Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by UK Athletics


  This paper responds to questions arising from UK Athletics' written and oral evidence to the CMS Select Committee regarding the Picketts Lock project.

  Before addressing the specific questions , UK Athletics wishes to clarify one response given in oral evidence by David Moorcroft on 23rd October that has subsequently been picked up in the media. Mr Chris Bryant MP asked him:

    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's reply was taken by some to be an acknowledgement that Government had made the right decision. He was in fact attempting to convey that Government had been right to be decisive, yet that he was disappointed and disagreed with the decision that was taken.


  1.   Mr Moorcroft did not recognise the quotation attributed to him by the Committee: [UK Athletics] "are as convinced as ever that the new Wembley will provide a great home for flagship athletics events." Confusion perhaps arose over the choice of publication (Building magazine) I enclose a number of other press reports of his comments. Does your latest memorandum to us represent a change of view? Why?

  We do not feel that there is any contradiction between our current stance and that reflected in the quotes from 1999. All the quotes made it clear that the platform solution at Wembley offered a sound technical solution for hosting flagship events.

  Nothing in our written evidence contradicts this view—it made reference to a lack of legacy with the platform option but did not question the capability of the platform to offer the one-off solution for flagship events. Similarly, Mr Moorcroft's comments in oral evidence confirmed this when he said "I do not think anyone has ever doubted that Wembley . . . could have delivered athletics."

  Out consistent position has been that pursuit of the twin goals of flagship event and legacy was preferable—hence the National Athletics Centre concept at Picketts Lock which would have offered both.

  2.   You wrote that Picketts Lock would run at a deficit "like many sports facilities". How many other such facilities run at a deficit of between, £1-1.5 million per year?

  Firstly it should be noted that the two detailed business plans for the Picketts Lock project both showed a range of deficits all under £1 million—neither study concluded that £1.5 million was a likely deficit scenario—it seems to be an arbitrary figure in the Carter Report.

  The level of the deficit in a leisure facility is a product of its scale, the facility mix, the pricing policy and the revenue generating opportunities. Certain facilities are well known in the leisure industry as invariably operating at a deficit—community swimming pools are the most obvious because of their high fixed costs and low pricing policies. Athletics facilities also usually run at a deficit as they are priced with maximum accessibility in mind and do not lend themselves to multi-use income-generating opportunities.

  The combination of these factors of scale, facility mix, pricing policy and revenue generating opportunities at the proposed National Athletics Centre were such that a large deficit was anticipated, at least in the early years before further revenue drawing opportunities could come on stream.

  There are no "other such facilities" with which to provide comparisons, as this was a unique attempt to provide a national facility. However, the value of the project was recognised in the proposed contributions from four organisations towards the deficit.

  3.   How far do you accept responsibility for what has happened? Is it fair to say that in abandoning Wembley in favour of a new national athletics stadium in London you have fallen between the two stools and have ended up with nothing?

  We do not accept responsibility for "abandoning Wembley" because we did no such thing. A decision was taken by the then Secretary of State to remove athletics from Wembley and a deal was struck with the FA to this effect. This decision having been taken, we sought to find a London venue for the World Championships in 2005. Picketts Lock was unanimously selected and was the basis for a united bid to the IAAF in April 2000.

  In the long run, we trust that we will not end up with nothing—both the Secretary of State and Sport England have signed up to the delivery of a significant legacy investment in athletics.

  4.   The former Secretary of State was consistently upbeat and confident about the prospects for closing the capital funding gap and for the identification of a third party to underwrite the 2005 championships. Did you feel that you had an undertaking from Government that it would make its business to find funding and a guarantor for the Picketts Lock stadium and the 2005 games?

  We felt that Government had always been an active partner in the World Championships and National Stadium projects—as evidenced by the removal of athletics from Wembley and the leadership of the London bid to the IAAF in Paris.

  We had no reason to think that this partnership would not continue, and we remained confident, even with Ministerial changes, that we would receive assistance from Government in those aspects of the project that had consistently been highlighted as requiring leadership and support.

  5.   As the formal originator of any bid to the IAAF to host its events in the UK, was it appropriate that the Government switched the venue on offer for 2005 from London to Sheffield without consulting you?

  We were consulted on 4 October before the Secretary of State informed the IAAF of Government's decision to cancel Picketts Lock. We stated our reservations but the decision remained. As stated in our initial evidence to this Committee, we were disappointed not to be involved earlier in discussions with DCMS and Sport England over World Championships alternatives.

  6.   You express your disappointment that the Carter report was not shared with you until decisions were taken by Ministers and the day that announcements were made. Did this give you a sense of deja vu recalling the manner in which the Government and UK Sport handled the Ellerbe Becket report on the Wembley platform in December 1999?

  This is a very good question, though the situations were not quite the same. The Ellerbe Becket report was produced at great speed and, we understand, with no contact with the Wembley Stadium design team who could have corrected the factual inaccuracies. In contrast, the Carter Report team was reasonably well resourced and had longer to look at the issues. Furthermore, there was a reasonable amount of interaction between the project team and the review team.

  However, if we had been shown a draft report, we could have corrected inaccuracies and proposed solutions to some of the issues raised. It has also emerged in evidence that UK Sport and the British Olympic Association did not have access to the Carter team. This is regrettable as decisions on events of the magnitude of the World Championships in Athletics have ramifications for the UK's standing in world sport and this should have been considered.

  7.   You say that you advised Mr Carter and the Government that the IAAF would be unlikely to accept a venue other than London (as did UK Sport). What response did you receive to this advice?

  We received no written response, though in conversations with DCMS officials it was clear that our opinion had been noted. We repeated our assertion on 4 October, but the Secretary of State made it clear that she wished the IAAF to have a UK venue to consider in place of Picketts Lock.

  8.   In January 2000 you wrote to us that "the Wembley National Stadium saga illustrates many of the inherent weaknesses in the administration of British Sport. It has highlighted a lack of clarity between the roles and responsibilities of sport's key statutory and governing bodies and it is essential that we are able to act upon the lessons learnt from this exercise". Do you feel that the lessons to which you referred then have not been learned? Do you think the Performance and Innovation Unit review announced by the Secretary of State on 23 October can make a difference?

  British sport has learned many lessons in the Lottery era, and in the last year or so this has resulted in far better co-operation between the many agencies working on community initiatives, events and performance plans. However, it would appear to be the major projects and major events that result in confusion and conflict—invariably because of uncertainty over the role played by Government and its statutory agencies.

  It has to be remembered that amongst international governing bodies of sport there is no interest in the detail of how the UK delivers on its sporting commitments—quite simply there is (or was) trust that we have a structure that ensures that promises will be honoured. When we fail to live up to this trust, our international sporting credibility is affected enormously.

  If the review was to clarify nothing else other than the role of Government in major projects and major events then it will have achieved something—and we hope that the review concludes that the Government's role in major events is more than one of enabler. However, clarity over the role for Government in delivery is not the fundamental issue—firstly Government have to decide whether or not it actually wishes to attract major sporting events to the UK.

  There appeared to be consensus within British sport on this issue in the Nineties with the commitment to build a National Stadium and with the publication of UK Sport's Major Events Strategy. However, recent decisions and comments from the Minister for Sport, suggest that this consensus is no longer in place and there is perhaps not a commitment to major events.

  We hope that the review will highlight the importance of a fundamental Governmental decision on major events. Once taken, this decision has to be seen as a long-term direction—to be continued whatever changes in personnel, and ideally to have sufficient all-party support that it would even survive a change in Government.

29 October 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 November 2001