UNPICKING THE LOCK: THE WORLD ATHLETICS
CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THE UK
We have noted the referral of UK policy on major
events to the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) in the Cabinet
Office for review. This may be of some benefit. Certainly the
PIU is in the right place to assess how well the different elements
of the Government machine are co-ordinated so as to face in the
same direction on something like the staging of a major sporting
The Cabinet Office was the base for the Minister
with special responsibility for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Mr
Ian McCartney MP. Lord Macdonald, Minister for the Cabinet Office
and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, now jointly chairs the
new Ministerial Group on those Games alongside the Secretary of
State for Culture, Media and Sport. We note that competing for
this Minister's attention are a range of other cross-cutting issues
and day-to-day responsibilities on the overall delivery of public
services; regulation; and e-government. The Cabinet Office was
the preferred location for the "Minister for Events"
recommended on a number of occasions by the previous Committee.
To result in something useful, the PIU needs to take
account of a number of key matters. However, before setting out
our list of priorities, we believe that the first task is a political
one. As the Secretary of State put it in evidence, "what
are we going to get from this?"
We believe that the Government must decide, and state clearly,
whether or not it wishes the UK to be a host for the larger sporting
events: to secure home advantage for UK athletes; as a facet of
its wider sports policy, including the encouragement of grassroots
participation; and as an element of the way the UK is perceived
internationally. UK Athletics wrote that "Fundamental
agreement ... must be reached as to whether major events are actually
wanted in the UK or whether the emphasis should be placed on wider
sports development initiatives".
The organisation went on to assert that the two are not mutually
exclusive as UK policy-makers have sometimes suggested.
UK Sport called for a co-ordinated world class facility strategy
for the whole of the UK to underpin any bids for international
In looking specifically at the larger events, however,
we believe that the Government must also decide whether it is
prepared to fund such ventures to a realistic level. We understand
the point made by the former Secretary of State in a previous
inquiry whereby a too explicit commitment of Government resources
may prevent private money being involved.
However, it is no good making fanfare commitments to host events
from a reducing Lottery fund with a presumption that private sector
support will bridge the gap. Experience has shown that this approach
simply does not work. Either unplanned expenditure has to be committed
or projects have to be abandoned. The 2002 Manchester Commonwealth
Games has benefited from £60 million of additional revenue
funding from the Government and Sport England, as announced in
July 2001; but,
as we have seen, Picketts Lock was cancelled after many stated
commitments and a protracted period of development and feasibility
After these fundamental questions have been tackled,
we believe that the PIU review will have the greatest chance of
success if it tackles the role of Government in delivering projects
to which the UK commits itself.
The arms-length principle which operates in respect
of Lottery funding for such projects, by definition, leaves them
just within reach of Ministers. This can create an ambiguous area
where the prospect of Government support to bridge any gaps, but
no specific commitment, can bedevil clear and timely judgements
on projects which are the proper responsibility of the Sports
Councils. In short, it is not right that major projects, which
have merited substantial Lottery grants, be held hostage while
Government dithers over whether to commit funding. The relationship
between Lottery funding and direct Government support must be
the subject of a clear framework setting out respective responsibilities
and, on a case-by-case basis, a clear timetable for decisions.
We therefore agree with the Secretary of State when
she said "I do not think it is the role of Government to
build and manage big stadia, but to pretend that these big projects
can be delivered with the Government holding back is also naive.
So what we need to have is a proper relationship between the managing
body that is bearing the responsibility for delivering the project
and Government, which is an enabler helping the project to deliver".
She went to say "The minute the Government gets nervous and
ambivalent about a big project, it will turn round and bite you."
Our concern is that the Government's partners in these projects
also get 'bitten' and are less able to sustain such injuries.
However, the question remains as to who should be
responsible for delivering these projects. UK Athletics told us
that nobody had the necessary clout within the present reliance
onwe would say muddle oflocal agencies, sports governing
bodies and funding Councils.
Sir Rodney Walker, Chairman of both WNSL and UK Sport said that
what was currently lacking was "an organisation or individual
with the power and authority" to drive major projects forward
and their costs down.
UK Athletics criticised the multi-agency approach, calling for
a stream-lining of decision-making and funding regimes for events
on the scale of the World Athletics Championships.
This was supported by the recommendation of UK Sport for a single
agency with access to the appropriate funds and the ability to
sign contracts on behalf of the Government including the underwriting
of events. Mr
Patrick Carter said that the UK should "establish a major
events group ... which establishes a process to make sure the
right questions are asked at the right time, ie, early enough.
What seems to be the picture in all these major events is we start
them, we do not cost them properly, events develop, the nation
gets embarrassed, the Government pays or chooses not to pay."
We think that Mr Carter has the right approach
but the wrong solution. We believe that the case for a dedicated
Minister for Events, with the responsibilities and resources identified
by the previous Committee, has grown yet more compelling. The
same approach should be applied to all major events, sporting
or otherwise. We recommend that the Prime Minister gives serious
consideration to the conclusions of the previous Committee on
this subject when he studies the outcome of the review of major
events policy to be undertaken by the Performance and Innovation
142 HC 286-I, 2000-01, para 184. Back
p 42. Back
145 Ibid. Back
p 35. Back
286-II, 2000-01, Q 463 Back
198/01, 7 February 2001. Back
p 42. Back
p 43. Back
p 35. Back