Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport First Report


The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has agreed to the following Report:


"This is another fine mess ..."
Oliver Hardy.


This Report threads its way though the sorry and convoluted way in which a national athletics centre at Picketts Lock was plucked out of the air by the Government and then abruptly dropped. It is a saga of how Government involved itself beyond its scope and powers in conjuring up a project that this Committee judged unviable from the start. It is also a salutary lesson to Lottery award panels that they are not lucky dips but custodians of public money. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England both have important lessons to learn from the mess described in this Report. If ever there were justification for inquiry by select committees, this is it.

This Committee was appointed on 16 July 2001 and at its first meeting on 19 July announced an inquiry into the proposed national athletics centre at Picketts Lock. We invited written submissions on 23 July but issued new terms of reference on 10 October. These reflected the decision taken by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 4 October to offer Sheffield to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as the Government's preferred venue for the 2005 World Athletics Championships (WAC) instead of Picketts Lock. At that time we set out three issues for consideration:

  • the available options for hosting the 2005 World Championships in Athletics in the United Kingdom;

  • the implications of the Government's decisions on Picketts Lock, and the 2005 championships, for future UK bids to host international sporting events; and

  • lessons arising from the history of the Picketts Lock proposals and the UK's bid for the 2005 games.[2]

The evidence we have received has also led us to re-examine some issues that the previous Committee had dealt with before, related to the Government's decision in December 1999 to remove athletics from the mix of events that could be held at the proposed English National Stadium at Wembley. We therefore reconsider that decision, the relevant Lottery Funding Agreement (LFA) and the 'side-agreement' between Government and The Football Association (FA) over a £20 million repayment of Lottery money to Sport England.[3]

This Report therefore falls into four parts: the background to the selection of Picketts Lock as a venue for the 2005 WAC; the decision on Picketts Lock; the continuing controversy over the Lottery grant for Wembley; and lessons to be learned.

We received submissions from a range of witnesses, including supplementary evidence as the situation developed, and, in some cases, in response to specific questions from the Committee. We heard oral evidence from representatives from Sheffield City Council and Sheffield International Venues; Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL) and their architects, The World Stadium Team; UK Sport; UK Athletics; Sport England; as well as Mr Patrick Carter and members of his Lee Valley Stadium Review team; the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP and the Minister for Sport, The Rt Hon Richard Caborn MP, on 16 and 23 October 2001. We received memoranda from Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (Lee Valley RPA), Mr Bill Glad, General Secretary of the nascent organising committee for the championships ('London 2005') and from Enfield Council amongst others.[4] We did not seek oral evidence from Lee Valley as we decided to focus on decisions yet to be taken and the schedule we had set ourselves was demanding. We did not seek oral evidence from the former Secretary of State, The Rt Hon Chris Smith MP, nor the former Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey MP, in the light of their evidence on these matters on two previous occasions.[5] Mr Smith did write to the Chairman, however, on one evidential point.[6] We were grateful to Sport England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, jointly, for the supply of a copy of the full report of the Lee Valley Stadium Review in confidence.

2  CMSC press notice No 2, 10 October 2001. Back

3  Sport England is the trading name of the English Sports Council. Back

4  The oral and written evidence received by the Committee is set out in this volume after the Report. Back

5  1 February 2000, HC 164, 1999-2000, p 92ff; and 21 March 2001, HC 286-II, 2000-01, p 204ff. Back

6  Ev, p 145. Back

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Prepared 20 November 2001