Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Questions 174 - 179)



  Chairman: Professor Tomlinson. Thank you very much for accepting our invitation to come and give evidence to us this morning. I will call Mr Keen to ask the first questions.

Mr Keen

  174. Good morning. Having got the Budget out of the way, we can get down to important issues like football. In the previous Report we did on Staging International Sporting Events, the thing that appalled me the most was the bidding process which involves spending an awful lot of money, a number of nations spending a lot of money which I would have thought personally would have been better being donated to less well-off countries to improve their facilities and the awarding of the major events being done on a different basis altogether. Can you tell us what you think about that?

  (Professor Tomlinson) About the bidding process generally, both World Cups and Olympics?

  175. Yes, football and the Olympics.
  (Professor Tomlinson) The problem really is once you enter that game you have little choice about the rules. I think for most nations, cities or nations or whatever combination of cities and nations, and regions and nations considering entering this process now, the key strategic point is to see whether these agencies do come a little bit cleaner in what this process is. In lots of ways in recent years, certainly during the régime in FIFA in the World Cup, the régime of President Havelange, more and more the process became a matter of very expensive lobbying of all sorts of arcane forms of presentation of the case. The open process got less and less clear. Now, in lots of ways in the Olympic case I think the strategic emphasis must be on what happens this summer because there will be a new President of the International Olympic Committee in place and the way in which certain reforms about the bidding process were begun to be put in place last year will roll through into a new administration within the International Olympic Committee itself. The real problem about the general process is the notion that this process of bidding for these events is akin to some kind of cross between international hospitality management and international relations. I think the key questions about what is being put forward in bids and who is responding, and on what grounds and why, get really lost in that kind of process. We do see accounts from various countries and certainly from the FA in this country about how, however much it costs, whatever the outcome, we do make friends, we do cultivate relationships. These are "relationships" and "friendships" of the most fragile kind. I think the current model is extremely expensive, extremely time-consuming and utterly unclear in the positive nature of its outcomes.

  176. Are you saying that really we should have made friends before we started the bidding process rather than trying to make friends afterwards?
  (Professor Tomlinson) Yes. If we take the football case and the World Cup case and the England 2006 bid, the problem was—and the FA is perfectly clear about this in its own reflections—that England was very, very isolated anyway in the corridors of power of world football, not quite so Scotland, not quite so Northern Ireland in interesting ways, but England most. In lots of ways, after the time of Stanley Rous, going back a generation and then after the time of Sir Bert Millichip's involvement in Europe, England itself was really quite isolated. That does not mean it was friendless but in lots of ways it means that it did not have much of a starting point when it came to getting into the kind of process that these bidding processes actually are. The kind of dynamics of that process is an important thing to understand. So, if you try to make friends from scratch it is almost like barging into a party to which you have not been invited. In many respects that is what loses—both in the Olympics case and in the World Cup case—people's support from the beginning of this sort of process.

  177. I think it is a start now that there is a policy of the World Cup rotating round regions. There is some sort of planning rather than just this bidding process. What would you like to see to improve it, to go on from that stage to improve the system altogether?
  (Professor Tomlinson) When Sir Stanley Rous was in charge there was a longer view that was usually put in place, of several World Cups at once, one would say "Okay let us think of how a certain part of the world might stage this", not as many parts of the world back then in the 1960s and the 1970s, every part of the world is a candidate in lots of respects now. So the longer term view I think is critical. If FIFA were to ask my opinion at the moment I would say that, after the outcome of the last vote last summer then really the most positive response would be to say "Well let us put this process in place for several cycles at once or at least a further cycle." Let us say South Africa should have the 2010 World Cup and let us then look at the longer term beyond that and put a serious long-term planning strategy in place which fits the principles of the sharing globally of the possibility of staging the event. I think that it is critical to do that. I just do not think that the organisations that are in charge of this process are really always honest in their statements of their ideals about this. Other sorts of factors come to bear like, obviously, the geo-political aspirations of different parts of the world. To put something like a global strategy in place would be an extremely complex issue particularly given the nature of these organisations, the International Olympic Committee and FIFA which are not in any sense accountable to any supra-national body other than themselves.

  178. That is a good point. Can I come on to the Olympics now and my feeling after finding out what had gone on in the bidding for the Olympics. When we went to Australia I remember I asked a question of the Chairman of the Australian Olympic Committee about money being given for education to one of the African nations and he said "Yes, that is what happened" they did give money for education. The first person I saw on television as I came through the door when we got back to England again was the same man who had then been forced to admit, because of investigations, that the money was not given to the nation, it was given to the families of the delegates for the education of their own families, their own children. In the World Cup Football, every nation has stadia which are of a reasonable quality, some are better than others and it is easy to house both the public who want to come and see the World Cup and the teams who come to compete because there is not the same volume as there is staging an Olympics. Have you any ideas on the Olympics? It seems to me because you have to construct whole villages for people to stay in, would it not be more sensible, and money could be used better to support sport right throughout the year, to hold the Olympics in the same nation each year bearing in mind that compared with the billions who watch on television the few people who watch in stadiums does not really make any difference?
  (Professor Tomlinson) Yes, one of the key points about the Olympics—and anybody who was in Australia last year will probably have some interesting views on this—is that it is not just the stadium. I think at times the vast range of activities that goes on in the Olympics tends to get ignored because the biggest television spectacle tends to be in the stadium, the beginning and the end and the athletics. Obviously other things go on around it and a long way away from it, in rowing terms on water and so on. But there are so many activities in the Olympics. In fact if you were in Australia you would have seen the population beginning to respond quite positively to the event. I was queuing for tickets in Newcastle, New South Wales, with people and I was saying to them "Well, what are you going to see?" and they said "We don't care as long as we get a ticket for anything and we can say to our grandchildren that we were at the Olympics and we took their father or their mother to the Olympics". So there is a very positive side of the Olympics which is a lot smaller scale than the sorts of things which go on in the international stadium itself. I think that is something that is sometimes forgotten or left on the edge. That is a very positive side. At the same time, it becomes an enormous logistic challenge to mount that range of events, three dozen events virtually involving most nations of the world and a set of events, some of which are made almost exclusively for the Olympics because some ambitious sports entrepreneurs and administrators saw this as a possible way of having influence in the world sports community. In terms of the Olympics I do think first that we must think beyond that stadium itself and see that there are people, hundreds of thousands of people who do get involved as spectators beyond the blue riband events and so on. Also you cannot necessarily afford them because they are often extremely expensive the tickets for the blue riband events. Secondly, you then have to consider well is it feasible if anybody is going for the Olympics to look at the range of facilities that are needed. Anybody who was in Homebush Bay will realise there are so many things way beyond just the debate about a single national stadium that the commitment is an extremely demanding one for anybody interested in it.

Mr Maxton

  179. What evidence do you really have for your statement that Australia did better in terms of medals because of them having the Olympics rather than the enormous sums of money they have invested into facilities for their sports people to ensure that they get a large number of sports people who come through and get those medals? Which one do you think it is that is most important?
  (Professor Tomlinson) Some of the biggest players in terms of sports excellence and Olympic achievement do not care where the Olympics are held, that is the United States and in a previous era, of course, the Soviet Union. There is a factor, which I talked about in the written evidence, in terms of Seoul and Korea, Spain and Barcelona and Australia whereby in a way facilities, ambitions, development plans are all brought together around the responsibility of hosting the games, which does lead to those nations producing in those three cases their best ever performances. It tends to slide off then but my first point about the United States could in fact be brought to bear on the question of Australia because Australia had already some important features that put it at the head of the game. It is an extremely sports mad culture, it is a culture in which women are as interested in participation in sport as are men. It is an outdoor culture which does not have facilities problems for some of its main sports so that people who win gold medals in the pool are raised on the Gold Coast in the surf. In lots of ways as long as you target the activities that you want to win your medals in, Australia in many respects I think is ahead of the game in comparison with some other nations. I think in the Sydney case both those important elements came together so that in almost an uncanny fashion Australia won virtually exactly the number of medals that it was aiming for.

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