Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
BROOKING, CBE, MRS
Chairman: Lady and gentlemen, I would
like to welcome you here today. Mr Keen will start the questioning.
180. I know you have been sitting in the audience
and have heard the development of questions and propositions being
put by the Committee about the structure of sport and decision-making.
I do not need to repeat again what a muddle Picketts Lock has
been. How do you view, as Chairman of Sport England, your involvement
in this decision-making on Picketts Lock? Was it effective? Was
it done in the right way? How would you like things to have been
(Mr Brooking) To go through the fairly
lengthy process, going back to when originally we did consult
with the three sports on a national stadium. You mentioned, in
fact, the World Cup was a distraction and really the World Cup
bid was not even in place when we went out with the national stadium
idea. We did the bidding process and then decided on Wembley and
it progressed from there. That took us to July 1999, when the
designs were actually launched and all sports were on board. Up
until that stage there had been quite a co-ordinated, cohesive
approach. It was then, really, back in October when it became
an issue of the Olympics; if we held the Olympics there the BOA
would be the bidders for that and they said "How do you get
from 67,000 to 80,000?" The report that UK Sport commissioned
to look at that issue was on how you got from 67,000 to 80,000
for the Olympics. Then, obviously, on 1 December all interested
parties were summoned to the Department and the Secretary of State
gave the reports to everyone. Unfortunately, there was not an
opportunity to discuss the report and he went to the House of
Commons to withdraw athletics from Wembley. Once that was confirmed
three weeks later, we had then an issue where we had to look for
a national athletics stadium, and from then on is when it all
became clouded, because during those three weeks we were not involved
in the discussions to withdraw the £20 million and then we
had to pick it up afterwards. So if you have an issue it is that
you must get (and a minister of events has been mentioned) a certain
authoritative person who can lead through all government levels,
because whereas the Department of Culture, Media and Sport looks
after sport, there are issues of transport, planning and the whole
range of infrastructure which is outside that particular department
and runs across other government departments. Unless you get that
co-ordinated approach we cannot answer those questions.
(Mrs Simmonds) I think, also, there is a difference
between interference and the support we would be looking for on
these sorts of projects. I think we feel we have had a huge amount
of support and involvement in the Picketts Lock inquiry and we
are very much supportive of what the Secretary of State and the
Minister have decided, and feel we have had a very good start
to our working relationship with them, which we hope will continue.
(Mr Brooking) I think the big problemand David
said the same thingis that you cannot have a stand-alone
athletics stadium; it will not pay for itself. There are huge
costs. It is not viable. Really, when that decision was made in
December 1999, right from the early part of 2000, Sport England
consistently said "There is a huge funding problem here and
you will not be able to make it a viable project. Where is the
extra funding coming from?" You can pay for anything, we
had this allocation of so-called £60 million that could be
set aside if it was a viable project, but there was always a big
gap. We said £100 million, and eventually that figure has
been proved, as the inquiries here emphasised as well. So from
that point it was trying to solve a problem that had a funding
gap for an 18-month period.
181. Looking at it from our point of view, there
seemed to be undue pressure on Sport England to agree to Picketts
Lock without a lot of logic behind it. Why do you think that was?
Can you describe how that came about?
(Mrs Simmonds) I do not think we do feel that was
the case. As you know, I have appeared before this Committee before
as a member of the Lottery Panel and we are a very independent
panel of about 25 people who come from all walks of life, with
several well-known sports personalities, like Steve Cram, who
actually sit on it. I think we feel that our decision was independent.
What we have to make clear is that Sport England has always believed
that we should be holding international events in this country.
We wanted the World Athletics Championships for all the reasons
that, perhaps, you raised earlier: what it does for grass-roots
sport, for social inclusion, for involvement and, coming from
the commercial sector, also what it doesas Euro 96 and
the World Rugby Cup showedin terms of economic benefits.
We were very keen to see if we could find a way that Picketts
Lock would work, which is why we commissioned the feasibility
study which looked at whether that funding gap, which we knew
was there, could be met by putting more commercial leisure on
the siteas you know, perhaps, a multiplex cinema on that
site, which is a very good anchor, or you could have put in health
and fitness facilities and other types of leisure. In the end,
certainly in the timescale we were looking at, the planning problems
associated with that would have made that impossible.
(Mr Brooking) I think one of the big problems is that
we said at the start of 2000 that £100 million was a figure
that we thought it would cost, but it depended which paper you
read or which person you spoke to as to what the costs would be.
Some said as little as £60 million, £70 million or £80
million. The Secretary of State was there at one or two of those
meetings and he was encouraged to feel, at that stage, that perhaps
the gap was not as big as we were saying. In the end, we commissioned
a feasibility study and even with that figure, what we came out
with at that stage was queried "Was that a realistic figure?"
As luck would have it, Patrick Carter had just been asked to do
the Wembley report, and we just felt you had to get an independent,
definitive cost factor that nobody could dispute, nobody could
query. As it happens, it came out significantly above ours, but
what that did confirm was that there was a massive gap that you
just could not fill. There was our belief and that was confirmed,
but it was after an 18-month period, which delayed everything.
182. Good morning. I think at your September
meeting you discussed Sheffield. Who put that agenda item on the
board for you to discuss?
(Mrs Simmonds) We were obviously aware that Patrick
Carter was looking at alternatives. Part of his brief was to look
not only in London but outside London and that is one of the sites
that we looked at. In fact, it is one of the sites where we are
investing a considerable amount of moneysome £23 millionin
English Institute of Sport facilities. There is a club called
Phoenix Sport which is immediately adjacent to the Don Valley
183. I asked who put it on. Was it true that
it was the Sports Minister who called you to say please put it
on the agenda?
(Mr Brooking) To be fair, it has been an agenda item
at every council meeting every month. We have an update on the
issue. An update on that, as it happened, was that the Carter
report had been received and we were looking at it, and we would
be discussing with government the results of that between then
and the next meeting. So I asked the council members what was
their view (a) on Picketts Lockwhatever that decision wasand,
(b) if we were asked to look at our allocation being moved to
an alternative site, would we consider that? So I got the feedback
on that. Then Ian wrote a letter on 14 September to the Secretary
of State and Minister giving our views, and suggested they needed
to contact the IAAF and UK Athletics to, obviously, discuss the
implications of that. Then, probably, there was a two-week delay
between that period, understandably, because of events on 11 September,
in which the Secretary of State was heavily involved, and then
it moved on in early October to the decisions being reached.
184. When we looked at the Commonwealth Games
at Manchester, Manchester City Council own themthere is
no doubtbut no one seems to own athletics at the moment.
They keep coming back, and coming back and they keep getting more
money. So somebody is doing something right there. Someone has
either got a position in the Treasury or in No.10, or wherever.
Athletics does not seem to be able to get anywhere. Has that made
the difference, do you think?
(Mrs Simmonds) I think the Commonwealth Games is an
event we have got and we must all, whatever we do in this country,
get behind the Commonwealth Games and make sure that that event
in Manchester is a huge success. I think, although there was great
reluctance, I have to say, on behalf of the Lottery Panel for
us to give additional money to Manchester, we felt that it was
very important for this country that we did so. Can I just put
that into context, because on the Lottery Fund we are struggling
enormously to put money into sort of community grass roots sport.
I sit on the community side and we have already spent 60 per cent
of our budget for this year in the first six months. So we have
got to look at the competing expectations and requirements of
different sports, schools, funding for health facilities and all
those things. I think we felt the Commonwealth Games was a priority.
(Mr Brooking) I think £135 million on a whole
range of facilities is a huge legacy on which we can develop sport
from a long-term point of view. Also, with the athletics stadium
there, again we had the problem of what do you do after the event?
We had a consultation and actually the football club took it on
solving the revenue problem, which was always a huge problem.
Picketts Lock needed £1 million a year, which was another
area that had to be resolved.
185. Did you personally make representations
to the Treasury?
(Mrs Simmonds) We made representations to the Secretary
of State. Do you mean about funding?
186. At Picketts Lock. Did you go and camp at
the Treasury and ask for more money?
(Mr Brooking) Camp at the Treasury? I can assure you
I am camping at the Treasury at the moment because there is a
Comprehensive Spending Review going on at the moment, and my argument
has always been, when I wear my Sport England hat, very much that
the problem with grass roots sport in this country has been the
lack of investment for the last 20-25 years. What I am arguing
for at the moment, and hopefully for a decision in April, is a
recognition that sports halls and swimming pools in this country
would cost £4 or £5 billion, just to rebuild. We are
being asked, through the Lottery Fund, to do all these massive
refurbishments. It is impossible. If there is a recognition of
a wider value of sport on education, social inclusion and the
drug, crime and vandalism problems, the health factors of physical
activityif there is a recognition and I believe there is
in governmentthen this has to be transmitted into Exchequer
funding. We cannot keep calling on (as we have done on major events
as well) the Lottery money, which started off at £300 million
six or seven years ago and is now just £200 million. It is
being reduced all the time.
(Mrs Simmonds) I think it would also be true to say
that I do not think it is our role to go and camp at the Treasury.
We are the Lottery Fund, which is receiving an application for
money and we were constantly assured by the Secretary of State
that that gap would be provided. We would suggest that was his
role rather than ours.
187. As you know from hearing earlier questions,
I am interested in the lessons that can be learned from this.
Just looking at the plethora of organisations which seem to be
involved in this whole process, which I think everyone accepts
has been so damaging to our reputation as a sporting nation and
our ability to organise, one of the questions that comes to my
mind is are there just too many organisations involved? Do you
accept there is a lack of focus? Too many cooks spoiling the broth?
(Mrs Simmonds) I think there are three lessons we
would like to learn from this. The first is about the bidding
process. At the moment it is UK Athletics and Sir Rodney and UK
Sport who take the lead in this, and Sport England is not actually
involved. However, we need to be involved with government at that
very first stage, and I think there needs to be more organisations
who get together, who agree a decision and then stick to that
decision. I think that is the first lesson. The second one is
that we have got to improve our business planning. As Patrick
Carter has shown in Manchester and elsewhere, we must get our
figures right. Sport England have lots of experience, we have
architects and quantity surveyors who, in fact, came up with exactly
the right figure on Picketts Lock, and that there are other thingsas
Trevor has already alluded tolike transport, which need
to be looked at very carefully, so we know what all the costs
are to begin with. Perhaps the third one is that government has
to decide whether they are going to support international events
in this country. The Lottery fund cannot be the only fund that
is providing these funds. Our pot is not big enough and we are
constantly losing money; we lost money when the Opportunities
Fund was invented and we are losing money now because Camelot
is not selling as many tickets. We can provide some of the funding
but not all of it. If the Government is, as we hope, serious about
staging events then they really must put up some funds as well.
(Mr Brooking) We cannot deliver the planning and transport
infrastructure. A minister of events, which has been mentioned
at previous inquiries here, has got to have the authority to cut
through all that and, also, I think, get additional Exchequer
funding. You cannot keep going back to the same pot which is diminishing
all the time anyway.
188. If we consider the evidence we have had
earlier from Sir Rodney Walker, UK Sport is responsible for attracting
these major events but it seems that it is your responsibility
to fund them. I find that a little bit difficult to understand.
(Mrs Simmonds) There is no reason why we cannot work
together on those sorts of things.
189. Do we need two organisations?
(Mrs Simmonds) I do not think you can turn back the
clock on devolution. We have devolution, whether we like it or
not, and it is very difficult. We have a whole rangeas
David was sayingof governing bodies which are structured
in very different ways; some are English, some are UK governing
bodies, some have a combination of the two. It is very difficult
to move back on that. I think the other issue is to do with our
(Mr Brooking) I think the strength of what Sport England
have to do has actually grown more and more important, because
the lack of investment in sport over the last 20 years means that
a lot of people (local authorities, whatever) who used to fund
sport havewhat I would termabandoned ship. We try
to work with all our partners across the country, and some of
them do really respond and are clued up and still believe sport
has this wider part to play. Now you have got this growing government
agenda on all these other wider issues and I have got to know
that half the country do not know how they are going to be able
to deliver that in the local community, because all the old sports
and leisure departments have disappeared into planning, environment,
parksthere is not the expertise out there. So to think
that you can hand the money over to some of those areas and they
are going to fund sportyou have got no chance. There are
some communities which are desperate to get the opportunity to
access sport, whether it be schools or those disadvantaged peoples
in localities that have not got the facilities. At the moment
they are not being provided with that opportunity. We have got
to make sure that they are, and that is what we have got to help
the Government deliver. However, I can assure you that locally
that will not happen unless they get a strong steer.
190. Now that we have a new Secretary of State
for Culture, Media and Sport, would you like to revisit some of
the decisions that have already been taken, in particular with
regard to Wembley and its dual-purpose use for athletics for future
(Mr Brooking) I think we have always been pretty consistent
with what our feelings were on Wembley. Going back, really, to
December 1999, I think you saw Rod Sheard last week and we also
believed that the platform solution was deliverable and was the
best option. You have got to remember we asked athletics "How
often would you use this stadium?" It is an 80,000 or 90,000
stadium. They looked at it and said, "Look, to be honest,
at that size, we are only going to use it once in the next 10
or 15 years (that is the World Athletics Championships, if we
ever get that) and, perhaps, a second time if we ever bid for
the Olympics". At that stage, we did not have a bid for the
Olympics, there was no government support for it and, also, when
we asked BOA "Would it be in the Wembley area?" they
said "We cannot say, really, it is one of three options".
So on that basis we could not put in an athletics track, and if
you asked the question "How often is it going to be used?"
actually it would be once in the next 15 years. So we thought
that as we wanted to protect athletics, how do we get it in and
give them the opportunity to actually bid for a major eventthe
World Athletics Championshipand the platform idea we thought
was terrific. There is a certain irony in that you have heard
there are a couple of bids now for 2012 with that very innovation
that we came up with two years ago. It was a terrific idea. Even
then they said "Look, we are saying six months and the cost
is X amount, but to be honest in the next few years that will
come down and we can do it quicker but we have got to do that
to cover ourselves". I think that is what Rod Sheard indicated
last week. It is coming down all the time. That was our argument.
The problem was that the reportwhich, again, was not about
whether the platform worked, everyone thought it workedwas
about how you get from 67,000 to 80,000. That is why everyone
was amazed, when the report came out, that they withdrew athletics.
It was not on the Olympics, it was actually athletics has to come
out. Unfortunately, there was not the discussion period, because
within 24 hours 11 of the 12 criticisms had disappeared, and you
were back to the site lines of 67,000 to 80,000. So everyone said
that we misinterpreted the instructions. So the actual platform
worked, and as I sit here now it still works. The fact is, however,
is we have lost nearly two years, and from the time factor now
any contractor would not take it on because the risk factor is
so tight and the costs then of guarantees and insurance to deliver
it would mean it is prohibitive. So, sadly, it will not be taken
on because of the risk factors of 2005.
191. What you are saying is that we were right
when we said that Wembley with the platform was the solution.
Why do you think the Secretary of State rejected that half-an-hour
after we published our report?
(Mr Brooking) It is a question that, actually, I think
you should ask the Secretary of State. We just felt afterwards
that certainly we wanted to try and then protect the World Athletics
Championships and we were hoping that there was a solution with
a stand-alone athletics track. But, consistently, we queried the
funding gap. Even the evidence that was given here back in March
by the Secretary of State indicated that that issue will be resolved.
The funding gap was going to be sorted out at a later date, but
we now know that that has not been achievable and certainly, as
you say, 18 months, to a certain extent, has been wasted.
192. The Secretary of State when he rejected
our report did not refer to the funding gap in any way. He just
said our report was rubbish.
(Mrs Simmonds) If there is another lesson we have
to learn, it is that sports organisations must work much closer
together. I think the reason he rejected athletics from Wembley
was, really, just to do with the Olympics. As Sir Nigel Mobbs,
who was Chairman of the Wembley Task Force then, told everyone,
we could not hold the Olympics at Wembley anyway because the whole
site will not work in that position. It was more concerned with
that than it was with anything else.
Chairman: If my friend Mr Maxton was
with us he would say that the whole idea of a link was chimaerical
in any case but we did have the World Athletics Championships
coming to us. One of the things that exasperates me is that this
Committee is frequently right and always ignored.
193. Given, then, that it would seem unlikely
that we will produce a dual-purpose stadium, what is your view
on whether or not Wembley should keep the national football stadium,
or whether it should actually go to Birmingham, which has made
a very strong bid?
(Mrs Simmonds) I think it is difficult for us to answer
that question. As Patrick Carter said last week, it is very much
under discussion, particularly between the Government and the
(Mr Brooking) All you would say, and I believe Sir
Rodney said it, is that this very much has to be a decision now
which is led by the FA because they are going to be the main event
user. You can build a national stadium anywhere, but it has got
to have x-number of matches held there to make it viable. So you
cannot have a mix of a few games in the national stadium and then
travel around the country for the rest, because the national stadium
does not become viable. So it is very much their decision. To
be fair, the Secretary of State and Minister now are certainly
giving that lead back to Patrick Carter, because I think what
happened in the past is there were so many diverse views that
the FA were not sure that everyone was backing whatever their
decision was. Whatever decision is taken by Patrick Carter and
the FA will be very much a joint one between them.
194. What would happen if it were not to be
going to be Wembley and the FA were happy to have it in Birmingham,
as quite a lot of people are? What happens to the £120 million?
(Mrs Simmonds) The Lottery Funding Agreement is quite
clear: if they choose not to have it at Wembley that £120
million has to be repaid.
(Mr Brooking) Ian, do you want to take the Committee
through the process?
(Mr Fytche) It is fair to say we have to go right
back to when the Lottery Fund Agreement was signed.
196. I do not want you to go right back, I want
you to tell me when will this £120 million be repaid? It
is public money, you are in charge of it, you paid it out and
you are supposed to get it back if Wembley is not usedif
there is not a Wembley Stadium. When?
(Mrs Simmonds) If necessary we would have to take
legal action to recover it.
(Mr Brooking) When the decision is made on what is
happening to the national stadium.
197. By who?
(Mr Brooking) By this current discussion between Patrick
Carter and the FA. Once they make a decision where that is going
to be, if it is at Wembley then the scenario does not come up,
if it is away from Wembley, that is outside the Lottery Fund Agreement
so we would request the repayment of that amount.
198. So it is quite a short time-scale. It is
a short, clear time-scaleie, when the decision is made
on the national stadium, if it is not Wembley you will then proceed
to act to get that £120 million back?
(Mrs Simmonds) Yes.
(Mr Brooking) We have made that clear.
199. We can get you in. You can tell us you
are going to do it and we will have a special little inquiry just
(Mrs Simmonds) Absolutely.
(Mr Brooking) Thank you very much.