Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 146)



Mr Caton

  140. This question is for Mr Callicott and Mr Scott—at least, initially. Can you describe UK Sport's clearing house system which ensures that only one home country bids for any major sporting event normally?
  (Mr Callicott) This is partly linked up, I think, with another area of your concern. Clearly, since devolution, there has been a splitting off of the number of what were formerly Great Britain's governing bodies of sport. That has, in some cases, meant that the creation of Welsh, English, Northern Irish and Scottish governing bodies means that we are in the process of trying to work out with the governing bodies a new federal process. We are going to be involved in some pilot schemes on that, starting from later this year, with some Exchequer funding that the Government has made available to us. That is going to go on for the next three years. Part of the difficulty is that, in most cases, the actual bidding process for any major event has to go through the governing body, because it is the governing body, the international federation, that actually owns the rights to that event. So, whether it is a European federation or an international federation, in most cases—and there may be certain exceptions in the strictly commercial sense of sport, in terms of venues, as Glanmor has been describing, but in most international federations—there is a bidding process that goes through the clearing house known as the governing body of the sport, and it is the governing body of sport that normally enters into a partnership with a local authority or a venue or some other sort of basis. What we would like to do is to persuade the constituent federations, including the Welsh governing body, to be part of that process, to determine which is the best location for the interests of that sport and its development. I have just given an example of the Ryder Cup, where we have not been able to effect a bringing together, because the prizes, if you like, are so great that there are independent bids now determining that they are going to go ahead anyway. With certain sports we have been able to work with them. Athletics, for example, we have been able to work with them and they have selected the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham for the World 2003 Championships. But there are certain guidelines and there are certain sizes of audience that are required, certain pre-requisites laid down in the international regulations that will determine to a large degree which events can go where. Because, if the regulations require, let us say, a 75,000-seater covered stadium, that only puts a certain number of venues eligible even to be considered in the first place. So, from our point of view, we are trying to work with the governing bodies to try and work that together. The one thing that we cannot do is to tell any federation what it will do; that is, they are autonomous bodies, in that they must make their own decisions as to where they put their events. What we would try to advise them on is our policy of pre-event activity, to try to build up to the event; holding and staging the event itself; and then: what is the legacy of the event? Is there a case of just putting on an event because it is a nice event and then it goes away again? We are trying to put it into some sort of context of the development of that sport and its longevity.
  (Mr Scott) There is one point I would add and I think it is very important when we start to look outside. I mean, too often I think we tend to take a very inward look at these issues and one of the dangers we run is that of becoming so focused on issues between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that we forget that out there in the big wide world these days the competition for securing major events is increasing. More and more countries are capable of hosting major events and more and more countries see the benefits of hosting those events. I think, as you have heard from the Welsh RFU, the scale of support put behind many of these bids means that we have to be very clear that we have got the best possible bid that can actually secure the event. If we do have more than one bid going forward from the United Kingdom (that is, for example, from England and Wales) it runs the risk of diluting the support that we have in the corridors of power of international support. There is not always the same degree of understanding of the complexities of our sporting system here and quite frequently the world at large sees different parts of the United Kingdom as the same. This is one of the risks we do run if we do not have a properly coordinated approach to our bidding. It also links back to the fact that at the moment the United Kingdom generally—and Wales would be part of this in terms of its membership of sports in its own right—is under-represented. I think, in terms of the influence that we exert on the international decision making of sport, we punch below our weight. We need to do more to get more influence because it is the corridors of power internationally where these decisions are being taken.

Mr Llwyd

  141. Mr Scott, with respect, I do not agree with your analysis there, because, frankly, the whole essence of this inquiry is about underselling Wales abroad. If you say it has to be coordinated United Kingdom wide, that normally means that Wales goes to the back of the queue. That is really what it is about, is it not?
  (Mr Scott) With respect, I disagree. I think it is about putting the right event in the right place that enables the event to come to the country in the first place. As I say, with the degree of competition that there is out there in the world at large, we will not succeed if we do not have the best bid with the right politics behind it. I think the lessons we have learned from the Football Association bid was clearly that, even though technically we had a very strong bid—some would say that the quality of the England bid for the World Cup technically was the best—we did not have the politics behind it to secure it.
  (Mr Callicott) Could I try to put a slightly different perspective on that. I think what we are hinting at is to suggest that Wales will determine for itself with its various agencies those facilities that it will deem necessary to support its nation. It will build those facilities according to what it can afford to build and it will build them according to the specifications that it deems appropriate. You have now one of the finest stadia in the world; you will attract major events to this venues because you have that facility and because of the great management skill of the team that run this facility. I think one of the things that Wales will have to determine is which facilities it is going to build for itself. If it is going to try and take on the 220-odd nations of the world who are all building different facilities around, then you enter into that spectrum. It seems to me that there needs to be a concentration, and, as I understand it, the Welsh Sports Council has already determined that there are going to be some priority venues located here in Wales. Certainly the building of the indoor athletics training centre at Ewick, this facility here, the potential 50-metre pool at Swansea and the indoor cricket school are all an indication that someone in Wales is trying to work up a strategy for building those sorts of events that would be worthy of attracting major international events. That is a decision for the Welsh agencies, it seems to me.

Mr Caton

  142. Is that in the clearance process that you are trying to get everybody to accept? Are the criteria the quality of facilities or is there an attempt to make sure that, say, a small country like Wales gets a fair crack of the whip?
  (Mr Callicott) What we are saying is that we at UK Sport cannot tell the sport what it will do. If there were four bids going forward, all we can try to do is facilitate it. In most cases at the Olympic sports, it is slightly easier, because there is a Great Britain team that goes to represent the whole of this country in the Olympic games. Therefore, with Olympic sports it is a little easier to try to pull together the equivalent of a Great Britain board. And the Great Britain board then has to determine whatever its voting procedure as to which has the best bid forward. In some cases it may be Scotland, in some cases Northern Ireland. For example, the World Cross-Country Championships went to Belfast only last year. The World Boxing Championships are going to Belfast this year. Scotland has just been staging some very big events also. So Wales is in with as good a chance of staging those events as any other constituent part of the United Kingdom and it would receive our support if it was the decision of the relevant governing body to bid for it. In some cases Wales will be able to bid in its own right because it may be that it is affiliated directly to the international organisation of sport, be it European or world.

  143. You are a funding organisation. Would you use sanctions to encourage particular governing bodies to play along with your clearance system?
  (Mr Callicott) At the moment, no, we have not considered that as an option. We have not discussed that as any option at the moment. And, to be honest, I do not think we would welcome that. It has to be something that the international federation ... One of the other issues, for example, that may be taken into consideration is: If the facility exists to stage an event—and certainly Cardiff Castle has staged some great cross-country events in the recent past, and I am sure it could do again—there is nothing stopping the Welsh AAAs for Cardiff and the Welsh Sports Council and us putting in a future bid at some point in the future for that type of event. It does not require the building of a major new facility for the staging of a major international sporting event. Bala up in North Wales has been the venue for white water canoeing. The water comes down there beautifully, it fits ideally what white water canoeing is about. So it is a question, it seems to me, of choosing certain events appropriate to the population density and the demographics of the interest of sport, and also the location of the venues that would be needed and the ancillary facilities in order to support that particular event.

Mr Edwards

  144. May I just ask you if you can clarify the different roles between UK Sport and the Sports Council of Wales.
  (Mr Callicott) Certainly. I gave a brief right at the beginning, Mr Edwards on the four major responsibilities we have. We have no locus for the building or planning or the strategic development of any facilities. We are taking a United Kingdom perspective, and that means trying to work with the four home countries, in this case, particularly, with the Sports Council for Wales. The chairman of the Welsh Sports Council, Gareth Davies, sits on my board and he is supported by the chief executive. He also sits on the Central Services Board for the United Kingdom Sports Institute and we have a range of different people that are involved in that process. The Welsh Sports Council will look at Wales. Our job is to look at the whole of the United Kingdom. You would be right if you were thinking that that has potential for a slightly different perspective on life. "Yes, it does," is the short answer, because we tend to look at things from a United Kingdom perspective and try to look after Great Britain's interest and involvement in international sport; and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England tend to look at it from their own perspective. What we hope we do is that we bridge any differences that there might be. So, for example, a Welsh athlete—and I use that word generically, not specific to the sport—who shows some real talent could well be on a world-class performance programme funded by UK Sport and there could well be a Welsh national athlete who is funded by Sport Wales.

  145. Do you think we as politicians/parliamentarians, be it at the Assembly or in Westminster, can be doing more to promote sport in our countries, in Wales?
  (Mr Callicott) The short answer to that is: "Absolutely. Yes, please"—and I would be delighted to brief you on the sorts of issues. But, essentially, I happen to believe—and the Government is laying out its various strategies on the way it will handle sport, which is something that we welcome—that we have had far too many years where sport has not been seen to be playing its part in the education process and the education system. I think there have been far too many years where there has been a lack of appreciation that sport brings benefits, if you like, which will benefit this country in the long term by having a much fitter, much more active lifestyle with youngsters the sooner that they get into an activity (whatever it may be). So ill health and the funding of the Health Service will—I think there is considerable evidence now coming out—benefit if we invest in that. It will also reduce crime. It is also a worthy activity in its own right for fun and enjoyment. It is a question of trying to make sure that those youngsters and general society as a whole who choose to participate, who happen to have a particular talent, can do so, and it is our job then to help to develop that to its natural conclusion. So anything that Members of Parliament can do to try to put pressure on governments to recognise that local authorities are going through particularly bad times in funding leisure and sport. New departments are being created, sport is being squeezed, there is not enough money to continue to keep all of the things going, and more money is needed. So for all the sports clubs, the voluntary sector clubs that need it, yes, there is lots of evidence to support that. That is not a criticism of government, because government is doing a very good job in trying to develop it, but we would welcome Members of Parliament across the whole of the United Kingdom, and especially those of you here, to help us in that cause.
  (Mr Scott) May I add one point, which I think has already been raised, which you could look at—and we have made a plea regularly to government—the taxation issue. I think this is something where you could seriously take a look. The international comparison which has already been drawn out is very real. It is actually one of the disadvantages we face now in trying to secure events, for example—this is just one more example—and, more importantly, the benefits that flow to volunteer organisations like national government bodies because of the taxation system here do disadvantage them. I think that is something you could look at very seriously.

  146. Could I finally offer the support of those of us who are parliamentarians who are still active in sport. You may know that we had a Parliamentary World Cup tournament the week before the Rugby World Cup here, which was supported by six countries, including South Africa and Japan, which really did help to establish political links as well as sporting links. We play football. I am in the football team and the rugby team. We played football at Wembley. We would be delighted to come and play at the Millennium Stadium here. We played rugby at Twickenham. I just offer the parliamentary sporting teams' help in a great cause.
  (Mr Gethin) Are you available on 3 February!

  Mr Edwards: Indeed.

  Chairman: I do not think you would have shooting—the only thing I do—in your Millennium Stadium. I think we have run the course of our questions. If there is anything that occurs to you that might further our inquiry, please feel free to drop us a line about it. Thank you very much for coming today. It has been very useful.

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