Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council


  Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council has hosted and organised a wide range of sporting events since the Council's inception in 1974. Central to the events hosting strategy has been an aim to promote the town and heighten its profile. Originally this was based on the successes at National and International level of Gateshead Harrier, Brendan Foster and athletics became the focal point of event promotion. It is in athletics that Gateshead has developed an international reputation in terms of event organisation and in the last two decades the following major events have been staged in the town:

  1983 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

  1985 IAAF World 15Km Road Race Championships.

  1989 EAA European Cup.

  1992 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.

  1997 World Veterans Track & Field Championships.

  2000 EAA SPAR European Cup.

  In addition to these World and European events, Gateshead International Stadium has hosted at least one televised domestic meeting every year since 1974.

  Parallel to this strategy of staging major athletics events the Council has worked with other National Governing Bodies of Sport to host many other events of significance such as:

    —  World Cup Rugby League 1995 and 2000;

    —  European Short Course Swimming Championships;

    —  European Championship Volleyball;

    —  International Rugby Union; and

    —  European Veterans Badminton Championships.


  The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in conducting an inquiry to examine developments relating to matters considered in the Committee's Fourth Report of Session 1998-99 on Staging International Sporting Events, requested written evidence from Gateshead Council in respect of the following:

    1.  The Councils recent experience in staging major sporting events.

    2.  The progress of consideration of possible bids for future events.

    3.  The Council's view on factors which may affect the location of athletics events within the United Kingdom.


  Gateshead Council in the last two years has staged two major athletics events of World and European significance.

  In 1999 the XIII WAVA World Veterans Track and Field Championships were staged and in 2000 the SPAR European Cup was held in Gateshead. Both events were considered to be successful by the Council and the respective international federations, although the success criteria were different in each case.

  The SPAR European Cup was awarded by the European Athletics Association (EAA) to UK Athletics (UKA) and Gateshead in 1998. This award would mean that Gateshead became the only venue to host the European Cup twice. Contractual arrangements for this event were different to the norm in that the Council contracted directly with EAA, thereby being responsible and accountable to EAA for all aspects of the event including the financing of it.

  To understand the reasons behind this it is necessary to be aware of the original bidding process for the event. In 1996 Gateshead Council was invited by the British Athletics Federation (BAF) to become the venue partner in a bid for the 2000 European Cup.

  In October 1997 the formal bid presentation was made to EAA Council at their meeting in Budapest. In opposition were France and Spain. After initially tying with France at the voting stage, the second vote awarded the event to France with the intention of staging the event in Martinique.

  During the week after the presentation it became apparent that BAF had gone into administration and would therefore have been unable to meet the contractual obligations of the event.

  In 1998 EAA contacted Gateshead Council directly to invite it to host the 1999 European Cup as problems had arisen with Martinique as a venue and there were knock on effects with other locations. The Council had to decline the offer as it was hosting the World Veterans Championships in 1999. EAA came back with an invitation to host in 2000.

  As the new National Governing Body, UK Athletics (UKA) was in an early developmental stage and uncertain about the financial basis of its future, it was clearly unable to take on the organisational, administrative and financial responsibilities of the event.

  Against this background Gateshead Council accepted the invitation from EAA and entered into a contractual arrangement.

  Gateshead formed a Local Organising Committee (LOC) predominantly from officers of the Council with representation from UK Athletics and UK Sport. The LOC worked closely with EAA and delivered a very successful event.

  The event was supported by UK Sport from the World Class Events Awards Programme and the objectives of UK Sport in promoting their support of world class events and facilitate successful events for the benefit of elite performers were achieved.

  In terms of performance, Great Britain won the men's competition and the women finished in sixth position. The event took place on 15-16 July, two months before the Olympic Games. Promotion of the event was affected by a significant number of withdrawals from the Great Britain team and it is clear that this had an adverse effect on attendance at the event. Nevertheless, the event provided an excellent platform for the Great Britain athletes taking part to compete against high-class opposition in an international competition prior to Olympic competition. The success of the Great Britain men's team in Britain was widely acclaimed and promoted in the media providing a psychological boost before Sydney.

  From the Council's perspective the experience of the event added weight to the argument that local authorities have been the sustainable and reliable element in event promotion in Britain for many years. Whilst, undoubtedly, the aims of the Council were achieved in staging the event, it is clear from post event feedback that British sport and, specifically, athletics enhanced its reputation from an organisational point of view. The British team was given an opportunity to prepare for major competition in front of a partisan crowd and UK Athletics was able to progress future major event bids on the back of a successful event, effectively, made possible by the intervention of a local authority.

  The role of UK Sport in the event proved to be helpful. Apart from the obvious financial support, the involvement of UK Sport in assisting to develop a strategic focus and ensuring the provision of quantifiable measures of impact, from an independent consultant, has been beneficial.

  The XIII WAVA World Veterans Track and Field Championships were held in July/August 1999 over a two week period. Gateshead was invited by the British Veterans Athletics Federation (BVAF) to bid, on their behalf, for the Championships. The formal bid was made in 1995 with opposition coming from Kuala Lumpur, Victoria and St Petersburg.

  The World Association of Veterans Athletes (WAVA) awarded the event to Gateshead and a four year preparation for the Championships commenced. Similar to the European Cup the LOC was formed mainly from officers within Gateshead Council with representation from UKA and BVAF.

  The scale of the event was such that support from two neighbouring authorities, South Tyneside and Chester-le-Street was enlisted. This ensured that three track and field venues, cross country and road event courses could be provided to accommodate the anticipated 6,000 participants.

  Again the financial responsibility and accountability lay with Gateshead Council. The economic benefits to the Tyneside region were significant but this could not be directly related to the profit/loss account for the event.

  The event was deemed ineligible for support by Sport England and UK Sport as it did not fit the criteria laid down for Major Event Funding. External funding was obtained from the European Regional Development Fund in support of the event's contribution to tourism and promotion activity for the region and from the European Social Fund in support of training and skills development for local people. The event was successfully delivered and was acclaimed by WAVA and the 6,000 athletes while the benefits aside from the economic impact were accrued in the following areas:

    —  Over 1,000 volunteers received training in preparation for receiving overseas visitors and participating in the delivery of a major event.

    —  Volunteers received NVQ accreditation.

    —  Volunteers received "Welcome Host" training.

    —  British Track and Field Officials gained valuable experience in officiating at a major championships spanning a two week period.

    —  Britain's reputation as an excellent event organising nation was enhanced.

    —  The profile of sport generally and athletics specifically for older people was significantly increased in the region, emphasising the social and health related benefits of active participation.

  Outside of the Olympic Games the WAVA World Championships is generally acknowledged as the largest track and field championships in the World. Again, recognising that Gateshead and the Tyneside region gained benefit from staging the event it is worth noting that, without local authority involvement, this event would not have been staged in Britain. In 2001 the Championships will be staged in Brisbane, Australia and the event was secured for Brisbane by the Queensland Events Corporation. The QEC is in existence to attract, organise and promote events in Queensland and is financially supported by the Queensland state government and Brisbane City Council.

  Gateshead Council has, since 1974, developed facilities to host major events with specific aims designed to benefit the Council and residents of the Borough. It is clear, however, that the significant commitment to facility development, officer time, infrastructure, marketing as well as the opportunity cost of using facilities and officer time also represents a significant investment in sport to the benefit of the nation in general.


  There are many major events which would be desirable for Britain to host. The reasons for staging them are well documented and it is not intended to repeat them here. Within the list of major events there are a number that will return an operating surplus, however, there are many more which will require a subsidy.

  Traditionally, it has been local authorities that have provided that subsidy to enable British sport and National Governing Bodies to host those events, many at World or European Championship level.

  National Governing Bodies have, in general, entered into partnerships with those local authorities who have developed facilities, event organising capacity and made resources available financial and otherwise, in order to stage major events. It is only relatively recently that a move towards a strategic approach to event bidding and hosting has emerged in most sports and this is due to an extent to the conditions applying to Lottery funding.

  To enable facilities to be provided to the level and standard required for major events also requires a strategic approach. Notwithstanding the needs of events such as World Cups, Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games the majority of others are staged in existing facilities which need to be sustainable and viable. The demands of Governing Bodies, elite performers, media and spectators increase year on year and consequently investment in facilities needs to increase year on year. Away from professional sport, in the main, major performance and spectator venues are provided by local authorities. In considering their investment plans for such facilities local authorities will have regard to the future use by NGB's and, clearly, will look for some degree of certainty in this respect.

  New facilities may be provided at any time by local authorities or other providers and this may increase the supply element of the supply/demand equation. NGB's will, of course, be interested in taking advantage of such new build facilities and this will increase the uncertainty within the supply sector.

  Gateshead would advocate a strategic approach to event bidding and procurement which commenced in the domestic market. Accepting that successful bidding for international events is influenced by many and varied factors it is advocated that the selection of a venue to support any British bid is made on the basis of considering all relevant factors and should not be made solely on geographical factors.

  The issue of deciding who can bid and on what basis is in need of clarification. To comply with conditions of grant regulations in respect of UK Sport Lottery Funding it is necessary to follow an agreed procedure which includes NGB approval and the event being part of an NGB events strategy. Outside of that there does not appear to be any other regulation and the bidding protocols of many international federations do not require, although it would be desirable, NGB approval to be given to bidding organisations. The incentive of Lottery funding can lock organisations into a regulated strategic framework and it could be desirable for other incentives to be introduced to facilitate a strategic and inclusive national approach.

  The quality of bids progressing into an international arena would benefit from the harnessing of existing bidding expertise. This happens, to a degree, on an informal basis and it would be helpful if a mechanism was in place to ensure that the pool of knowledge was available and utilised by prospective bidders.

  Prior to that, however, the platform to prepare future international bids should be provided by ensuring an incentive is offered to venues and local authorities in order to maintain a suitable portfolio of sustainable venues and event organising capacity. This involves NGB's being required to guarantee an equitable allocation of suitable events to accredited venues on reasonable terms in respect of support to the event, as part of a long-term partnership arrangement. UK Sport as a Lottery fund distributor could play a significant role in ensuring that this process occurs. This system would ensure that an incentive existed for local authorities to maintain or improve existing facilities and organisational capacity and to guarantee that expertise was similarly maintained and improved.

Factors Affecting the Location of Athletics Events within the United Kingdom

  Gateshead Council is concerned at the potential impact on the location of athletics events within the UK arising from the development of a National Athletics Stadium at Pickets Lock. There are well-documented concerns over the viability and need for the Stadium and within the viability equation is the current lack of athletics events likely to attract spectators and therefore revenue. It is suggested by UKA that domestic televised athletics events will continue to be placed around the country as at present. However, whether that is the case or not, Gateshead Council believes that the opportunity to host events of an international status will not be available to provincial stadia when a National Stadium is in place. This will clearly reduce the opportunity for spectators away from the South of England to see live the highest level competition as well as taking away from local authorities the incentive to invest in facilities for major athletics events and seems to contradict the Government's policy of de-centralisation.

  A proposed joint bid by Newcastle and Gateshead Councils to stage the 2006 European Athletics Championships is currently the subject of a feasibility study. Before the study commenced UKA advised that they would be likely to decline support for the putative bid. The fundamental reason for withholding support is that an event of such importance would go to the proposed National Stadium in order to justify its position as the country's premier athletics venue. It is acknowledged that UKA are staging World Championships events in 2003 and 2005 and the implication of staging those would need to be considered against a 2006 European Championship bid but it is demotivating and restrictive to deny progressive local authorities, that have supported British athletics over two decades, the opportunity to progress a bid because of a policy of centralisation. There are several local authority owned stadia in Britain that have supported British athletics for many years. Investing the £60 million identified for Picketts Lock in these stadia would provide British athletics with a portfolio of excellent stadia capable of staging domestic and international events, while providing the local authorities with the incentive to continue with their significant, and recurring, financial investment in supporting British athletics' major events.

  UKA have assigned the marketing rights for televised athletics meetings to an agency. On an annual basis venues bid for the privilege of staging a televised meeting. This process is clearly competitive and has the potential to provide the greatest financial return to UKA and the agency. It also has the effect of destabilising and creating uncertainty within those organisations providing the venues. There is an escalation in the cost of hosting televised athletics meetings which relates to the contribution required by UKA's agency, the increasing operational costs arising from safety issues, spectator welfare, emergency services and such like as well as the continuing investment in the Stadium. Venues that have supported British athletics for many years face the uncertainty of not knowing from one year to another whether a domestic meeting will be staged there. On the other hand other venues prepared to offer increased contributions, provide a temporary infrastructure in the form of temporary seating may have the opportunity to stage an event for one year for a specific purpose and then opt out.

December 2000

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