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

Annex 21

Letter, 23 January 2001, from Sport England to the Chairman of WNSL


  I am writing to you as a matter or urgency in relation to progress on the Wembley project, following your announcement of 18 January on athletics. I must say we are disappointed that you have not replied to my letters of 3 and 18 January 2001, specifically my offer to meet with you to discuss the key issues. Given your reported meetings with many parties over the past few weeks, it seems something of an oversight that, apart from the unexpected opportunity to chat in the back of a cab, you have not sought to discuss your proposals with us, as the major funder of the project to date. Neither have I had a substantive reply to my letter to Bob Stubbs and Adam Crozier (copied to you) of 8 January.

  I have now asked and arranged to meet with Bob on Thursday of this week to discuss a range of issues, not least the need to ensure that there is an agreed way forward for the project by the end of January. I am hopeful that the FA may also be able to attend. It is critical that there is clarity as to the revised package in order for the Council to consider fully the implications of further extensions to the section three milestone under the Lottery Funding Agreement which currently ends on the 31 January.

  There is, however, one specific issue upon which I would welcome clarification by return of post. We have been picking up from a variety of sources the following scenario which has been attributed to WNSL:

    —  It would be technically feasible to accommodate athletics at Wembley possibly as shown in the report and drawings received by us from WNSL on 18 January in respect of both the stadium and the warm up track. However, WNSL are not prepared to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships on the basis that there is insufficient time to guarantee completion of the project for the event. As I understand it, the key issue is not whether the project will be completed on time, as the current programme estimates completion in the autumn of 2004. The key issue is whether a contractor will commit to this timetable under the construction contract.

    —  However, it was suggested that WNSL is intent on retaining the technical capability to host athletics after 2005, and indeed, the obligations under the Lottery Funding Agreement in respect of athletics events. I would be grateful, therefore, if you could clarify the design solution to be employed should athletics events be committed to the stadium in the future.

    —  In these circumstances, WNSL believe that they should be under no obligation to pay £20 million to Sport England.

  I would welcome your urgent clarification that the position outlined to you in my letter of 18 January is correct, ie. that, following your announcement, the £20 million will be repaid in accordance with your re-submitted application of 29 September 2000, and the decision of Council on 4 December. As you know, whilst we were not party to the discussions, we know from subsequent correspondence that this was a key part of the agreement between the FA and the Secretary of State in December 1999, and is critical to the funding package for the Lee Valley National Athletic Centre project.

  We shall write to Bob under separate cover itemising the issues to be discussed at our meeting on Thursday. In the meantime, I look forward to your response.

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