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


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Professor Alan Tomlinson

  Thank you for the invitation to submit evidence to your Committee on Thursday 8 March 2001. In my responses to the questions from members of the Committee, I responded on general themes and principles, and I hope that this was of some value to the Committee in its inquiry into this important issue.

  However, there are some issues relating to both the areas on which I was questioned, and the general areas of discussion throughout the morning session, to which further evidence is relevant. As I understand it, the procedures of the inquiry permit a witness to submit further written evidence, if information pertaining to an issue was not available, or able to be offered, at the moment of testimony. I would be grateful, therefore, if this statement could be taken as further evidence. For the sake of consistency, I offer the comments within the same framework as that adopted for my written evidence, dated 4 December 2000. In addition, I comment on some aspects of my oral evidence that might also be clarified by further written testimony.


  I would like to add some illustrative detail to one of my comments concerning the practices of FIFA, the governing body of world football. In response to the Chairman of the Committee, I commented on the unaccountability of organisations such as FIFA, and concluded with a remark concerning the outcome of the current UEFA (European Football Union) president's candidature for the FIFA presidency—saying "and look what happened to him". Let me elaborate on what did happen to Lennart Johansson. He could not hold his European-African alliance together and lost heavily, his opponent Blatter gaining 111 votes to Johansson's 80. Blatter, the long-term right-hand man of FIFA president Havelange, gained many of his votes by means that were at best highly dubious, aided by rich Middle East nations, and offering those with votes incentives that could be seen as bribes, including cash handouts on the eve of the FIFA presidential election. Johansson had stood on the basis of principles of transparency and demoracy, and has since said that he would never again consider standing for the FIFA presidency in a climate of such dirty tricks and dealmaking.

  My analysis of the doomed nature of the English bid was considered at several points during the 8 March session. The response of Tony Banks was that in any process such as the World Cup 2006 bid, one must be ready to deal with "unsavoury people"—"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", commented and joked Mr Banks. Soon after, Alec McGivan, speaking on behalf of the England 2006 bidding team, conceded that to bid without UEFA support "damaged us enormously"—"support for Germany right across the board . . ." was the source, Mr McGivan unambiguously stated, of such enormous damage. Mr McGivan, sounding wearily realistic here, added in the same paragraph of his testimony, that certain aspects of the process surprised the bidding team. I quote: ". . . any sport that goes in for an international bid will find the most surprising obstacles occurring and a number of compromises that have to be made ...We were even being asked by everyone we could come across to play fixtures with the England team. Now all those issues, people do not realise how many times, everywhere you go, you get requests for this, asked to do that, things which we could not possibly deliver in some cases. Any sport bidding for a national event will find itself time and time again, sometimes publicly, sometimes privately being asked to overcome hurdles which you would never have dreamt of at the point that you launched your campaign".

  I have quoted this viewpoint at some length because it is a puzzling picture portrayed by the leader of the bid. Did the team really think that wining and dining FIFA bigwigs would make friendships that would translate into votes? Was the team seriously surprised that football administration in certain societies—such as those of the Gulf States—is inextricably interwoven with the networks of political and business power? Certain requests were met very readily by the bidding team—garlanded rooms in Claridges, for instance, for globetrotting members of the FIFA executive committee. It was hardly surprising that some vote-wielding FIFA figures asked for more than just flowers, first-class and five-star treatment. Let me take two examples, those of the bid team's dealings with the FIFA executive committee members from Saudi Arabia and Malta. Mr McGivan talks of being asked "to play fixtures with the England team", and speaks of this with some disdain. Yet the bidding team was employing the skills of embassies and trained British diplomats worldwide, and had in Mr Wheeler an experienced and skilled veteran of this particular trade. It is disingenuous to cry foul when another society employs its own distinctive political approach to world football politics. The FA's written evidence talks of the difficulties of dealing with Saudi Arabia. But it has been known for a very long-time that sport in a theocracy such as this is a tool of state control, is run by members of that state's political elite, and so sports politics is simply a part of the wider political practices and strategies of such a state. What is really interesting about this is not the sort of surprise expressed by Mr McGivan, but the fact that Saudi Arabia got its Wembley fixture, that the nurses convicted for murder in Saudi Arabia were allowed to return to Britain at around this time, and that the Saudi FIFA vote dangled in front of the England 2006 team was ever taken at all seriously. The second example relates to Malta. Dr Mifsud, the relatively new FIFA executive committee member from Malta, spoke with me in July 1998, and said that he heartily disapproved of the trips and the visits around which bids to host the World Cup were being made. One presentation, he believed, on neutral territory, should be the basis of such bids. Of course he soon found it difficult to turn down hospitable invitations to spend time in London, enjoyed his time at banquets and events, hosted members of the England bid team in his own country, gave false hope to the England 2006 team that his vote might not yet be committed, and got the home game for Malta against the England national side on the eve of the Euro 2000 football championship, hardly ideal preparation for any serious contender for that title.

  The process of bidding for events such as the World Cup is always implicated in these wider international issues, and not infrequently international business deals. England 2006 was never in the running to win the FIFA vote, and this was not a matter of Franz Beckenbauer versus Sir Bobby Charlton, or even Claudia Schiffer versus Tony Banks. As the day of the FIFA vote was approaching, deals between the European and the Asian interests in the FIFA hierarchy were taking shape. Investigative reporters in Germany have noted that in the run-up to the day of the vote, several new business deals with Asian countries were announced, worth several billion marks. Germany's Federal Security Council relaxed its regulations to allow the export of 1,200 bazookas to Saudi Arabia. Deals were put in place to aid troubled Korean car manufacturer Hyundai, family business of FIFA executive committee member Dr Chung. Further deals with South Korea were done, in plastics and chemicals. Bayer also announced huge investments in Thailand, home of FIFA executive committee member Worawi Makudi, known for his sideline in car dealerships in the Asian market. In the days after the vote was won—not in the campaign and the build-up to the vote—the German FA released forecasts claiming wide economic and tourist benefits in the staging of large-scale sports events.

  In this context let me make three final comments on the failed English bid. First, it lacked a basis and a rationale, with no serious feasibility study underpinning it, and it was launched on the basis of uncorroborated projections concerning the benefits of staging such events. Second, it was always seen as on the margins, and was not helped by what FIFA insiders and observers saw as a woefully weak language profile. Third, the bid itself was represented unrealistically in the national press. It may have faced some criticisms. But the more misleading representations were those that suggested that it had any chance in the first place. In fact the bid never made a serious impact, and Tony Banks, affectionately portrayed in the UK national press as a wit or a comic, was widely seen, in the international context including by FIFA, as (in the words of one of the world's most experienced observers of international sports politics) "a clown". The French sport daily L'Equipe employs one specialist journalist to cover the International Olympic Committee. The British press could report little more than hear-say and second-hand accounts, and this was hardly helpful to the English cause, or any realistic appraisal of its chances.


  In my written evidence, dated 4 December, I referred to three benefits of the staging of international sports events such as the Olympics: the profiling of modernity, the showcasing of excellence, and the boosting of a tourism/visitor economy. Associated with these one might add the intangible yet felt and real sense of national identity and pride that a nation or city might feel in hosting such events, and the infrastructural benefits (the transport and communications infrastructure for instance, as in Barcelona). The important question in London's case is to ask whether a city such as London needs an Olympic games in terms of these boosterist assumptions, as one might call them. They are worth taking one by one. First, London is one of the world's most known and profiled cities, so hardly needs a boost to its profile. Second, the benefits of excellence and achievement are difficult to control and predict, without a coherent overall sport development process. Dramatic improvements can be achieved, as Great Britain's Lottery-aided medal tally in the Sydney 2000 Olympics has shown. But you do not need to compete at home, on home turf as our US friends like to call it, to achieve this. Third, London already has an enviable tourist/visitor economy, regardless of sports events (national disasters or international moral panics permitting). Fourth, national identity and pride depends on results. If France had not progressed to the final and defeated a lucklustre Brazil in the final of the France '98 World Cup, there is little doubt that President Jacques Chirac would have kept a much lower profile and worn a scarf of different colours at the final, if he had chosen to attend it at all. Fifth, of course London would benefit from a radical transformation of its transport infrastructure. But surely the citizens of the capital deserve this without the excuse of putting on a short-term show for an international visitor elite. Any bid to stage the summer Olympic Games in London must give detailed, informed and realistic consideration to these questions. It is also important to review what the IOC likes to promote—a monument to itself, for instance, an Olympic Park and Olympic Stadium, not necessarily a refurbished national monument such as Wembley. Athletes in (outer) Sydney's Homebush Bay could walk to the Olympic Stadium. The obsession in England with the role of Wembley as the potential national stadium for events such as an Olympic Games has deflected from a more realistic evaluation of where a modern Olympics might be staged, in the vicinity of the capital city.


  I would like to make three further points, in relation to the discussion at the 8 March session. First, Mr Faber is cited as saying to me "And you say that Government support has been exemplary". In my written evidence of 4 December, I did not say this. I said that your own Committee's Fourth Report of Session 1998-99 had described the England 2006 bid as "exemplary". I am sorry not to have clarified my position during the exchange with Mr Faber. As I said, the Committee's description of the bid is not what I am criticising. But as this further statement indicates, I would certainly suggest that such a description be reviewed in the light of an informed and realistic appraisal of the process of the bid.

  Second, Mr Keen queried how monies were allocated by organisations such as the International Olympic Committee. I can confirm that in the distribution of large sums of money, an organisation such as FIFA, the world governing body of football, routinely transfers large sums—of a million dollars per annum, for instance—to individuals in national associations. When I asked a former senior figure inside FIFA whether FIFA asked for reports on how monies were used, he said that FIFA never did so, nor had any interest whatsoever in so doing.

  Third, it was interesting to hear Mr Keen imply that it might be a good idea for the Olympics to be held in the same nation each time. That is certainly an interesting thought, and reminds me of one of my own comments made in print in 1984, that if the Olympics could be sited somewhere such as Athens, then it could indeed be seen as a sort of Vatican of Sport, and much effort and money could be saved among those nations fighting for the privilege to host the event. It is an idealist position to take, but one that allows us to sit back and reconsider the claims and assumptions that underlie the chase to win that dubious privilege.

March 2001

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