Examination of Witness (Questions 1 -
THURSDAY 1 MARCH 2001
1. Mr Bates, thank you very much indeed for
accepting our invitation for you to come and open the public session
of this inquiry. We will go right ahead and I will ask Mr Fearn
to open the questions.
(Mr Bates) Thank you.
2. Good morning, Mr Bates. After your experience
as Chairman, do you have any doubts about the conception of the
project for a new National Stadium at Wembley?
(Mr Bates) There is no problem with building it providing,
as I have said at a previous presence here, people stop interfering
and let the management get on and do their job.
3. Who do you mean by "people"?
(Mr Bates) Basically, Government departments and particularly
Kate Hoey. If you think about it, on 25 July 1999, the Secretary
of State stood up and said publicly that this would be the finest
stadium in the world and that the design was first-class for both
athletics and football. A fortnight later, Kate Hoey was appointed
Minister of Sport and, since then, there has been nothing but
criticism, mostly based on ignorance. That is why we have wasted
19 months and lost the confidence of the City.
4. So you resent the fact that outside parties
have had too much influence?
(Mr Bates) I do not resent it; it is more in sorrow
than anger. We are all supposed to be pulling together in this
sort of thing and I cannot help contrasting the mess we are having
over Wembley with how they built their Olympic Stadium in Australia.
5. Would it have been a better project not to
have sought public funding?
(Mr Bates) We have not had any public funding. This
is a popular misconception. The £120 million that was given
by the Lottery is not public money. It came from the Lottery money
provided by the ordinary people of this country. My personal feelingI
say it quite clearly and this is why I am not popular in some
quarters but obviously I do not give a damnis that the
fact of the matter is that the Government have no legal standing
in this matter. They have no finance in it; they have presumed
an importance beyond their station.
6. Talking about the finances, do you think
that the agreement with the Secretary of State to pay £20
million to Sport England following the withdrawal of athletics
hindered the whole process?
(Mr Bates) I think the problem was part of a wider
process. There was political discussion going on vis-a-vis the
Government and football at Number 10 and that was a deal done
between the Football Association and Number 10. It actually had
nothing to do with Wembley. They merely used Wembley as a conduit
to get a wider political settlement. As I said earlier, I was
the messenger and not the principal and I think you now have copies
of the correspondence which set that out quite clearly.
7. Do you think there is something strange,
odd or unbelievable that the cost of taking out the platform was
£30 millionand I think that is rightand the
cost of Picketts Lock could be as much as £95 million?
(Mr Bates) I think that is an academic discussion
because I do not think that Picketts Lock will happen and it will
probably cost more like £200 million than £95 million.
When Picketts Lock was announced, we at Wembley did our own, I
must say, cursory survey and, in view of the infrastructure problems
which were far worse than at Wembley, I cannot see how it can
be justified spending that kind of money at Picketts Lock for
a stadium which experience shows will never be used or will very
rarely be used once you have had the athletics.
8. If you could start again and, even if there
should have been a competition and let us assume there was a competition,
what do you think we should do to stop this? We cannot do the
Dome. We cannot seem to get these big projects managed correctly,
politically managed correctly or funded correctly. What would
you recommend to us?
(Mr Bates) As I have said already, I do not think
that Government should have interfered in the first place; they
should have been on the sidelines cheering us on and we could
have got the project done. We have had 19 monthsI know
she will be here in due course to give her point of viewand
this has been consistently undermined and she has been feeding
it to the press all the time. It is known that she has been using
the conduit to feed it to the press based totally on ignorance
and unfortunately some members of the press, and Mihir Bose is
an extreme example, have just printed what she has told them without
any checking of the facts at all.
9. If I may just ask a supplementary question
on that, when private interests build stadiums in Australia, they
build their own stadiums, take financial responsibility for them
and governments do not get involved in any way. In this country,
governments of all parties seem not to be able to keep out of
these projects in some way or another. I will not quibble with
you about whether Lottery money is public money but certainly
it is not money provided by the builders. Would you take the view
that, in these large projects like stadiums, taking into account
what Mr Wyatt has said about the lack of confidence in any government
to get involved in projects of this size, that it would be much
better for the interests themselves to get on with it?
(Mr Bates) I do not think it is Government's job to
get involved in these sorts of matters at all, irrespective of
the political persuasion. I think everybody would agree that nationalisation
has failed and some people might argue that privatisation has
failed as well, but I would have thought that the Government's
job was to run the country and to provide the environment to enable
the private sector to get on with itthat is the way to
do itand to regulate it in a form to make sure that it
does comply with the public interest and that you get the private
sector to do what they said they were going to do.
10. I am not sure that I agree with that. If
you look at Wembley, the infrastructure is appalling. I am not
sure there is enough private money to actually improve the infrastructure,
so the Government do have a role to improve the infrastructure.
(Mr Bates) The infrastructure of Wembley should have
been improved irrespective of Wembley Stadium. It was a bloody
disgrace and, when you think of the money that is paid out of
taxes and the road fund licence which was established in 1930
to maintain the roads, that is a failure of successive governments
which has nothing to do with Wembley Stadium.
11. That is regeneration. I will just say that
I disagree with you about that particular aspect.
(Mr Bates) That is democracy.
12. Do you feel there is enough confidence in
the project at Wembley for it actually to attract other money
(Mr Bates) The problem is that you are starting from
a negative situation, are you not? I think you will findand
no doubt you will hear from Sir Rodney Walker in due coursethat,
at the end of the day, the design we have prepared over the last
three years is a perfectly good design. It is properly costed
and it is not grandiose. The costs have not escalated. We started
originally at £316.5 million and, after three years, we have
it signed for £326.5 million. All the rest of the costs are
nothing to do with building the project, it is interest, consultants'
fees and so on and so forth.
13. If Wembley is such a wonderful project,
why does it need Lottery money? Could it not have been funded
by the enormous television rights?
(Mr Bates) With respect, you are talking with the
benefit of hindsight. Do not forget that this was conceived in
14. TV rights were still growing.
(Mr Bates) Yes, but they were peanuts, absolute peanuts.
In any case, that money went to the Premier League and not to
the Football Association. If you want to go right back to the
beginning, when I was asked to get involved in 1997I think
you will be rather amused at thisI asked for all the papers
to be sent to my home and I then read through them before I did
an analysis and, looking through the papers which I think you
have before you now, I found a piece of paper on which I had written,
"To date this is a total cock-up. Why don't we go to Manchester
or Birmingham?" In fact, I personally favoured Manchester
but, by that time, the die was cast and they decided to go to
London and to go to Wembley and it had been decided to put £120
15. Would you agree however that sport and football
is a great deal more than just about private profits of individual
football owners of clubs and so on including Wembley Stadium?
It is a great deal more than that. It is about encouraging people
to actually participate in sport, to take part in it, and to encourage
youngsters and that therefore we need Wembley for that sort of
thing, we need international football for that sort of thing.
To say that Government should not be involved in that much wider
policy issue of providing these facilities is nonsense.
(Mr Bates) You say that but in fact successive governments
havethis is bipartisanfailed to do it. The fact
of the matter is that, for years, successive governments have
encouraged the closure of schools and selling off of school playing
16. Not this Government.
(Mr Bates) You have not done anything to reverse it.
I read a number of headlines but I do not see any money. Perhaps
now and again I see that they are putting another £750 million
into this and £750 million into that but we do not actually
see it. I know because I receive letters from people who do not
even get a response to their applications. Running sport is not
about grabbing the headlines in tomorrow's papers or making an
appearance on TV, it is about getting your jacket off and bloody
well working at it. Unfortunately, that is not being done.
17. Would that £120 million from the Lottery
have been much better spent going to the grass roots of the game
to ensure that we have youngsters?
(Mr Bates) I am not here to defend Wembley. I inherited
this situation when the Sports Council or whatever it was at the
time decided that they wanted a national stadium. I personally
advocated that we should take all our games around the country
the way they do in Italy, but I was asked to get involved in building
a national stadium from a decision that had already been made.
I was asked to implement a policy that had been established, so
I am the wrong person to be asked to defend it.
18. Mr Bates, there is still no agreement between
Wembley and the FA regarding the repayment to Sport England of
the £20 million that it has been agreed should be repaid.
I would like to ask you about the meeting with the Secretary of
State in December 1999 and the resulting correspondence that flowed
from it. When the Secretary of State appeared before us three
weeks ago, he was adamant that, when you met him, you did not
discuss any relaxation of marketing rights for Wembley and, in
particular, any relaxation of naming rights in and around the
stadium. Is that a correct reflection of your meeting with him?
(Mr Bates) No, it is not because, if you look at the
correspondence, which you probably have before you, you will see
that he personally mentions the relaxation of commercial restriction.
19. Could you tell us a little more about what
was agreed at that meeting.
(Mr Bates) It is one of those peculiar things because
I was asked to see the Secretary of State at short notice; he
was going to Scotland and he very kindly took a later flight and
the only time I could see him was at around 8.30/8.45 in the morning
at his home. There were just the two of us; his private secretary
arrived after half-an-hourto be fair, I was about 15 minutes
earlyand we really had a dilemma to resolve which was not
at the making of either of us, it was something that had been
agreed between the FA and Number 10.