championships in this country—one per cent behind the (football) World Cup. There was a desire to have home soil, and who knows what kind of inspiration that is going to be young people. We have not had major games here since 1948, so I could see why there had been a reasonable intent to have major championships looked for; but, as David said, the first thing should be to develop the infrastructure of all sports and then move on to looking at major championships.

Rosemary McKenna

  168. We have never supported sport properly for young people in this country and yet we complain constantly that we do not win medals at the Olympics and Championships. I also agree that it is an issue about health and social inclusion. There is a huge agenda there that we ought to be addressing. First of all we should put the investment into sport, not just athletics but swimming and all the other things that we want to get young people involved in. There are far too many young people in this country sitting at home in front of a PC. That is fine, but they are not out there actually being involved, and I think it is up to Government to encourage that by investment. Given what you have already said, is it at all possible to consider 2005 for Britain, and actually consider saying to the IAAF that we are just no longer going to do that? Is that really the bottom line?
  (Mr Moorcroft) I think it is just possible but we have to have a huge dose of reality. I think the possibility in terms of Sheffield—there is no doubt Sheffield can host it—is a kind of negative possibility; it is a possibility that there actually are no other bidders to the IAAF. That is very unlikely, and currently there are many countries that are going through an internal process to decide on the venue that they will be putting forward to the IAAF, assuming that in November they re-open bids. Because of the events of 11 September and other issues, it is not inconceivable that the IAAF may not have any other bids. So there is a degree of sense in still holding out our options, but one thing, I think, that must happen in terms of Sheffield is that if the decision is made to continue with the Sheffield bid or not to continue, that that is made by Sport England, Government, UK Athletics and Sheffield together, so that the united front that we have not had with Picketts Lock we actually have with this. Then there must be a recognition that the Secretary of State, the Minister and others have been in a very difficult situation with this, and that from it we have actually got to work far closer together to make sure the right things are done at the right time.

  169. We have learned a lot from that. Should all those organisations be getting together with Government and saying "Look, the money that was going to be invested in an event, can we talk about how we invest that into the infrastructure of sport in the country with a view to, eventually, getting events?"
  (Mr Moorcroft) I think we are all beginning the dialogue in terms of the athletics specific legacy. Having not delivered the championships we are now, obviously, committed to trying to deliver significant investment into athletics, and clearly a lot of the funders that hold Lottery money want to see increased investment in grass roots sport, and in identifying talent and nurturing that talent. The majority of international events actually are quite fundable, and the UK supports, as Sir Rodney said, in excess of 30 major events: the World Indoor Championships are coming to Birmingham, that is affordable; the World Half-Marathon went to Bristol, that is affordable. There are only a small number of major projects which require major capital investments that cause the problems. The Commonwealth Games are going ahead and we have to make that work well for our international credibility. That is desperately important. However, for those major, major events and those major, major capital projects, we really do need to look hard in terms of whether it is what we want to spend money on, or whether actually we are ten years too early. Clearly, I think, we can deliver both. If we are going to deliver both, we cannot either rely on the Lottery nor governing bodies to drive it forward, the drivers of it must be government and the rest of us then are very supportive, but driven by government.

Mr Doran

  170. I think it is important to try to learn the lessons of this sorry saga, and you made it quite clear in your written evidence and your oral evidence how damaging this has been, particularly to athletics in this country and, probably, our whole sporting image. You are affiliated to the IAAF, you are responsible for making the bids, so you are right at the centre of the process so are probably in the best place to try and spot faults and flaws in the system. Could you elaborate a little on that?
  (Mr Moorcroft) We have talked a lot about restructuring British sport. There are a lot of good things in British sport and a lot of great organisations that have done a tremendous amount of work in developing sport. We have actually achieved a lot as a nation, and Sydney illustrated that at the elite level. You probably would not, however, create the system we have got for sport in this country—or, indeed, athletics in this country—if you started again. It is an opportunity now, and often out of adversity it is the best catalyst for change. Unfortunately we found that in athletics through bankruptcy. So it could be a catalyst for change. In Paris, with Sir Rodney there, the Government there through Chris Smith, UK Sport, Sport England and others in attendance, we presented a united front to the IAAF and said "Please trust in Britain. Bring the World Athletics Championships to London." Then we came back and became fairly fragmented and polarised. I think that is the worst element of sport in this country. It is not about individual relationships, or even the relationship between one body and another, but as a whole we just do not work as well together as we should. The structures create a greater bureaucracy and end up being more damaging. In terms of aims and objectives I think we are all pretty clear; we all subscribe to the same aims, to the outcomes that we would all like to see through Lottery funding, but we get bogged down in the process. I think this has illustrated it, unfortunately, at the extreme.

  171. Nothing concentrates the mind like a little dose of bankruptcy?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Not to be recommended at all.

  172. What concerns me about what you are saying and what is in your written evidence, as a relative newcomer to this Committee and this debate, is the fact that there has been no fundamental discussion in this country about the direction we want to take in relation to international events. You say it could have happened ten years ago, but the fact it is has not and here we are with a string of disasters on our hands which reflect very badly on the country and on sport in this country. Yet this debate still does not appear to have started and we still have no focus. That is what you seem to be saying.
  (Mr Moorcroft) I do, but I do not think we should be saying it is all of British sport or all of British events. There are events that are happening—significant world events—in a fundable way and supported by partnership funding. That is great. It is the biggies that we are not good at. I think the big strategic decisions that affect beyond one statutory body or one governing body are the bit we do not do as well as we should. I think that is where the biggest improvement can come.

  173. Just one final question, Chairman. You say in your written evidence that there should be a minister for special events, and you support the previous conclusions of this Committee. You heard Sir Rodney Walker's evidence that a body already exists, and it seems that they did not play much of a part in this process from the evidence that he and his chief executive gave. So we already have a body but still we do not have a focus. Do you see it as purely a political process or can we build on what we have got?
  (Mr Moorcroft) There are a number of bodies that can do it, and UK Sport certainly are in a position to take the lead role there. Sir Rodney is better placed than me, but I think the bit that is probably missing is the direct government involvement. The attraction of a minister for events—and presumably that minister being either a Cabinet Minister or having direct access to Cabinet—is that you get buy-in from day one. That is the bit that is missing. My assumption is that the Sydney Olympic Games would not have been successful without government, not just backing, but government leading. As Patrick Carter has said, Sydney has raised the stakes. They also recognise that major events cannot be successful without government taking the lead.

Mr Bryant

  174. Can I ask one very specific question? In Patrick Carter's report there is an extensive bit which says that the timing of athletic events needs to be in the evening, and that that is probably inevitable in any London venue because you are going to have everybody competing for public transport with commuters. Is that true, or is it not?
  (Mr Moorcroft) It is true. The World Athletics Championships, on most days, has two sessions: a morning session and either a late afternoon or an evening session. There is the advantage that it is in the summer months when traffic is less congested. Yes, he did reflect an issue that did not come as a surprise. As Sir Rodney said, we have all known all along that transport is a problem in London, wherever you go. Solutions to transport, however, are probably more in the gift of government than they are in the gift of UK Athletics, recognising (and, again, this is what has made it so difficult for current ministers) that Railtrack and the Strategic Rail Authority have other priorities and disasters recently have not helped in trying to solve some of the transport issues.

  175. When the decision was made to take athletics out of Wembley, do you think Wembley could have delivered an athletics solution for 2005 or not?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Yes, I think it could have delivered. We will never know whether the Wembley project that was envisaged then at that cost and with that requirement for private financing would have gone ahead.

  176. Do you think that was the right decision at that point, or not?
  (Mr Moorcroft) I am just going to come on to one other thing. Had Wembley not gone ahead, though, it may well have been then a requirement for more public money to have gone into Wembley to deliver the World Athletics Championships, so that could have been a dilemma. I think it was the right decision, yes.

  177. You seem now to be accepting, maybe grudgingly, the present situation, so do you think that the Government has made the right decision again now?
  (Mr Moorcroft) I think the Government has been decisive, I think the Government has made the right decision because they have said that there is too much risk and the way things stand at the moment they could not give a pull on Exchequer funding to deliver it, and we accept that decision. Of course it is disappointing to athletics. What we have also said, and it is something that matters to us now enormously, is that there is this commitment to help develop athletics, and we are sympathetic to the dilemma that both the Secretary of State and the Minister face, and really supportive of their desire to work with us and Sport England to try and turn what is an embarrassment into something ultimately that will be of benefit to athletics, albeit in a different way.

Ms Shipley

  178. Good morning. I am very new to this and listening to what has been said so far I am, frankly, horrified. The fragmentation, and the lack of structure and the lack of strategic thinking is frightening, really. You, Mr Hemery, suggested, I think, that legacy is actually the most valid way of thinking our way out of this problem. Please correct me if I am wrong about this, but now, given where we are, actually considering legacy as opposed to world events is the way of thinking our way, but that requires a long-term strategy, it is not a short-term solution, which requires sustained government—probably from a particular political type (I am not saying which)—long-term commitment. You, Mr Moorcroft, suggested that actually the two could be pulled off with government support. Frankly, I fail to see how, because I cannot see, from the fragmentation that has been demonstrated so far—and thankfully it is not personality based it is actually organisational based—how you can pull off the two. I think, from what I have been hearing so far, it is a matter of rebuilding, restructuring and thinking out, right from our base considerations, what we want. I would suggest a legacy is a good foundation, and then you build up towards your world events when you have got the rest in place. I would like you to comment on that, not least because I intend to ask the Secretary of State the same question. The other, allied, thing to that is that who should be then be responsible? Our first witness, Sir Rodney, suggests that there was no one charged with the power to drive through a strategy, if a strategy was developed. So where would that power lie? Should that be a politician making a decision, or should it be organisation based?

   (Mr Moorcroft) I might have overstated the fragmentation element, because there are many examples of sport working very well together—statutory bodies, UK Sport, Sport England, CCPR, BOA, national governing bodies and regional bodies—to deliver programmes that are excellent and which are in place at this moment. When 100 per cent of the decision making process can be within that tightly-knit group it works quite well, and it is working well in sport in this country. I think it is the big projects that are the problem. For most it is appropriate that the relationship between government and sport is fairly arm's length; that DCMS acts best in a supportive role. I think there are certain projects and certain events where it needs to be far more hands-on. I think that has been the dilemma that we have not been clear about: which bits are arm's length and which bits are hands-on. Certainly, if the assumption is that, for instance, the Lottery or one body can be the 100 per cent funders of an event of this magnitude, it creates more problems than it solves. You would not necessarily create the structure we have got in this country if we started again, but I need to state that a lot of things are working very, very well.
  (Mr Hemery) I would love to see sport have a sports minister actually at Cabinet level. If sport can actually deliver for the whole human being in its development, I do not see why sport should not have the clout at that level.

  179. Can I just ask you how you would go forward? Basically, you have just repeated what you have already said to me, you did not address what I actually asked. How would you go forward? Where would the power be located? How do you pull these fragmented bits together?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Certain projects, and I think we can be pretty clear—Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships, Olympic Games, World Cup football and things like the national stadium—have to be led by government. Policy says that government will lead those. You then are far clearer in terms of where the strategy for other things lies, and where that is managed and delivered. At the moment it is fairly ambiguous. Having said that, the recent government reform of sport in this country has charged the governing bodies and the statutory bodies to get together and to look at issues like one plan for the sport, looking at issues like devolved responsibility to governing bodies to manage their own financial affairs, to manage their own funding, to move away from governing bodies chasing Sport England initiatives and get governing bodies to be more in control of their own destiny. So I actually think things are moving in the right direction. I think we have got to speed up that process of reform, but it is happening.

  Chairman: We have gone beyond the period allotted to these witnesses. The problem about this is that we have so many questions to put to witnesses but not enough time. Thank you very much.

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