Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Third Report


The rationale for staging events

8. In the course of the current Parliament we have devoted more attention to the staging of sporting events and related facility development than any other aspect of sports policy. This attention has been justified by the level of public resources involved and by the benefits available through events. However, our sustained scrutiny of these issues does not mean that we are uncritical supporters of the pursuit of major events. The staging of international sporting events must be seen as a means, not an end. Public support for the staging of events must be justified by proper analysis of the extent to which events are an effective means towards other ends, both sporting and non-sporting. The staging of events cannot be justified simply by vague assertions about national prestige.

Sports development and sporting events

9. As we noted during our previous inquiry, playing host to a major event can lead to improved performance from the home team or home athletes.[18] Since publishing that Report, experience in Sydney, where Australia achieved 16 gold medals compared to nine in Atlanta and seven in Barcelona, has reinforced the view expressed in some quarters that home location has an impact on athletes' performance. UK Sport sought to illustrate the effects of home advantage by referring to the British athletes who had become world champions at the 1999 World Orienteering Championships, the 1999 World Judo Championships and the 2000 World Track Cycling Championships, all of which took place in the United Kingdom.[19]

10. While home location may play a part in boosting performance by the home nation and can make success more inspiring for those who witness it, there is also ample evidence, as the Minister for Sport accepted, that British success can be an inspiration even if achieved on the other side of the world.[20] Public funding to assist elite performance can bring sports development dividends that are just as perceptible as those from staging events. Lottery funding is widely recognised as having played a crucial role in the success of the British teams at the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games.[21] The benefits of this direct support have come earlier than expected, because in 1999 both the then Minister for Sport and Sport England thought that large-scale rewards from this investment were only likely to be apparent at the 2004 Athens Olympics.[22] In 1999, we commended the facilities that were being provided for the British Olympic Team on the Gold Coast in Australia. During this inquiry, the British Olympic Association confirmed that the facilities on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane were considered by the athletes to have made a crucial contribution to their ability to perform at their best at the Sydney Olympics.[23]

11. As we noted in 1999, television coverage of major sporting events provides beneficial exposure to a wide audience of the best that sport has to offer.[24] The challenge for sports governing bodies and Government is to translate that exposure and interest into active participation in sport. Mr Trevor Brooking, Chairman of Sport England, said that major events had a massive potential for sports development, and considered that, although the event itself was important, "it does come and go very quickly; it is the build-up before and the after-effect which are the key to wanting to host a major event".[25]

12. The World Cross Country Championships held in Belfast in 1999 provide an example of the sporting benefits an event can bring to a community. The Championships enabled 4,000 young people from 100 primary schools to take part in cross country events in the build-up to the main races. However, the Sports Council of Northern Ireland stated that, although the event encouraged young people to take up the sport, "future research would be necessary in order to gauge the number of newcomers into the sport".[26]

13. The 2000 World Track Cycling Championships, held at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, had an associated development programme that built on existing British Cycling Federation plans. The programme included cycling road shows and outreach projects in schools in the Greater Manchester area.[27] The initiative led to increased levels of interest in competitive cycling among children.[28] It is hard to separate the sports development impact of this event from the wider interest in the sport generated by British success on the track in Sydney.[29]

14. The Government welcomed our recommendation in 1999 calling for further research into the sports development impact of staging international sporting events.[30] UK Sport proposes to undertake a pilot study to measure sports development outcomes in 2001 to provide the base-line information for a major project to determine the sporting impact and legacies of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.[31] In advance of those findings, the case for investment in staging events is not easy to compare directly with the costs and benefits of other forms of sporting investment, including support for elite performance and for grass-roots development.

15. UK Sport accepted that, if participation were not encouraged, there was little purpose served in staging major events, but considered that the synergy between events on home soil and sports development was being increasingly recognised and pursued.[32] The Sports Councils expect sports governing bodies to incorporate sports development proposals in applications for funds to stage sporting events, and the decision whether to provide funding to such events has been influenced by the quality of such proposals.[33] UK Athletics has already developed proposals to use the 2005 World Athletics Championships as support for its broader strategy to enhance participation in athletics in schools and clubs and to raise the profile of the sport.[34]

16. The Government's Sports Strategy, published in April 2000, highlighted the need for both school sports provision and community-based sports facilities to enable lifelong participation.[35] In that document, the Department identified the importance of playing fields and local authority sports facilities, and the development role of amateur and professional sports clubs.[36] Professor Tomlinson expressed reservations about undue concentration on staging events. He said that "it can become a very big diversion to become obsessed with the staging of the events themselves and it deflects and diverts such a vast level of resources away from ... the grass-roots in terms of facilities, development and provision".[37] He went on to say that "to get the grass-roots right, the base of the pyramid, in the common metaphor, is utterly critical".[38]

17. The Minister for Sport accepted that there was little point in investing in major events if there was no broader commitment to grass-roots development.[39] We welcome this statement by the Minister for Sport and her wider commitment to the development of the grass-roots of sport. The staging of events can play a part in this development, and can contribute towards encouraging improved elite performance, but the wider sporting benefits of events must be planned for and measured. In due course, the Government and the Sports Councils should undertake a cost-benefit analysis comparing the sports development impact of events with such impact resulting from other forms of public investment in sport.

The wider benefits of staging events

18. Events can bring clear economic gains and the measurement of those gains is becoming more systematic.[40] Sport England has appointed a "specialist" to investigate and improve the relationship between sport and economic regeneration.[41] Several recent sporting events have been successful in generating substantial economic benefits. For example, the 2000 London Marathon generated over £63 million of economic activity and the 1999 Rugby World Cup generated £83 million for the economy of Wales.[42] However, there can be negative economic effects: Sheffield City Council, which financed the World Student Games in 1991, has a continuing annual debt burden of £22 million from the cost of providing facilities for that event.[43]

19. In our previous Report we considered the economic benefits of staging major sporting events in some detail. Drawing to some extent on the lessons learned during our visit to Australia, we recommended that independent assessments be made of the likely economic impact of major sporting events and that subsequent assessment of their actual economic impact should form part of the Sports Councils' own systems for monitoring the effectiveness of grants.[44] Sport England requires an assessment of the economic impact of some, but not all, of the events that it funds.[45]

20. In 1999, we expressed concern that the tourism potential of sport and sporting events was not being fully exploited.[46] Since then the British Tourist Authority has published its strategy on tourism and sport and there have been welcome signs of a growing realisation by the Authority, the Government and sporting bodies of the full tourism potential of sport, including major events.[47]

21. The role of sport in regeneration has become more widely appreciated since the Barcelona Olympic Games of 1992, an event that, as we previously noted, provides "a model of how a sporting event can play a pivotal role in urban renewal and regeneration".[48] In addition to economic prosperity, sport can play a role in community regeneration. Sport England referred to the social benefits of investing in sport, including a reduction in juvenile crime, improved public health and the provision of a "well-rounded education" for children.[49] We recognised those benefits in our previous Report, highlighting the role of sport in complementing academic education, encouraging social skills, improving health and combatting social exclusion.[50] The 1999 Rugby World Cup was used as a vehicle to promote rugby-based numeracy and literacy projects, a type of development previously supported by us in our Report on The Future of Professional Rugby.[51]

22. The motivation of sports governing bodies in seeking to stage major events is primarily sporting. That is understandable, but public investment cannot always be justified on sporting grounds alone and must be seen in the context of the wider benefits that events can bring. Because the Government has ultimate responsibility for the necessary public investment, we recommend that the Government periodically as appropriate undertake and publish its own analysis of the financial and other benefits of staging events, including the regenerative impact of events.

23. Events can often provide a crucial stimulus to the development of sports facilities. That in turn can bring both sporting benefits and wider social and economic gains. Later in this Report we explore some of the facilities being developed with both specific events and long-term use in mind, most notably in Manchester and at Picketts Lock. In our previous Report, we called for a more systematic approach to the audit of facilities for events and national competitions.[52] Since then, the Sports Councils have undertaken a data evaluation exercise as a precursor to commissioning a national facilities audit, and national facilities strategies for some sports have been completed.[53] In the past, there have been occasions when facility development may have been unduly focused on the short-term needs of staging one particular event rather than on the long-term viability and benefit of facilities. In future, it will be essential to ensure that strategies for bidding for and staging events and for associated facility development are fully integrated with national facilities strategies for particular sports and reflect the eventual outcome of the national facilities audit, which is more than due.

Staging events: the British record

24. In May 1999, we observed that the United Kingdom had a very impressive record in staging events in many sports and that there was "no cause for undue pessimism about the British record in staging international sporting events".[54] One underlying strength of this country's sporting record is its tradition as the home of some of the world's most recognised calendar events, such as the All England Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, an event that attracts nearly half a million spectators a year and generates profits that are invested in the development and infrastructure of the game, and the London Marathon, which has become so popular that the organisers have had to reject more than 50,000 applicants for the race each year.[55]

25. In addition, governing bodies and local authorities continue to secure and to stage a range of World and European Championships in many sports. UK Sport has been actively engaged in bidding for, securing and staging over 35 events in more than a dozen different sports since mid-1999.[56] This admirable record is sometimes over-shadowed by the failure of this country to attract certain very high profile events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, but it is a myth that this country does not act as host for major events that are sometimes the focus of world attention. Nevertheless, there are important lessons to be learned from past events and from failed bids, and there remains scope for improvement in public sector support for governing bodies and for local authorities in the bidding process and in the staging of events.

18  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 16. Back

19  Evidence, p 156. Back

20  Q 473. Back

21  First Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, The Operation of the National Lottery, HC (2000-01) 56-II, pp 133-134; Q 126; Team GB: The Official Olympic Report on Sydney 2000, British Olympic Association, pp 20, 45, 48, 91. Back

22  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 13. Back

23  Ibid, para 14; Evidence, p 137. Back

24  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 23. Back

25  Q 173. Back

26  Evidence, p 241. Back

27  Evidence, p 155. Back

28  IbidBack

29  Ibid; QQ 340, 473. Back

30  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 24; Government Response to the Fourth Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 1998-99, on Staging International Sporting Events, Cm 4575, January 2000, paras 8-11. Back

31  Q 341; Evidence, p 156. Back

32  Q 340; Evidence, p 156. Back

33  Evidence, p 35. Back

34  Evidence, p 22; Q 126. Back

35  A Sporting Future for All, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, April 2000, pp 7-13. Back

36  Ibid, pp 40-41. Back

37  Q 182. Back

38  Q 183. Back

39  Q 472. Back

40  Evidence, pp 156, 157, 241. Back

41  Evidence, p 36. Back

42  Evidence, pp 274, 249. Back

43  Evidence, p 280. Back

44  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 42. Back

45  Evidence, p 36. Back

46  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 41. Back

47  Evidence, pp 198, 156, 267-270. Back

48  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 44. Back

49  HC (2000-01) 56-II, p 131. Back

50  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 19. Back

51  Evidence, p 35; Second Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, The Future of Professional Rugby, HC (1999-2000) 99, para 29. Back

52  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 32. Back

53  Cm 4575, paras 14-15; Evidence, p 37. Back

54  HC (1998-99) 124-I, paras 7-11. Back

55  Ibid, para 8; Evidence, pp 254-255, 274; Q 472. Back

56  Evidence, pp 155, 158-159. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 3 April 2001