Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 136)



  120. Do you understand Wembley being slightly perplexed in their evidence to us. They lost to the 2005 athletics very largely on the Secretary of State's view that the sight lines in particular were not suitable for 80,000 people in an athletics stadium but you are only going to have 43,000 in there anyway. They could easily have had 43,000 who would have perfect sight lines in Wembley.
  (Mr Moorcroft) And 40,000 empty spaces that would not have looked very impressive. There are a number of issues in relation to Wembley that I think Wembley answered very, very well. One of the pleasures in the last few months has been the process in the last two months that Sir Rodney has led in terms of revisiting Wembley and deciding whether Lee Valley was the right option. I believe that Sir Rodney led that process very well and came to the right conclusion for the right reasons. A lot has happened in the last two or three years that probably none of us would wish necessarily to go through again, but hopefully a lot of lessons have been learned. I think the way things are moving at the moment, both in terms of Wembley and Lee Valley, are the right solutions bearing in mind everything that has happened.

  121. The sight lines at Picketts Lock, and in particular the focal points which those sight lines are worked out on, will be as good as Wembley would have been?
  (Mr Moorcroft) The advantage of starting again is that the sight lines can be perfect. They will range from C60 to C90, which is the technical jargon to say good, and they will be very, very good.

  122. I seem to remember Kate Hoey saying that she wanted the focal point to be on the outside lane of the track.
  (Mr Moorcroft) One of the challenges in athletics is that the further away the spectators are, the easier it is to get perfect sight lines. To create the right atmosphere, rather like football, you want to try to get the spectators as close to the outside lane as possible. The advantage of starting again is that the design team can work on that basis without any constraints or compromise to any of the sports, hence the reason that they have come up with a solution that will provide 43,000 great seats for the World Athletics Championships.

Mr Keen

  123. I am a big fan of athletics but I was a bit concerned about your answers defending the location of Picketts Lock. You said there is a good core of promising athletes who live near there. If we have got a limited amount of money, does that not argue that we should be spending that money around the country rather than on one stadium? It is clear to everybody that the Olympics could never take place at Picketts Lock. Would it not be better to ensure that we put the money into other stadia, like Gateshead, for instance, rather than concentrating on one area in London?
  (Mr Moorcroft) The key thing in terms of athletics provision is a quality indoor facilities. One of the great things at the moment is not only is the Lee Valley project hopefully going ahead but there are a number of other significant developments in England that are taking place through the high performance infrastructure. There will be 200-metre tracks in Sheffield and Manchester, significant indoor facilities in Birmingham, Bath and Loughborough. They will be really quality facilities for the rest of the country aligned to current tracks. That is happening as well as the Lee Valley project. If we want a major championships to come to Britain, whether in London, Manchester or Birmingham, clearly there is going to be a massive capital cost to bring in that event to the country. That is part of the decision about whether or not we want that event. What we are trying to provide is an event that is value for money. Whether it was London, Birmingham or Manchester, rather like the Commonwealth Games, a lot of money goes into the infrastructure and a lot of minds work in terms of how you can represent best value to make sure that there is good value beyond those Games, and that is what is happening here. I think we have got the balance right. Thanks to Sport England both in terms of the high performance facility programme but also in terms of the community athletics programme, we are getting enhanced facilities.

  124. What major events will be taken away from other regions?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Very few because the London Grand Prix that is currently at Crystal Palace will transfer to the Lee Valley Stadium, the National Championships is the issue, the trials, and it would be logical for that to be in London once that facility is built. We currently have four other televised events that take place outside of London and the plan is to continue that, to work with those local authorities more as a consortium of facility providers in terms of spreading those other facilities around the UK. By the year 2005 we would hope to have more rather than less televised events and we are confident that the other stadium providers will have ample opportunity to continue our policy of trying to spread the athletics' messages around the country.

  125. On a much broader scale, take the Olympics, as billions of people watch it on television is it not ludicrous to argue about whether we should have a stadium of 80,000 or 90,000 in comparison with billions watching it on TV? Would you not agree with me that it would be better to put some money into Athens and have the Olympics always in Athens instead of having to spend vast amounts of money in individual countries at different times? Why do we not look at sport on a global basis rather than just having local interests coming into it?
  (Mr Moorcroft) That would be an interesting question to ask of the BOA, certainly Craig Reedie. If people were to look for a permanent site for the Olympic Games probably a lot of people would pick Sydney at the moment rather than Athens because of what happened.

Derek Wyatt

  126. They will after 2004.
  (Mr Moorcroft) I think the investment that was made, hundreds of millions of pounds, four or five years ago, in terms of trying to support our athletes across all sports to try and do their level best at the Olympics and bring back more medals, was wholly appropriate and paid dividends. That was a leap of faith. We had no certainty that that money was going to produce medals and it did. As a priority that was spot-on. Equally, as we saw in Australia, not only is there a great benefit in terms of competitors winning medals but to do it on home soil adds an extra ingredient, and we have not had that since the 1948 Olympic Games. We have got that opportunity now and it gives us that best balance between the money that is needed—and the primary thing is money into competitors to become successful—and aligned with that to use major events as a catalyst and assistance to them to be successful on the world scene and to help inspire a new generation. It is getting that balance right. Now is the time to do that with the World Athletics Championships and obviously now is the time to think seriously about whether we want to do that with the Olympics. It starts from the premise that the primary thing is to make sure that our competitors can compete on the world stage because it would be totally inappropriate to have the World Athletics Championships but not have competitors that would do well at it. I think we have got the balance right.

Mr Keen

  127. Does that not prove that there is really muddled thinking over Wembley because the main argument over the new Wembley Stadium was that the sight lines were no good; the stadium had to be a certain size to get the Olympic Games. That was the main argument and Picketts Lock was the alternative to that, but now Picketts Lock is not the alternative to that, it is completely different.
  (Mr Moorcroft) There were a lot of lessons learnt through the Wembley experience. The most difficult element was the relationship between field sports and athletics, the difficult relationship in terms of design and in terms of usage between the needs of athletics, which I accept is an unusual and difficult sport, and those of football. On the basis that it is primarily a football stadium with some Rugby League, it was always going to be difficult. Athletics' preference would have been something along the lines of the Stade de France which we think could have worked quite well. That is a preference going back four or five years, but that was not to be. We did our best and I think the relationship with Wembley has always been really good in terms of working out whether or not it could have worked and the decision was that it is not appropriate to be at Wembley and it is far more appropriate and will work far better being on the 138-acre site at Lee Valley.

Mr Maxton

  128. The last World Championships were in Seville in 1999?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Yes.

  129. My memory of watching it on television was that there were not very large numbers of people going to see it. Was that true? Was it a financial success?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Every evening session to my recollection was full. The morning sessions were sparse, as they often are. Ironically in the Olympic Games in Sydney, which I recognise is different, every morning and evening session had 115,000 people. What we have said is we think 43,000 is more appropriate because 3,000 are taken through media and others so effectively it is 40,000, and we think it is better to aspire to filling 40,000 regularly during the Championships than to aspire to filling 80,000 and failing. We think that is far more appropriate.

  130. Who has the television rights of the World Championships?
  (Mr Moorcroft) The IAAF through ISL own most of the commercial and broadcast rights and currently those rights sit with the EBU and through the EBU the BBC. It is the BBC dealing with ISL through EBU rather than us but it will be on terrestrial television.

  131. How much does the World Championships make, whoever runs it?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Nothing. There are very few commercial rights that the host nation owns.

  132. So your income is almost entirely dependent upon seats being sold at the stadium on the occasion?
  (Mr Moorcroft) Yes, and the business plan for the World Athletics Championships that has been presented to Sport England (which is constantly updated) reflects that. Value in kind is a big category that offsets a lot of cost. One of the issues to do with the ISL contract at the moment is both from 2003 and 2005 being very careful that that contract reflects our understanding of the original contract in Paris and reflects what we want in this country.

  133. In 2005 can you guarantee that the Games will be on terrestrial television or can the IAAF still sell them on to some other non-terrestrial broadcasters?
  (Mr Moorcroft) It is guaranteed through the EBU contract and the fact that the BBC are primary signatories to that. It will be on terrestrial television and the BBC are involved in discussions for 2003 and 2005 and also involved in design issues to do with the stadium.

  134. Can I suggest to you that what you said about the Olympics of course is true. The Australians must have been very impressed by the number of Australians winning medals, but do you not think that has got more to do with the money they have spent on their facilities at a grass roots level and their quality sportsmen as well rather than on having the Olympics itself and they would have had these successes even if the Olympics had been in Athens. The fact is that 50 per cent or 60 per cent of Australians take part in organised sport in any one week; what is it here?
  (Mr Moorcroft) 50 per cent of Australians have taken part in sport for many many years. In 1976 they had their worst ever Olympic Games. They were still a sports-mad nation but they had their worst ever Olympic Games. They did not win one medal in track and field and we beat them by one, we won one, but across the board they had a very poor Olympic Games, probably worse than we had in Atlanta. They set up a national programme to get a balance between community, grass roots, what we would now call emerging talent, and the support of elite talent, and the provision of facilities, and it has worked spectacularly well. I think one of the advantages they have in Australia is that the distribution of wealth within sport is more equitable and there is not one sport in Australia that stands above others in terms of extent of wealth. Obviously in Britain we have football that is very much in that position. I think they have a greater desire within the media to see a number of sports to be successful, whereas probably in this country the primary focus is on one or two sports. They collectively got their act together through Sport England, UK Sport and the other bodies responsible for that and I think we are getting our act together in this country. I think that was shown in Sydney. I think the challenge now is to show that as governing bodies we are focused both on governing the sport but particularly on moving sport forward and we work with the various agencies to make sure that we are successful as a nation, have loads of people participating and have events that bring us great pride.

Mrs Golding

  135. Mr Bates this morning criticised Kate Hoey and said that she was perhaps the cause of the delays in what was happening at Wembley Stadium. He has a very quiet voice and whenever he comes here we have a great deal of difficulty in hearing what he says. I have no knowledge of how he speaks outside. It seems to me that Kate Hoey has a very loud voice and speaks very clearly. Do you think that what we do not need is people with loud voices making decisions that perhaps are not the right ones and what we should have is people speaking far more clearly about what is happening, about the long-term future, and collectively? Do you understand what I am saying?
  (Mr Moorcroft) I do. I think the support we have had from both the Secretary of State and the Minister has been excellent and we appreciate that. We recognise that athletics is a sport that does not have a massive amount of money to put directly into these programmes. Equally, with the support for our high level performance it requires Lottery funding so, therefore, requires agencies like Sport England and UK Sport to back us. We have had to produce a very convincing argument and I think we have had that support. I think this process and the reason we are here, and in a sense the reason we all trying to deflect blame elsewhere, actually reflects pretty badly on the way in which we rate sport in this country. The structure could be better. I think a primary part of whatever the structure is for the future is defining the relationship between Government, the statutory bodies and governing bodies. I think lessons learned from this are as much about how we go forward as about how we deal with the current issues.

  136. From the evidence this morning it seems to me there is a lack of a clear vision, a long-term strategy for sport in this country. All of these things are happening and nobody seems to be drawing these things together, they are all in isolation competing for different pockets of money, often the same pockets of money. It seems to me to be a mad way to continue to go on. What do you think we should do in the long-term to avoid all the confusion that seems to be caused by all of these developments taking place at the same time?
  (Mr Moorcroft) I think one of the useful things to do sooner rather than later would be to get into a room, but not in this situation, with the key agencies. Many of us have not spoken to each other that often. We should say "What lessons are learned? Could we do this better?" We should start off by saying "What do we want to achieve?" and then "What do we need to do to achieve it? What roles and responsibilities, therefore, should each part have?" There is something uniquely complicated in Britain, both in terms of the structures we inherit, and athletics reflects that as much as anything, but also in terms of political issues like devolution. Whatever happens we inherit a fairly complicated structure but we also inherit very complicated processes. I think we have a tendency to be bogged down in the process rather than the outcome. I think the vision is there but often the process means we move away from focusing on what we are trying to deliver.

  Chairman: Mr Moorcroft, thank you very much indeed, we are most grateful to your colleagues and yourself. Thank you.

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