Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 121 - 139)




  121. Good morning. Welcome to the evidence session we are taking here this morning on Wales in the world. Basically, we are after your opinions about how Wales can be promoted, in this case through sporting events and so on. We are very grateful for the use of the facilities here today. It is the first time I have been here and I am finding it very impressive. I did have trouble getting in but I think that was due to the fact that we were given the wrong gate number! May I apologise to those people here who may have come for the BBC evidence session that was to have taken place later today. There is an important debate in the House of Commons this afternoon about the Children's Commissioner and the powers of the Children's Commissioner within Wales. Most of us here, I think, would want to speak on that debate and therefore we are having to curtail this morning's session. I do not know who would like to lead, but perhaps you would introduce yourselves and describe what both organisations do. Perhaps Mr Gethin might start.

  (Mr Gethin) Thank you, Chairman. My name is Dennis Gethin, I am the Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Welsh Rugby Union. As you might know, the Welsh Rugby Union administers some 230 clubs in Wales, with a lot of responsibility for affiliated organisations (like, youth, schools, women's rugby and the district unions) which themselves have over 120 independent clubs. So the union is responsible, for rugby throughout the principality. The latest figures that you have—despite what you see in some of the English press—is that the number of people playing rugby in Wales is growing. The latest count, from children right through to the seniors (women and girls as well), is 75,000 people, with an increase in under 19s of 6,000 in the last 12 months alone. The Welsh Rugby Union is the owner of the Millennium Stadium. Mr Griffiths can introduce himself; he wears more than one hat.
  (Mr Griffiths) Thank you, Chairman. I am Glanmor Griffiths. I am Chairman and Treasurer of the Welsh Rugby Union and also Chairman of the Millennium Stadium Company, which, as Dennis has said, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Welsh Rugby Union. The Stadium—you are here today, if you have not been here before, welcome—is a wonderful stadium. I always said, throughout the construction period and before, that we were building Cardiff the finest stadium in the world and I think that has now been demonstrated. I think everybody can see what we have. It is one of the leading stadia in the world.
  (Mr Callicott) Thank you, Chairman. My name is Richard Callicott and I am Chief Executive of UK Sport, which is a government supported and backed organisation. We are responsible on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom for four primary areas of control and development. One is in the field of anti-doping and ethics: we run all the testing programmes across the United Kingdom. The second is that we represent the British Government in the Council of Europe; therefore, our second development is international relations in major events. The third area is that we are a lottery distributor (as of some 15 months ago) for the distribution of lottery funds for selected athletes put forward by the governing bodies of sport—of which there are some 26 Olympic sports that we fund—and through our Exchequer Grant we fund some 50 sports. Finally, we are the central services team of the new United Kingdom Sports Institute.
  (Mr Scott) Good morning. My name is John Scott. I am the Director of International Relations at Major Events, one of the key policy and development programme areas of UK Sport. As such, we obviously work a lot with other countries, particularly our partner bodies. There is a strong focus on Commonwealth at the moment—well understood, I am sure, with the upcoming Commonwealth Games in 2002—and we also obviously operate the major events programme which I think will probably come up in today's questions.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. Some of our questions may not relate to both organisations, so both organisations do not have to feel obliged to answer them. I think Mrs Williams would like to ask a question.

Mrs Williams

  122. Good morning, gentlemen. A number of organisations, including the National Assembly for Wales, have suggested to us that Wales does not enjoy a high profile overseas, and certainly a much lower one than Scotland and Ireland, and that the overseas perception of Wales is often distorted, stereotyped and, perhaps, out of date. What role does sport have to play in raising the profile of Wales abroad? How do you take this into account in your activities?
  (Mr Callicott) Shall I try to answer that? Good morning. Clearly Wales has a world reputation in specific activities, and I will leave a particular one of those to my colleagues to my right to deal with. We have certainly helped fund events in Wales because one of the things that we can do through the lottery grant is to give grant aid through the lottery element to certain sports activities and,in particular, to sports events. We have no responsibility, nor do we have any locus, for capital development, so we have no resources for physical facilities, ours are all development programmes. But certainly we were able to help with netball at Ewick; we put a grant into the World Youth Championships; we are certainly

putting some money into an event that is coming up here shortly, the Commonwealth Top 12 Table Tennis Championships; and of course we did put some funding into the World Rugby League Championships, some of the matches of which were played here in Wales. I suppose you would expect me to say that I think sport is one of the best ways to profile a particular country, because it is instant recognition through the powerful medium of television and the media as a whole. Certainly we will work with the Welsh Sports Council and the governing bodies of sport in Wales and those constituent parts of British bodies in order to try and raise the profile. I think the short answer—and I will leave John to develop this in a moment—is: Work with us. We are already working with a number, as I say, to try and attract more events to Wales. The more events that you attract, I think, the higher the profile. It will act as a contributory factor in helping to raise the profile of Wales internationally.

  (Mr Scott) I would not labour the point, but, just to support Richard's comments, the strength of the United Kingdom abroad, I think, is not used enough in terms of our sporting heritage and the breadth of sports that we do play and an awareness that there is a diversity in the country as a whole. One of the areas on which we are working with the Government centrally, particularly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is the promotion of sport more effectively through our diplomatic missions. We actually have at our fingertips a huge number of potential ambassadors in our young people who are competing throughout the world on a day-to-day basis. I think there is a way to harness that and promote much more effectively in those countries what is going on here in the United Kingdom through those very talented and very worthy ambassadors. That is one of the areas we are certainly looking to develop with the Foreign and Commonwealth Officer.

Chris Ruane

  123. Can you point to a country that does that very effectively?
  (Mr Scott) Yes, I think if you look to France in particular and the work that France does—which, interestingly, they support with a very active development programme as well, where they will put resources through their overseas development agency on the back of, for example, a visiting football team. They will go in with a coaching programme for grassroots development in that country. This is a very standard procedure which France has been pursuing for a number of years. Germany does likewise. It is very interesting that in the run-up to the Sydney Olympics, Australia put a very big programme in place in the Pacific region, working with all the Pacific islands on a similar basis. Their teams would tour, they would go in and do development programmes. That obviously raised their profile and the awareness of the strength of Australia in certain sports. I think that is something we need to learn from.

Mrs Williams

  124. Will you be selective in the sports that you are discussing?
  (Mr Callicott) From UK Sport's perspective there are something like in excess of 400 different sporting federations across the United Kingdom, and, no matter how big the pot, if you divide that by 400 it means that nobody gets very much. We have tended now to work on a prioritisation of sports. It so happens that as far as Lottery grants are concerned, that prioritisation is towards Olympic sports. That does not mean to say that we do not fund, through our Exchequer Grant, non-Olympic sports, but certainly we are just going through a post-Sydney review period, where we are prioritising sports and we are requiring sports, in agreement with their performance directors, to deliver against agreed targets up front. So we are prioritising, as, indeed, is the pattern in the rest of the world.
  (Mr Gethin) From the rugby point of view—and Glanmor will say more about the stadium—Mrs Williams' question about not having the profile of Scotland and Ireland I think no-one can dispute. I think that was more than adequately covered when Rhodri Morgan gave evidence before you some months ago on the fact that Wales has always been tagged onto England for historical reasons, and Scotland and Ireland, again for historical reasons, are completely different. One could say that whatever profile Wales does have abroad, one could argue that that is because of rugby. It is certainly known in the rugby playing countries. They know about Wales, where Wales is, etc, but, as we know, not every country plays rugby. The International Rugby Board are extending the rugby playing nations at the very moment. In 1997 China joined the International Rugby Board and in 1999 India joined, so, hopefully, if rugby does take off in those countries, Wales will get known. But, as I say, it is known only in those rugby-playing countries in the majority of cases, I would imagine. The most recent country to join the International Rugby Board—so we will get known there—is Malta, which joined the rugby-playing fraternity last year.
  (Mr Griffiths) Perhaps I can answer Mrs Williams. I think that, as Welsh people, by our nature we do tend to undersell ourselves and it is time we spoke up about some of our achievements. I will just speak about the stadium. We did, the year before last, open the finest stadium in the world. In October 1999 we did host the Rugby World Cup, the biggest sporting event to close down the Millennium—not as big as the Olympics and the Football World Cup, but still the biggest event of that year. We opened the stadium on 2 June of the new Millennium with Songs of Praise, the biggest concert ever held in the world in a closed arena—because this roof, when it is closed, will create the largest covered dome in the world—and that was beamed throughout Europe. And what an events programme we have got for this year to show ourselves off to the world: not just the big Six-Nations matches and other big rugby matches but we have got the FA Cup and six other big matches under the Football Association of England and the Football League. The Rugby World Cup final on 6 November 1999 had an estimated television audience in excess of two billion people, throughout 157 countries in the world. That is a huge exposure, probably the biggest in our history. But the FA Cup is even bigger and 12 May will bring an estimated television audience of three billion people, now spread across 200 countries throughout the world—and a lot of those are in the big European countries where soccer is so strong. But there are other events coming to the stadium to promote ourselves. We have the World Speedway Grand Prix in June; we have the International Board World Sevens Tournament here in the stadium on the weekend of 9 June; and we have big events to follow. I think our reputation sporting-wise throughout the world and with the stadium—certainly in terms of rugby in the stadium—is very high. Two of the biggest sports in the world are rugby and soccer—I put them in that order; other people put them in the reverse order. This is the home of Welsh rugby, it is the home of Welsh soccer, and for the next four years it is going to be the home of English soccer as well. There is no stadium in the world which can boast that, the home to three of the big governing bodies of sport in the world.

Mr Edwards

  125. Following on that point, I am sure we have all agreed that we should warmly congratulate you on your success in securing the FA and Worthington Cup finals over the next three years whilst Wembley is being redeveloped (if, indeed, it is going to be redeveloped—but we will not go into that now anyway). Could you possibly tell us about the process that you went through? Was it very difficult to secure these games and how did you go about selling, as it were, Cardiff, this wonderful stadium and the country of Wales?
  (Mr Griffiths) Four years ago I had to negotiate with the old Wembley company to take our big rugby events to Wembley when our stadium was closed. The famous Arms Park had a capacity of 52,000, fine, but, with that demolished, the next biggest stadium in Wales, probably, was Ninian Park, with a capacity of 13,000 or 14,000. So we had to go into England and to Wembley. It was during my discussions with the officers within Wembley that I became aware of their own development and I quickly spotted that as our stadium became available, fully completed, theirs would be demolished for their redevelopment (whilst it has not happened yet). The seeds were sown then. People thought that, perhaps, I was mad three and a half years ago to even think of bringing the FA Cup out of England, but I knew that we had something that they wanted: a fine stadium, a neutral stadium, and we were able to meet all their criteria. They had something that we wanted: some highly prestigious soccer events. But, as I have said, the seeds were sown four years ago and we have cultivated that connection that we had with them. They could see how successful our matches were to Wembley. We played six big rugby matches in Wembley during the closure of the Arms Park and we filled Wembley on each occasion. And great sporting events they were. The Welsh fans enjoyed travelling to Wembley for those six matches and I am sure the English soccer fans will enjoy coming to Cardiff and to Wales in the same way.

  126. How tough was the opposition at that time?
  (Mr Griffiths) I do not know precisely who the opposition were, but I would suspect it was Old Trafford, Twickenham, possibly Murrayfield and Hampden Park, and some of the other big stadia that they have in England, soccer stadia.

  127. Villa Park?
  (Mr Griffiths) Villa Park, the Arsenal ground. There are so many big grounds in England, but, at the end of the day, as I have said, we had a modern stadium; a capacity of 74,000; 125 hospitality boxes; bars; restaurants; shops; fast-food outlets; good transport links; and a stadium that has got a family-friendly atmosphere. The ability to close the roof obviously attracted them as well, because, whilst I doubt very much whether they would play many, if any, of their soccer matches in a closed arena, the advantage of a roof for sporting events is that, even if it is not closed for the event, it can be closed up until the event. Normally, when you have got very muddy pitches in any ground, it has been raining for days, and at least we can keep the rain off the pitch until the match commences.

Mr Llwyd

  128. The British Council has said that Wales has better recognition in rugby-playing countries. I think Mr Gethin referred to this earlier on. Would you not agree that perhaps this is an opportunity for Wales to be recognised in the soccer-playing world as well?
  (Mr Gethin) On that, I have no doubt whatsoever that that will be the case, because, as Glanmor mentioned earlier, the figure of three billion for the FA Cup, which I believe is the biggest sporting cup event in the world in any sport, and obviously we are working, and Glanmor can elaborate more on this, with other agencies (like the Tourist Board and the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce and the Welsh Development Agency, etc) to make sure that Wales is promoted, because certainly the eyes of the world will be on the stadium in Cardiff for that very prestigious event and it is an opportunity, I believe, that must not be missed. I will say that Glanmor, in particular, with Bob Evans—who together were dealing with the negotiations with the Football Association and the Football League—is probably too modest to say that they were not easy negotiations, and at that time we had very little help from outside agencies. I think that is fair comment to make. We are still seeking more help from government agencies—and Glanmor has the detail—because to promote them it is not easy.

Mr Ruane

  129. What type of help more specifically?
  (Mr Gethin) Certainly financial help, because, as Glanmor says, there is policing of the event, the stewarding of it, etc. You have to close down the neighbouring facilities to have a clean stadium, a clean area. As I say, Glanmor will have the details far better than I have, but certainly help is desperately needed on that front.

Mr Llwyd

  130. You say that you are not getting any help from the various authorities.
  (Mr Gethin) It could be far more, and, as I said, Mr Griffiths knows the details better than I do.
  (Mr Griffiths) I would suggest that the help and promoting and the attracting of events to Cardiff and to Wales has to be given at the outset, in making the bid. It follows that that money could be lost if everything is aborted and there is an unsuccessful bid. I will give you an example: in 1996 I made the presentation on behalf of the Welsh Rugby Union to the International Board to attract the Rugby World Cup to Wales. We were up against a very powerful bid from Australia, who had linked up with New Zealand and Japan. They had a marketing agency, sponsored by the Australian Government, who made available £0.25 million to promote that bid. That money was lost because they were unsuccessful, but we had no financial help whatsoever. Taxation and VAT comes into it. I knew that sport in Australia, in New Zealand, in Japan and in most countries throughout the world is not subjected to corporation tax whereas our sport in the United Kingdom—and the Rugby World Cup is an example—is subjected to corporation tax. So, when you are bidding against other countries throughout the world, you have to show that your gross receipts less the tax produces more in revenue than their gross receipts where there is no tax deducted.

Mr Ruane

  131. But, again, coming back to the specifics, which agencies would you say could have given you help or, indeed, could give you help in the future?
  (Mr Griffiths) I am not criticising the agencies because it is something that never happened in the United Kingdom and certainly not in 1996.

  132. Which agencies have the potential to help?
  (Mr Griffiths) I think in Wales it would have to be through the Welsh Tourist Board and possibly the WDA.

  133. Do you think that there should be, perhaps, an organisation, a multi-agency organisation that looks into promoting cultural, musical and sporting events across the whole of Wales? If there were full-time officers for that, it may assist you in getting these events.
  (Mr Griffiths) Absolutely. Resources are needed and the Welsh Rugby Union and the Stadium Company cannot do everything on its own. It does need help to bring the big events into Cardiff and to Wales.

  134. It is a shame. You have a fine stadium like this; it should be filled 365 days of the year with events that are recognised internationally.
  (Mr Griffiths) I do not think that is possible. Our business plan of four years ago, when we persuaded Barclays Bank and Laing and the Millennium Commission to invest heavily in the stadium, was based on 16 big events in a year. We are exceeding that number. In fact, between now and December, with the Football Association matches coming here, we have 21 events in the stadium for the remainder of this year that would either be capacity or near capacity. It is estimated that 1.5 million spectators will come through our turnstile between now and December. Obviously a lot of those will come from outside Wales and hopefully from throughout the world.
  (Mr Gethin) To follow up, I think that such a professional body would certainly be a step in the right direction. Having worked in local government most of my working life, I am aware of the constraints on local authorities. We have had help from the local council but obviously we would like more, but I know the financial difficulties that they labour under, as do the National Assembly. But I certainly think that at the moment we need more help. If it is done on a professional basis, professional outfit, as Glanmor said, we would certainly welcome that.
  (Mr Scott) Chairman, if I may add what our role is. Particularly when you are talking about sporting events, UK Sport does have a significant interest here. Obviously, we have our own priorities—and I think Richard has explained the focus that we have—but we do have a major event strategy which is United Kingdom wide, and it is not just the supporting of the staging of the events, it is actually supporting the whole preparation of the bid process as well. We do have funding available for that and we would wish to work with people, particularly key organisations that are making use of fantastic facilities like this, to promote them further. It is getting the right event at the right time and one of our key tasks is to ensure that that is linked to our overall development plans for the sport, not least for performance. Clearly, what we are wanting to see is that the investment we are putting into the preparation of our high performance athletes gives them an opportunity to perform at that peak on these shores, because that does tend to, particularly in some of the smaller sports, increase their profile, and that is one of the things we would like to achieve. But I fully support the idea that there needs to be better coordination, particularly with agencies like the Tourist Board, like some of the development agencies. We have been working on that. One of the proposals that we did put to Government—and it has actually been established—is what is called the Government and Agencies Committee, which was meant to bring together all these bodies to do exactly what you have been discussing here. I think that group could do more and the fact that now the British Tourist Authority, for example, has published a new sporting strategy, where it says it wishes to see more events brought to this country and it will put resources behind that, I think is a step in the right direction.

  135. When you say "this country" do you mean Wales?
  (Mr Scott) I mean the United Kingdom and all parts of it. Our interest is to see, as you have said, the maximum number of events brought to this country. Clearly, what we would like to see is those spread around the country because we know, from the work we have done on, for example, economic impact studies, that the impact felt locally can be very significant. A small event like the European Junior Swimming Championships which was hosted in Sheffield over a weekend, had an economic impact on the city of just over £300,000. That is very good for the city. We know that having the ability to attract a range of events across the country is one of the key policy priorities we have.
  (Mr Griffiths) I would like to add, if I may, Chairman, that, like Dennis, I also worked in local government before taking up this post. I was the head of sport and I used to run the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. During my tenure we staged something like 11 world championships and some nine European championships and certainly an event as innocuous as a European table tennis Championship put £1 million into the local economy. We are now monitoring these economic impacts, not just specifically to the city but to the region. You will be aware of the Ryder Cup potential.


  136. Yes.
  (Mr Griffiths) I was involved in the Belfry bid that is going to be staged this year. Certainly, if Wales is selected as the preferred venue for its championship, which is in 2009, then, clearly, the economic impact, from Kiawh Island, as some of you may know, is considerable—and it is not just on the immediate locality it is also in the region of the part of the country in which the course is held.

Mr Llwyd

  137. On that, I attended a function last week in London—several of us did—the London launch of the Ryder Cup bid. It was interesting to me because the Welsh Tourist Board played a central role in that, both financially and otherwise. I frankly am astonished that they have not been more supportive of the WRU and the Millennium Stadium, given the wider economic benefits that flow from, for example, the events that you have secured here. I sincerely hope that they will look again at the way they operate.
  (Mr Griffiths) I think that some sort of forum should be established to promote the stadium and other venues throughout Wales for sport and for cultural activities, a forum representing members from the Tourist Board, from the WDA, from (as far as Cardiff is concerned) the City Council, from the Assembly, from the Sports Council, and it should be a permanent forum. We did establish one during the Rugby World Cup, just to oversee the operational aspects, but it does need a permanent forum to attract events. We would be on it as well and we would play our part as the Stadium Company and as the Welsh Rugby Union to attract rugby events into Cardiff, but it is much wider than rugby and it is much wider than the stadium. We are talking about the Ryder Cup going to Celtic Manor, and these are the big events that we need to bring into Cardiff and Wales.
  (Mr Callicott) May I just make one final point on that, picking up Glanmor's point. The Ryder Cup is an interesting example, where, in an ideal world, we would try to facilitate one bid. As it so happens there are now going to be three bids going in from the United Kingdom, and each bid is going to be spending a great deal of money on trying to attract the bid to its particular location within the United Kingdom. You could argue that you could make a case for saying, "Wouldn't it have been better if we had somehow done a deal internally?—so that there was only one bid going forward and that meant that two bids would not have been wasting their money." Because two of them will not be successful. Unfortunately, the nature of our country is that Wales wants it, Scotland wants it and the North-East of England wants it—and I am not commenting on which is the best bid at all, I am not involved in that process.

  Mr Llwyd: The Welsh bid is the only serious one, is it not? (Laughter)

Mr Livsey

  138. I have been coming to this site since 1948, believe it or not. I have been here every year since 1948 to watch rugby. The first time I was here there was a Welsh triumph; the back line was Haydn Tanner, Billy Cleaver, Jack Matthews, Bleddyn Williams, Ken Jones—and I cannot remember who was on the other wing! I have seen it develop and I must congratulate you on where you are now. It is a huge asset. I saw Wales beat New Zealand in 1953 and I am looking forward to the next time. I hope it is soon. Jenny Randerson, the Sport and Culture Minister, in relation to hosting major sporting events in Wales has said that this is something that shall "have economic spin-offs for the whole of Wales". How are you working together with other organisations to maximise the economic benefits for Wales which might be realised from hosting these high-profile events. You have partly answered that question, I think, with your proposals for a forum, but have you been able to quantify, for example, how much money came into Wales at the World Cup? Do you have budgeting forecasts, and, indeed, how can we make the rest of Wales benefit accordingly?
  (Mr Gethin) I think, Mr Livsey, a report that was issued after the Rugby World Cup said that the Welsh economy benefited to the tune of £80 million during the Rugby World Cup campaign. Those are figures which were produced on a professional basis. I cannot recall the organisation that did produce them but certainly that was the figure that had credibility, as it were—which is a hefty sum. As Rhodri Morgan said, after it was announced that the FA Cup was coming to Cardiff, the economic benefits will be beyond calculation, but I do not think anyone with hand on heart can say what sort of figure that is going to be. All we do know for certain at the moment is that when there is a big rugby Six-Nations match, like when England are down here a fortnight on Saturday, that generates for Cardiff alone some £15 million economically. There are two Six-Nations or three Summer Seasons and also there are other big rugby events. Presumably the FA Cup etc, will generate that figure, if not more, so we are talking about big sums of money.

  139. I felt that there was an economic opportunity lost during the World Cup when it was decided to hold some of the rugby matches over the whole of the United Kingdom, when probably there is more support for rugby in Wales and it would have attracted larger crowds. Could you tell us something of the background of those negotiations, and, if you were to do it again, how you would go about it.
  (Mr Griffiths) Wales hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1999 but we were supported in staging the tournament by France, England, Scotland and Ireland. We are a very small country and with 41 matches being played over one month there is a limit to the amount of people that you can get into the stadium and we did not need more than the Millennium Stadium to host the big, big matches. Clearly, there were five big stadia involved: the Stade de France, Murrayfield, Landsdowne Road, Twickenham and our own Millennium Stadium. I think that if the tournament comes to the northern hemisphere again—and it will do, possibly, in eight or 12 years time—I think more than one country will need to share that tournament—perhaps not all five, but certainly more than one. The next big event we have in our sights is obviously a European soccer final, possibly in three to four years time. UEFA, the governing body in Europe, has given us the stadium five-star rating. We are only one of a handful of stadia throughout Europe to have that qualification. You cannot quantify the benefits to the City of Cardiff and to Wales from bringing, perhaps, 40,000/50,000 overseas fans into Cardiff for that type of event, but the benefits obviously will be huge—not just for the stadium but for everybody.

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 27 March 2001