Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 137 - 139)



  Chairman: Mr Brooking, I welcome you and your colleagues and, without any reflection whatsoever on previous witnesses, it is nice to see a woman here at last. Mr Fearn.

Mr Fearn

  137. Mr Brooking, could I ask do you think that Sport England bears any of the responsibility for the extended delays that we are seeing with the Wembley National Stadium project?

  (Mr Brooking) I think we have heard a few reflections on how we got to this current stage. I think there have been one or two conflicts in those reflections so, just to clarify perhaps how we got to July 1999, I think Sir Rodney covered the process of how we went through bids from across the country and focused on London and, eventually, it was Wembley. All three sports were involved in that. We then came up with a design—again it was based on event usage. Dave just mentioned the Stade de France, and in those days it was BAF and not UK Athletics and Peter Radford in the early days of discussion. It is about a venue and the actual requirement at that stage for the design came to be because of the size of the stadium. Athletics might use it once if they got the World Athletics Championships and possibly a second time in the Olympics, so we were looking at a usage of once or perhaps twice in 20 years, so to have an actual Stade de France situation, when it might only be used on so few occasions, that was the indication to us. The design team came up with an idea, we wanted to have major events, so that was how this platform idea came into being. Its athletics capacity was actually 67,000 and the sight lines were accepted by everyone at the time: the Secretary of State, the Minister, the governing bodies, they were all happy with that. The actual dilemma later on was how you got from 67,000 to 80,000 for an Olympics and that then led into other areas. Also mentioned was the cost of the platform: it was £20 million, as Mr Stubbs said, and how we got to a possible £40 million as a set-aside from the Lottery for Picketts Lock was the additional £20 million because a legacy was obviously an option at Wembley as well and the legacy option was one of three possible sites which varied from £3 to £4 million up to £17 or £18 million. The most expensive site was just under £20 million, and that could have been the long-term legacy afterwards. It would have acted as a warm-up track during the World Athletics Championships and then it would become the legacy after that. That was how we got to £40 million.

  138. If it does not prove possible to secure the financial support that is needed for Wembley by, say, the middle of this year, and that is giving it probably another few months, six months at most, do you think that we should forget the whole idea and go back to the original Wembley, refurbished, of course, having been in there many times?
  (Mr Casey) It is possibly worth going back slightly before coming to that particular point. I think it is important to reflect what was in the Select Committee's own Report of March last year and that was that Wembley demonstrated that three sports had been involved with the selection of Wembley and, indeed, the design for Wembley, that the brief for the size of the stadium had been based upon the demands of the three sports, that all parties had signed up to the design of the stadium by July 1999 and a Lottery Funding Agreement had been put in place, which was to secure the contents of the investment by Sport England in the stadium. It was also a Lottery Funding Agreement where the parties who applied to us had to, in a sense, live up to their responsibilities and the responsibility of Wembley is clearly to produce a new national stadium. As Bob Stubbs has said, the refurbishment of the existing stadium is at high expense. Certainly if it was simply a refurbishment it would not live up to the responsibilities which Wembley had signed up to in the Lottery Funding Agreement, which was to produce a new world class stadium which is sustainable and which is viable in the long-term.

  139. So you think the finance will be there within the next six months?
  (Mr Casey) I was encouraged to listen to what Sir Rodney said this morning, and clearly he is closer to the discussions with the banks. It was encouraging to hear his progress report this morning and, of course, it is encouraging that the Football Association has come in with significant additional funding over the last two or three months as well.

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