Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320 - 339)



  320. And there was no change in the relationship between the organisation and the FA? There was no change in the guarantee?
  (Mr Maslin) Absolutely not.

  321. So the fact that that happened only the day that you were cashing a cheque from Sport England, which was sent to you on 15 March, is purely accidental? That is the cheque for £103 million.
  (Mr Maslin) That is right. The cheque for £103 million was to purchase Wembley from Wembley Stadium Ltd. It was always agreed that we would change the name of the company to Wembley National Stadium Ltd and we would just do it a couple of days after the purchase.

  322. Notwithstanding the answers that you gave to Michael Fabricant's question, do you accept that there is—it seems scandalous really that the FA sets up an arm's length company and gives no guarantee; it does not have to find money to sort out if the whole project falls down, and because Sport England gives more money in a single dollop than the assets of WNSL, to which it was giving, are worth, and WNSL is not even putting in its own profits that it is making in the meantime into the acquisition of the land—a stranglehold on politicians then, or on anybody who has a real interest in the project, because if they criticise they are seen as trying to undermine the project from going ahead and it looks as if the public will neither get a stadium nor its money back.
  (Mr Maslin) I can see that there may be some dilemmas there but the fact of the matter is that we needed to make a commercial transaction with Wembley plc to purchase the land to start a new Wembley Stadium project. On one thing that you said before, let me make it absolutely clear that all the monies that came from operating the stadium in the following 18 months or so were ploughed back absolutely into the project.

  Chairman: Yes; I remember you saying that.

Miss Kirkbride

  323. I myself have one niggling point about the valuation of the land and what was paid for it. In the very early exchanges you said that the land was valued at something like £60 million and the business was valued at something around £40 million. The business no longer exists, the buildings are going to be pulled down, and the land is only valuable because of where it is, because it is Wembley and if it was in the middle of anywhere else anywhere in the country it would cease to be Wembley with all the fascination and the glamour that is attached to that name. I still do not see the difference between £60 million and £40 million, which is £103 million, which is what the Lottery paid for this piece of land.
  (Mr Maslin) Sorry: I do not quite follow.

  324. I would like to know more about what was behind the valuation of that piece of land. Earlier it was separated into £60 million for the value of the land alone, which itself seems rather high. That to me would be justified by the fact that that is where Wembley is and where Wembley is is a an irreplaceable commodity, but that is not the answer because on top of the £60 million is £40 million that was paid for the business which means that where Wembley is the business is Wembley and the land it sits on. I do not see the difference.
  (Mr Maslin) The valuation was slightly different. Yes, £64.5 million for the value of the land. The buildings themselves were the difference. In terms of valuing a business—

  325. I thought it was 40 million.
  (Mr Maslin) Yes, it is.

  326. They were going to be pulled down?
  (Mr Maslin) Which is why, to answer one of your earlier notes, in prudent accounting those assets have been written off. There is a difference between the assets themselves and the purchase of an ongoing viable business. Both we and Sport England had to ensure that the business we were buying justified that price and that was the basis of valuations. We got those valuations and they supported that it was worth paying £103 million for.

  327. I expect that is still as clear as mud to most people but there we are. Given that a lot of money has been spent on this project by the Lottery, and it has been exposed to a lot of commercial risk, is the public going to get any dividend in five years' time? Will Sport England actually see a return on their investment?
  (Mr Cunnah) No.

  328. Why not?
  (Mr Cunnah) The Lottery Funding Agreement allows for one per cent of the turnover to be provided for local causes. Perhaps you should allow me to change my answer to yes. In reaching the agreement with Sport England, in return for the Lottery funding money, what Sport England were requiring of WNSL was for WNSL to provide a national stadium and that was the return it was looking for. In addition, WNSL did agree that one per cent of turnover would be provided for local worthy causes, perhaps refurbishing or regenerating local playing fields or something like that. I am sorry if I was rambling but I was thinking as I spoke.

  329. Based on your projections how much would that be?
  (Mr Cunnah) That would be in the order of £750,000 a year.

  330. To be decided by whom?
  (Mr Cunnah) That would be—
  (Mr Jeffries) A trust has to be established in which Sport England and WNSL will have an interest.

  331. The geographic location for the disbursal, would that be the borough?
  (Mr Cunnah) Clearly the borough would expect to benefit from the stadium but that is really for the trust to establish.

  332. I want to return to what Mr Coward said about Birmingham. I think most people would find it pretty awesome that Birmingham would not have been a part of this bidding process at all, that there was disagreement between the FA and WNSL. Could you explain to me why Birmingham was even being negotiated with when it did not have a cat in hell's chance of having the stadium?
  (Mr Coward) I think the FA's position has always been clear on Birmingham. The FA has always been interested to meet with the people from Birmingham who wanted to put together their own bid and, as I said earlier, Adam Crozier and others from the FA met with Birmingham to help them put together a presentation and has always been impressed by that. I think as you heard from Adam, and you received in a note, we always have expressed considerable reservations in relation to a Birmingham national stadium for the reasons that I previously outlined but which I can headline as being massive uncertainty. It would be wrong for anyone to think that there is a viable project at Birmingham as at this date.

  333. Is not the problem of the viability of the project the contract that you had with WNSL? It has got nothing to do with it being green belt land or anything else, the problem is the contract that you had with WNSL. Why was that not made clear to them rather than have these people waste their time in the way that was the case?
  (Mr Coward) An issue that we have been making clear throughout, because people do know that we had to enter into a long-term commitment to Wembley when the stadium was purchased, and you yourselves know this, that was what the FA was required by Sport England to do and that was what we very gladly did. That does not preclude us, as we were asked to do, as part of the whole review process, meeting with people from Birmingham who were putting together a Birmingham bid. We did that.

  334. So what would be the scenario in which Birmingham would be considered?
  (Mr Coward) As I say, there is a fundamental point that the FA is required to take its events to the Wembley National Stadium, whether it be the old version or, as we all hope, the new stadium at Wembley. If that does not take place we will be asked, I am sure, by Birmingham, if they wish to have a national stadium, to take our events there. We would have to ask Sport England for their consent to any change to the Lottery Funding Agreements to allow us to do that.

  335. But would WNSL not sue you for breach of contract?
  (Mr Coward) WNSL would also have to consent as well.

  336. Therefore it is not a possibility.
  (Mr Coward) We would not wish to put ourselves in a position where we were being sued by WNSL.

  337. You would have to buy out of your obligations to WNSL?
  (Mr Coward) That may be one option.

  338. Did you raise this in discussion with Birmingham?
  (Mr Coward) I cannot answer that because I have never had discussions with Birmingham.

  339. Can you tell us what discussions you have had with regard to this particular matter with the Secretary of State who told us a few months ago in the House of Commons that Birmingham was the preferred second bidder?
  (Mr Coward) As far as I am aware DCMS, and therefore I assume the Secretary of State, has received full details of Sport England's security package in relation to the grant that was made by Sport England to Wembley National Stadium Limited, so the Department for Culture, Media and Sport would be well aware of our 20 year agreement to take our events to Wembley Stadium.

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