Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Third Report


29. The Cricket and Rugby World Cups of 1999 were successfully secured in sports with relatively limited geographical bases where rotation between the limited number of countries and regions with the capacity to stage the events is reasonably well-established.[71] England's bid to stage the 2006 FIFA World Cup entered a much more competitive environment and ultimately did not succeed. During this inquiry we reviewed the bid to examine lessons for public sector support and for other events.

30. The England 2006 bid had a number of strengths. The bid was launched from the springboard provided by Euro '96—the highly successful European Championships staged in England in 1996.[72] As we noted in 1999, England already had in place some of the finest football stadia in the world and there was an expectation that they would be joined by the new English National Stadium at Wembley.[73] England was already established as a major tourist destination.[74]

31. The fortunes of the England bid fluctuated during the extended competition to select the host nation for the 2006 World Cup.[75] At times, it appeared that the strengths of the bid might lead to success.[76] However, in the words of Mr Banks, "a number of things conspired against us".[77] The belief in Germany and beyond that the Football Association had entered into an informal agreement not to compete for the World Cup against Germany was, according to the Football Association, "a thorn in our flesh throughout the campaign".[78] The Football Association was also required to take sides in the contest for the FIFA Presidency and made enemies as well as friends in the process.[79] The departure of the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Football Association and of the England Team Coach in quick succession created the impression that English football was "in a slight state of disarray".[80] The uncertainties that arose with the Wembley National Stadium project from December 1999 onwards helped to ensure that the proposed transformation of Wembley was not the positive asset that it might have been.[81]

32. FIFA's decision in December 1999 to postpone the final selection from March to July 2000 increased the period of time during which further things could go wrong for the England bid.[82] On 16 and 17 June 2000 in Belgium they did. Outbreaks of hooliganism in Brussels and Charleroi led to threats to expel England from the Euro 2000 tournament and brought to the surface fears in world football arising from England's troubled history of football hooliganism.[83]

33. While confirming that the events in Belgium in June 2000 put the final nails in the coffin of England's World Cup bid, the Football Association's evidence showed an admirable willingness to look at the more deep-rooted causes of England's failure. The Association noted that a fundamental cause of the eventual outcome was "English football's relative lack of influence in both European and World football".[84] For too long, England had been under-represented in international football governance, with the nation being perceived as "stand-offish and even arrogant".[85] Mr Alec McGivan, Director of the 2006 Bid Campaign, said that "you ... need political clout and presence in the corridors of power and that is obviously a lesson that we have learnt".[86] Professor Tomlinson argued that the England bid was "always doomed" because of this weakness, suggesting that the England bid was treated like an uninvited guest at a party in consequence.[87]

34. The triumph of politics over the merits of particular bids was most clearly demonstrated in the work of the FIFA Inspection Group. The Football Association had prided itself on the inherent strengths of its bid and was confident that England would fare well in the inspection process.[88] Mr Alan Rothenberg, the leader of the Inspection Group, left England with warm words for the bid and the facilities offered.[89] The report of the inspection group that subsequently emerged ranked England's bid in third place behind those of Germany and South Africa. The England bid was marked down for Government approval and guarantees, received a lower marking than the South African bid for security guarantees, and was reprimanded for not always being in compliance with the bidding rules.[90]

35. Professor Tomlinson described such technical studies as reflecting interests within FIFA rather than having any basis in rational logic and objectivity; he argued that they were best seen as "convenient fictions".[91] The creative writing of the technical study is certainly apparent in the inspection group's initial rating of England's stadia on a par with those of South Africa and below those of Germany. As the Football Association argued, the group was both "wrong and unfair" to compare minor failings in English stadia which were already built with designs for stadia elsewhere that remained on the drawing board.[92] The Football Association understandably described that assessment as "a travesty of justice".[93]

36. The report of the Inspection Group emerged only a few days before the final decision on where the 2006 FIFA World Cup would be held, and was recognised as a less than objective analysis by some members of the FIFA Executive Committee. Nevertheless, the study may have given members of that Committee with doubts about the England bid a respectable cover for switching allegiance.[94] Mr Banks said that the England bid team was "spitting blood" at this "total stitch-up".[95] Mr McGivan thought that the document was "a scandal" and Sir Bobby Charlton told us of his "sense of outrage" that many people involved with England's bid had been "insulted" in this way.[96]

37. In 1999, we noted the strengths of the England 2006 bid and commented on the sporting and wider benefits that would accrue from staging the FIFA World Cup in England. We concluded that the Football Association's bid was "well-conceived, well-managed and well-executed".[97] While the England bid suffered from certain hindrances that are more apparent with hindsight, we have no intention of resiling from our previous unequivocal support for the conception and execution of the bid. We agree with the Government's view that the failure was "not for want of commitment or imagination".[98] We agree with Sport England's judgement that its decision to invest £3.14 million in the bid was justified.[99]

38. In our previous Report, we also described the support offered by the Government, most notably the then Minister for Sport and the staff of British Embassies and High Commissions, as "exemplary".[100] The technical assessment by FIFA found fault in the nature of guarantees offered by British Ministers, but that appears to have resulted directly from the FIFA Inspection Group's preference for form over substance.[101] Mr McGivan and Sir Bobby Charlton considered that the support from the Government, politicians of all parties and the Diplomatic Service could not be faulted and could not have been improved upon.[102]

39. The technical study and the Football Association's reflections upon the document did highlight one area where support for bids could be enhanced. The Football Association faced difficulties in persuading hotels to agree to the "onerous" contract prepared for the event, because that contract required commitments about pricing and cancellation arrangements seven years in advance.[103] At one stage, it seemed possible that England's bid would be deemed non-compliant because of the hotel industry's reluctance to conform and Government intervention proved necessary to persuade the hotel industry to accept FIFA's requirements.[104] Similar contracts are employed for other sporting events and the Football Association has suggested that the same obstacle might jeopardise other bids.[105] We recommend that the Government convene discussions involving the sports authorities, the hotel industry and those concerned with hotel contracts for international events to prevent a repetition of such problems in relation to future bids. We expect the Government to report on the progress of those discussions in its response to this Report.

40. We were impressed by the evidence that we received from the Football Association and in particular by the organisation's willingness to recognise the weaknesses within its control identified during the bidding process and, where appropriate, to seek to rectify them. In response to its recognition of its past international weakness, the Football Association is enhancing its participation in the international governance of the sport.[106] FIFA is moving towards a system for regional rotation of the World Cup and England will clearly offer many strengths as a contender when the event is next due to be staged in Europe.[107]

41. The need recognised by the Football Association to increase its influence internationally if another bid is to succeed represents an important lesson for other sports. In our previous Report we noted a decline in British influence in international federations.[108] The Minister for Sport also observed that, in the past, sporting bodies in this country had "not seen the importance of having our voice heard on many of these international organisations" and she thought that "we have not had people in the bodies that mattered".[109] The Government has previously referred to the role of UK Sport in encouraging greater British involvement with international federations, but the Institute of Professional Sport has highlighted the value of direct Government assistance to British post-holders in international organisations.[110] We recommend that the Minister for Sport initiate a review to establish what further practical support might be provided by the Government itself to British representatives on international sporting bodies.

42. The most important lesson of the England bid for the 2006 World Cup is that extraneous factors and the politics of international sport will always matter as much as if not more than the inherent technical strengths of a bid. In consequence, bidding for events of this nature will remain a hazardous business. This is a lesson that should not be lost on other sports and other sporting organisations in this country.

71  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 61. Back

72  Evidence, p 76; Q 260. Back

73  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 30; Q 203. Back

74  Evidence, p 79. Back

75  Q 224. Back

76  Evidence, pp 114-115. Back

77  Q 224. Back

78  Evidence, pp 119, 123; QQ 248, 249. Back

79  Evidence, pp 58, 93-94, 120-121. Back

80  Evidence, pp 98, 121; Q 258. Back

81  Evidence, p 121; QQ 203, 258. Back

82  Evidence, pp 76, 102, 120, 123. Back

83  Evidence, pp 116, 120, 123. Back

84  Evidence, p 123. Back

85  Q 250; Evidence, p 123. Back

86  Q 258. Back

87  Evidence, p 58; Q 176. Back

88  Evidence, p 105. Back

89  IbidBack

90  Evidence, pp 125-129. Back

91  Q 193. Back

92  Evidence, p 127. Back

93  Evidence, pp 128-129. Back

94  Evidence, pp 127, 128-129. Back

95  Q 225. Back

96  QQ 255, 257. Back

97  HC (1998-99) 124-I, paras 107-110. Back

98  Evidence, p 199. Back

99  Evidence, p 39. Back

100  HC (1998-99) 124-I, para 110. Back

101  Evidence, p 126; Q 266. Back

102  QQ 256, 257 Back

103  Evidence, pp 86, 126. Back

104  Evidence, p 126. Back

105  Evidence, pp 235, 126. Back

106  Q 250. Back

107  Evidence, pp 75, 124; Q 254. Back

108  HC (1998-99) 124-I, paras 56-60. Back

109  QQ 475, 553. Back

110  Cm 4575, para 19; Evidence, pp 256-257. Back

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