Examination of witness (Questions 201
THURSDAY 8 MARCH 2001
Chairman: We would like very much to
welcome you here today. We much appreciate your accepting the
invitation from us to give evidence. We will start off right away
with Mr Keen.
201. Good morning. You missed the Chairman paying
a compliment to David Faber and saying how sorry he was because
of the quality of his questions that he was not standing for election
next time. As the Secretary of the Lords and Commons Cricket it
is the quality of his batting that I regret losing but we bend
the rules like the IOC so he will still be able to play. Before
I come on to football, could I ask about the Olympics and the
bidding process. Would you not agree with me that really after
the appalling state of the bidding and the bribery governments
should have got together and side-lined the Olympic Committee
and said "We are not putting up with this. We are going to
make sure there is some democracy involved in this." Do you
think governments should have taken that initiative at that time?
(Mr Banks) May I first say it is always an honour
to appear before the Committee.
202. Can you speak up a bit, Mr Banks?
(Mr Banks) I am not usually accused of having a soft
voice. It is an honour as ever to appear before the Committee,
although I am not sure that on this occasion I am going to be
able to do or say a great deal to assist your deliberations having
been, as it were, out of the loop for some time and having given
up the rather muddy plains of sport for the aesthetic uplands
of the arts. I will try and do my best. All I can say to you,
Mr Keen, is that you have to do business with a whole bunch of
unsavoury people at any given moment in time, and I am not, of
course, referring to the Committee. I think that is something
that we learn to our cost all the time in politics. Governments
have to do business with regimes that they do not necessarily
approve of. I think you have to balance and decide whether or
not an organisation or a régime is capable of being improved
by contact as opposed to being changed by isolation. Because you
mentioned the Olympics and the IOC, there are a lot of things
that are unsatisfactory, not least of all the method by which
IOC members are actually appointed rather than elected and based
on personal selection. That is something that is unsatisfactory.
I feel that contact is more important with regard to the IOC than
203. Coming on to football, I can understand
that Wembley means a lot to people around the world, it is something
recognisable, but do you think the fact that we felt we had to
use Wembley Stadium as the main hook to get support really led
to the problems, and they are still going on, with the rebuilding
(Mr Banks) With respect, Wembley was
not the main hook. One of the problems, I suppose, amongst many
that we encountered was the incredulity expressed by members of
FIFA that we were actually going to knock down that wonderful
old stadium that everyone had come to love around the world, except
many of those people who had to try to find the latrines at half-time.
I think, therefore, we could say that knocking down the old Wembley
was something we had to explain rather than the new Wembley being
an attraction. We always made it quite clear that the construction
of a new national stadium was not something that was conditional
or dependent upon our bid, this was something that was going to
happen anyway. We could say that, of course, in support of our
bid right the way through. Everything that we were offering to
the body of world football was something that was either there
or we were going to do anyway in that sense. We were not like
other countries, say the lovely people of Morocco that we got
on very well with, the bidding team of Morocco, they were really
great people to be with, they were saying "give us the World
Cup and we will construct the following stadia". Even to
an extent the Germans were saying the same thing, and certainly
the Brazilians were. We were able to say "look, this is either
here, we have after all spent £1.5 billion on stadia improvements
in our country, and we will be constructing a new Wembley"
and therefore it was not, as it were, central to our bid in that
204. If it had not been for the 2006 bid would
we possibly not have thought of building the national stadium
on a different site, because Wembley is not ideal?
(Mr Banks) You have me on the timings here, Mr Keen,
because I cannot recall which fell into place first. The experts
behind me from the Football Association no doubt will be able
to tell us this. The location for Wembley was made the subject
of a competition anyway and that was conducted by Sport England.
They had a number of locations and then they came down as Wembley
being the preferred location. The announcement that we were going
to enter the bidding process for the World Cup in 2006 came in
1996 after the Euro Championships. I cannot remember which one
actually came first. Taking it from a narrow party or Government
point of view, we inherited both of the decisions. We inherited
both the decision on the location of Wembley, or the new national
stadium at Wembley, and we inherited the decision to go for the
2006 World Cup. I hasten to add, before anyone thinks I am trying
to pass the blame on to the previous Government, that we, as a
party, supported both. Not entirely with regards to the location
of the national stadium because those in Birmingham were pretty
upset by the decision and, judging by the comments they are making
and the smug smiles on their faces at the moment, they are still
hopeful that it might end up there. I believe others have suggested
that a relocation might be in order but I have got to say now
as a London Member of Parliament and as someone who has had lots
of contact with organisations like the IOC and FIFA, I know that
if we want major world events, particularly if we want an Olympic
Games, there is only one city that the IOC will contemplate in
this country and that is London. As I said in my evidence to the
Select Committee before, that might come as a hard fact to swallow
by non-Londoners, but that is a fact and it is a fact that we
have to live with if we want the Olympic Games.
205. Why do you think Mr Bates believed that
it ought to have been Manchester or Birmingham?
(Mr Banks) It is very difficult to know what necessarily
moves my good friend, Ken Bates, at any given moment. It might
have been that he wanted to be awkward.
206. Surely not.
(Mr Banks) It might mean that he wanted to be different.
He quite often likes to be awkwardly different at the same time,
as you know. I really have not the faintest idea. It does seem
to me though that there is an argument clearly for a national
stadium, because it is called national, not necessarily being
located in London. I can only guess this, it is only a matter
of opinion and, as we know, opinions are cheap, particularly in
the press, but the fact is it would seem to me that probably Sport
England were thinking ahead to something like the Olympic Games
and were already of the mind that if we were going to seriously
bid for the Olympic Games in this country, and it goes to a city,
not to a country, then London was the only place for a new national
stadium with the athletics in it to go.
207. Why do you think we have got into such
a mess, athletics or not athletics in the national stadium or
(Mr Banks) I believe I said this when I came to the
Committee the last time, that I was hoping this Committee might
be able to resolve that particular matter. I think the Committee
did identify a number of the reasons why this particular mess
has come about. I remain firmly of the opinion that the plan that
we unveiled in July 1999it is all beginning to recede now
before my rheumy eyesthat was launched by the Secretary
of State for a national stadium at Wembley for football, rugby
league and athletics, which he described as a stunning design,
was correct both in terms of its design and, indeed, its description
as used by the Secretary of State. I still find it difficult to
try and fathom out what happened subsequently, how it turned from
a stunning design into something that was inadequate. I will perhaps
say something about retractable seating and permanent athletics
tracks later if I am asked. It turned out then to be inadequate
for athletics, inappropriate for an Olympic Games, and all those
sorts of things that were not evident to me or, I think, the Secretary
of State at the time when we had the press conference to launch
the new Wembley. That being so, I really cannot work this out.
What I do find annoying, and I am not one who is slow to express
annoyance, is that somehow others looked at what was inherited
and decided that it was a mess that needed to be cleaned up. Since
then the deck has been in, it has been out, it has been in and
it seems to be out or back in, in-out shake it all about. It does
seem to me, as some have said, a rather strange process. It is
not reflecting well on us either as a country or a Government
at the moment.
208. Could I ask you whether during your period
as Minister for Sport you and your Department and the Government
generally ever made a real assessment as to when you thought we
were likely to get the Olympic Games?
(Mr Banks) No. I do not think we did it in quite that
way. It was something that we said that we, as a Government, wanted
to do. I do not know when the first official statements were made
but they became perceived truths, as far as I was concerned. I
believe it, I believe that we should be able and ready to host
the Olympic Games, the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet
bar none, I think that is right that we should do. We are in difficulties
here and that is of course that it is not the Government's decision
with regard to whether we host the Olympic Games any more than
it is the Government's decision whether we host any major sporting
event. We can only be supportive to those sports bodies that in
their wisdom decide that we are going to make a bid, I just feel
that we ought to be more supportive of them to be honest.
209. I am sceptical about that. The evidence
we got from Australia was basically not that the Australian Government
made the bid but the New South Wales Government certainly was
the major mover in terms of the bid. It was not Sydney city and
it was not the usual sports authority in Australia, it was the
New South Wales Government.
(Mr Banks) With great respect, Mr Maxton, that is
how the Australians do it, that is not how we do it in this country.
I am sure there is much that we could learn from the way that
the Australians did it. The way that the Greeks are doing it as
a matter of factand I am working fairly closely with the
Greek Government at the moment with regard to their Olympic Games
because it is going to be a great Olympic Gamesthe Greek
Government are determined that it is going to be better than Sydney
which means the Greek Government are going to spend as much money
as they are required to spend in order to make it as great because
they obviously have a great deal of their own history and reputation
standing on that success. We do not do it like that in this country.
There is a culture in this country of doing things on the cheap.
I think we can see that in a number of projects. This is not just
something that is peculiar to this Government, it is attendant
upon all governments as far as I can work out. Do it on the cheap,
try and find someone else to pay for it and in the end we all
end up paying a much higher price than we would have done if we
had done it properly from the beginning.
210. Do I take it from that you actually want
to see if there was a series of Olympic bids that, as in Sydney,
the Minister of Sport would be actually chairman of the organising
committee and the Government committing moneylarge sums
of moneyto ensure, first of all, we get the bid and secondly
that we then build the facilities to ensure they are a success?
(Mr Banks) It does not have to be the Minister for
Sport, it has to be a Minister.
211. A Minister.
(Mr Banks) Since, if my memory serves me correctly,
I first suggested this to the Committee some time ago when I first
appeared before the Select Committee, which resulted in the Committee's
recommendation for a Minister for Events, I do feel that is absolutely
essential but it is conditional upon one other thing. We are not
just talking about an interfering Minister, you can only really
carry sway and make decisions if you are actually picking up the
tab or a substantial proportion of it. What we have done is to
have Ministers interfering in a process in which there is no direct
Treasury money at all of us getting the worst of all possible
worlds. In many respects, although people might believe that Mr
Bates is a rather surly and "in your face" character,
I actually think he has been excessively polite to the Government.
I am not saying this Committee does, I am suggesting that is perhaps
his reputation, that he does not do anything to mitigate. Quite
frankly I think he was excessively polite on a number of occasions
because I know what I would have said to a Government that was
not putting any money in but kept telling me what I should be
doing when I was representing the organisation that was putting
the great majority of the money up. I know exactly what I would
have said and, of course, polite company deems that I do not mention
that in this Committee this morning.
212. It is a bit unfair to say the Government
was not putting money in, if you take the Lottery money.
(Mr Banks) Well, Lottery money, we agree that is public
(Mr Banks) That is public money. We have this nonsense
of the arm's length principle which, as you know, I have never
supportednever supportedeven going right back to
the days of the GLC. I well remember the debates we had on the
introduction of the Lottery. We were very insistent that it should
be based on the approach of additionality without Government interference.
214. Government can still lay down the policies.
(Mr Banks) Yes, but Government was not supposed to
be involved, as it were, in the minutiae of its administration.
215. Do you not actually think the £100
million which is going to Wembley would have been better spent
providing football facilities at grass roots of the game to ensure
that we have the young players who might then have a chance of
providing England or whatever country with a team that might win
the World Cup?
(Mr Banks) I do not think it is an either/or situation.
I do not think we have to make that sort of hard choice. Again
we are looking at all this with the benefit of hindsight. One
could argue that football could have done it all on its own but,
after all, if we were calling it the national stadium and athletics
was not bringing anything to it, rugby league was not bringing
very much to it, if anything, I cannot altogether recall, it was
quite right if it was going to be called the national stadium
that the football authorities should not have to take the complete
burden of the costs. I think there is a good reason for there
being a public contribution which, as we said, was not Treasury
money but public money through the Lottery. I believe there is
enough money in football and if there is enough will we do not
have to have an either/or situation. Certainly we do need to develop
more grass roots and football activities, football academies.
I am pleased to see that the Government is working with the football
authorities in order to try and do that.
216. There are enormous sums of money coming
to football through television rights in particular.
(Mr Banks) Yes.
217. Yet little of it seems to be going down
either in terms of going to Wembley Stadium or going down to the
grass roots of the game?
(Mr Banks) Again, Mr Maxton, the details of the answer
are best left to the Football Association and the Premier League
to answer for. I am glad to see that at least an element of the
money that is coming in from television, five per cent, is going
to go through into grass roots football, and it is quite a significant
sum of money. We have set up various bodies, Government backed
bodies to assist in that process and I think that is absolutely
right. As you know, as Minister, I was very much in favour of
a football regulator and said so on many occasions because I felt
that there was more that could be done both in terms of redistributing
wealth within football itself and also protecting the fans. Like
a number of one's ideas they did not come to fruition but that
218. Lastly, could I just ask you, when you
were Minister for Sport and within the Government, was any research
commissioned to work out exactly whether there are any real economic
and social benefits from holding major events like the World Cup
or the Olympic Games? Australia would claim they did do this.
(Mr Banks) Yes. There is certainly evidence. There
is certainly plenty of objective evidence. That was also put in
to our various submissions, into our backing and briefing papers
with regard to the 2006 bid based on what was achieved out of
the Euro '96 competition, hosting that. Yes, I think there is
enough objective and impartial academic advice and economic advice
that would suggest that, yes, there is a definite benefit to a
country, to a city, for bidding for these great sporting events.
219. Is it a short-term benefit of the actual
two or three week event bringing in tourists? London attracts
enough tourists without having to have the Olympic Games to bring
more in, does it not?
(Mr Banks) I think they are probably short-term costs
rather than benefits but they are certainly long-term benefits.
I do not know whether this is apocryphal but there is a thought
that has begun to gather some credibility that cities actually
will bid for the Olympic Games with the support of their governments
in order to bring forward transport infrastructure decisions which
are obviously to the long-term benefit of the citizens of that
city. I can understand that. Manchester did pretty well out of
their abortive Olympic bid. You can well see if you have a government
that is supportive there is a whole host of things which can be
done that are for the long-term benefits of the city and for the
country. The way the Japanese approached the Winter Olympics in
Nagano, for example, building a most wonderful railway system,
that is a permanent benefit for communities. One can see that
it is in the interests of a city to put a bid in. Perhaps it is
in the best interests of a city to put a bid in, get lots of government
support but not actually win and so have to pick up the short-term