Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1 - 19)



  Chairman: Gentlemen, I would like to welcome you to this first public session of this Select Committee in the new Parliament. I am very grateful to you for coming and coming at such short notice. Could I explain that for those who expected to see Tessa Jowell here today, the Prime Minister has given Tessa Jowell, as you perhaps know, the responsibility for helping the families of British people who were killed in the attack on the World Trade Centre and she has had to go to New York to carry out that responsibility. But she is coming here next week. Could I also say this: this is a long-running saga and I think it is accurate to say that if only the Government had listened to this Select Committee, we would not be in this pickle now about where to stage the World Athletics Championships and whether, and if so where, there is to be a national stadium. It is possible of course that Sheffield may benefit from this particular situation and we are very grateful to you for being here today.

John Thurso

1.  Can I ask, first of all, what makes you think that the IAAF would consider a bid from Sheffield and what estimate of the percentage of the chance of it being successful or otherwise you may have made.

  (Mr Kerslake) The reason why we think they should seriously consider Sheffield is that we have excellent facilities in Sheffield to hold the championships. We have the experience of a long track record of running events: over 400 international and national events in the last decade or so. We have the infrastructure in the city: transport and other infrastructure. We can provide the bed spaces, the hotels, the entertainment—all the things that would go with making a successful championship. We are absolutely committed as a city to making it work. In fact the only thing we cannot offer to the IAAF is that we are not a capital city. That is the only thing we feel we cannot offer. What we would say to the IAAF is, "Look at Sheffield seriously. It can host an excellent championships." If you look at the track record of the championships of course, by 2005 only two of these last six will have been in capital cities. Other cities that have hosted the championships have been comparable in size and structure to Sheffield. So we know we can do the job. I think the issue in terms of your second question is: I cannot calculate that; that is only something that those who are involved in the IAAF will calculate. What we can say is, "Come and look at Sheffield because we have a great deal to offer for these championships."

2.  The point I was really driving at is that, given what has happened with the current bid it is reasonable to suppose that the IAAF might not look favourably on the UK at all in the new bid process. Consequently, it would be wise for you to have made some estimate of the likelihood of the bid even being allowed to be entertained, before committing to what will obviously be a fair amount of expenditure for the city. I wondered what estimate you have made of that, if any.

  (Mr Kerslake) I do not believe we have committed any significant sums of money at this stage other than to prepare a proposal (which is the time and effort and expertise of staff within the city). I just do not think it is helpful for the city to try and speculate on the decisions of the IAAF really. I think they have to make their own decisions now. I can understand why they must be disappointed, having fixed on London, but, in terms of their choices, that is a matter they have got to consider and we just await the outcome of the decisions in November. But we are not committing big sums. I think it would be misleading to suggest that we are. We have made our pitch, we think it is a good one, and we await the outcome of the decisions of the IAAF.

  Chairman: Thank you. It may be that it is something we ought to ask the minister, the Secretary of State, when she comes. It is a bit baffling to me as to why the IAAF insists on a capital city in this country when they certainly did not in Canada.

Alan Keen

3.  Welcome. May I say that I know Bob Kerslake well because he was chief executive of Hounslow, where my constituency is. The first question I would like to ask you is this. Surely there must be some bitter resentment in Sheffield over the debts that I understand are still being paid from the Student Games. How do you convince the people of Sheffield that it is a good thing?

  (Mr Kerslake) It has been a long-standing issue, the debts, not so much from the games themselves but the cost of providing the facilities. I think in many ways the city wants to put that behind them now and there is all-party recognition of that. Yes, they would like some support and help on it, but in the end they want to move forward and put that long-standing debate behind them really. I think the way people in Sheffield see it is that we have these facilities, they are excellent facilities, they are a national resource, if you like, and we would like some recognition of their potential and the opportunity to host championships like this and others. I think what people in Sheffield feel is: "We've got them, let's make use of them". We really would welcome some recognition by national sporting bodies of what we have to offer.

4.  You say that the Government will provide the cash for it. Are you confident of that? Have you had a chance to cost this out or are you just accepting that the Government will cover whatever the costs are? What analysis have you done?

  (Mr Kerslake) We have had at least a couple of discussions with officials. We are very clear that the capital costs will be covered, which we estimate to be in the order of £20 million, and that the revenue costs of hosting the games would be covered as well. That has been a clear understanding from the officials involved and it has been really part and parcel of us making our proposal. I have every confidence that those costs will be covered and, indeed, we would not be participating if that was not the case.

5.  Finally, what has been the response of the people of Sheffield that you have had, feedback so far, after saying you intended to make a bid?

  (Mr Kerslake) I guess the response that there has been, really since the announcement and the subsequent media coverage of that announcement, is a deal of frustration about how people, particularly in London, see the major cities outside of the south-east. We see them as tremendous resources for this country and in many ways major opportunities to tackle some of the regional imbalances that exist, and yet somehow or other it is not seen that way in other places. I think that sense of disappointment and frustration and lack of understanding of the potential of Britain's major cities—not just Sheffield, but other cities as well—is something that frustrates and disappoints us and you would not see in other parts of Europe.


6.  Could I just follow up the line of questioning that Mr Keen has embarked upon. You have had, I think it is fair to say, a dismaying experience with the World Student Games. The Government has, I believe rightly, but some people might also add generously, given financial support to the Commonwealth Games that are going to take place next year in Manchester. One of the things I would like to know is, let us just assume that the IAAF decides that Sheffield is a suitable venue, would you then be coming forward with what some people might describe as a begging bowl to the Government, asking for financial support for the staging of the World Athletics Championships were they to take place in Sheffield?

  (Mr Kerslake) I think, to be clear, it would not be a begging bowl. It has been a clear basis on which we were invited to put forward Sheffield that the costs, the revenue costs of running the championships, would be covered by the UK Government. That has been a clear understanding. The same would have applied for Manchester; the same would have applied for Picketts Lock. The issue that we have been asked about is: Will we cover any consequential costs from enhancing the facilities? And the clear answer to that is yes. I think in many ways the issue is the same for Sheffield as it is for Manchester, or indeed would have been for Picketts Lock: the capital costs would be covered through Lottery funds and the revenue costs by the UK Government, and what the city provides is the backing and support and the facilities it has already.

7.  How would revenue costs be defined? What expenditure headings would they include?

  Because, as you know—you would know probably better than anybody—staging these events is not simply a matter of covering the costs of staging the actual events; there are all kinds of ancillary costs, which can be extremely heavy.
  (Mr Kerslake) Perhaps I had better hand that over to Steve, who has been involved in the costings.
  (Mr Brailey) We provided a detailed schedule of costs to Patrick Carter's review team which totalled £20 million. Those were costs which we, without being party to an IAAF specification, believed would be the capital costs of running the facility development. In meetings with Patrick Carter's review team we did talk about a number of items of expenditure which could either fit into the revenue or the capital cost category, but the £20 million we agreed was the final figure for capital costs. All the other expenditure will be met out of revenue costs.
  (Mr Kerslake) All I would say is that the Carter report talks about a figure of something like £35 million for the revenue costs of this, and we are absolutely convinced that we could do it for less than that in Sheffield.

Michael Fabricant

8.  I really want to pursue the same line of questioning. You have spoken about the excellent facilities at Don Valley and elsewhere—and in fact I remember, when I was on the committee some while back, we visited it—but perhaps you could say in a little bit more detail what sort of capital expenditure—you have talked about £20 million—what it would involve. Do you need warm-up tracks? Is extra seating required? Does there need to be movement of existing seating? How is that £20 million—if, indeed, it turns out to be £20 million—going to be spent?

  (Mr Kerslake) We are quite happy, if it would be helpful, to provide a detailed breakdown of our calculation of costs to the Committee. But if I run through the costs in very summary terms that we are talking about, the main cost is in terms of enhancing the seating capacity, which costs something like £7 million.

9.  What is the seating capacity now and what would it be increased to?

  (Mr Kerslake) The seating capacity on this calculation would take you up to a figure of 38,000 seats for spectators, of which 30,000 would be permanent and about 8,000 temporary. They are the rough figures we are talking about. We could go higher than that if that was a requirement of the IAAF but that is the calculation we have done. In addition to that there would be resurfacing of the track; there would be temporary facilities (such as toilets, etc); alteration/refurbishment to car-parking space; a media centre (which would obviously be a vital requirement); and some replacement of seating and other related costs (a fairly small amount) and so on. I can provide a full detailed list of these costs, but the main costs would be around expanding capacity to meet the requirements, some basic refurbishment of the facilities, and the temporary requirements that come with hosting a championship. Otherwise the facilities would be there already.

10.  Can you say how many seats there were at Edmonton?

  (Mr Kerslake) The figure, I think, was 43,000 from memory.
  (Mr Brailey) I am not sure of the exact figure. I think it was just over 50,000 but the average attendance was in the region of 30,000.

11.  You are aware, are you not, that the IAAF may want to have in the order of 60,000 to 65,000 seats, and yet you are planning, as you say, for 38,000 seats of which only 30,000 are permanent.

  (Mr Brailey) Picketts Lock was due to be 43,000. Our first proposal allowed for 43,000 seats.

12.  You think that the IAAF now, who are asking for 65,000 seats, are going to be satisfied with only 38,000?

  (Mr Brailey) Well, they were satisfied and accepted the Picketts Lock bid, which involved 43,000 seats.

13.  But you have not even reached 43,000. You are saying 38,000. And Picketts Lock, of course, is London, in a capital city, which, as you quite rightly point out, has certain more attractions, although that might not be so logical as maybe it ought to be. [1]

  (Mr Kerslake) I think we need to distinguish the place from the facility. If we could just deal with the facilities first. We calculate 38,000 based on our assessment of the requirements that actually occurred in Edmonton, but if the IAAF came back and said, "We want exactly the same number of spaces that were being offered at Picketts Lock," which was 43,000, we could readily get there. What we did was to calculate what we thought was actually required on the basis of the previous experience.

  Chairman: Could I intervene there because you have raised a very important matter. I think it would be as well for us here and now to ask the clerks to get us the figures for the capacity at Edmonton, and it might be useful, in order to see exactly what the IAAF are up to, to find out what were the maximum attendances and what were the average attendances at the World Athletics Championships, say, for the last four.

Michael Fabricant

14.  You mentioned the 43,000 at Picketts Lock and this has obviously been a consideration. Have you assessed how much extra money, capital, would be required if you were to provide that 43,000 seating?

  (Mr Brailey) £4.5 million to bring it to 43,000 as opposed to 38,000.

15.  So, roughly, you would be asking for £25 million from the Lottery if that were necessary.

  (Mr Brailey) That is correct.

16.  Have you had any discussions with the Lottery boards to find out whether they would be willing to provide that level of funding?

  (Mr Brailey) No, we were not asked to provide that. All we did was provide the relevant information to the Patrick Carter review team.
  (Mr Kerslake) And subsequently in the meetings with officials from the DCMS and Sport England, so both the DCMS and Sport England were aware of our calculations at the time. So as not to lose the point: we estimated the requirement of 38,000 based on our knowledge of what had been required; if it is higher, we can do it. I think that is the point.

17.  Can I ask, if I may Chairman, one final question. Although you were fairly specific in your introduction about the cost of capital expenditure, you were a little more vague, if you do not mind my saying, about the revenue costs. I wonder if you could amplify that a little bit and also perhaps explain to the Committee to what degree you would have agreement with government—because that is what you implied—that the revenue costs will be supported by the Government. You said, I believe, that you have spoken with officials. By implication, that means you have not spoken yet with ministers, but perhaps I am wrong.

  (Mr Kerslake) You are quite correct to say we have not spoken with ministers. Our dealings on this issue have been through officials at this stage. In terms of the costs, we can only go on the figures that were quoted in the Carter report because clearly calculation of the detailed costs of staging the games in Sheffield will be something that would have to be worked up from here. The process of decision making, I think, has been first of all to establish the feasibility of Picketts Lock. So it was not a question of saying: "Either Sheffield or Picketts Lock," the first question was: "Was Picketts Lock feasible?" and, if there were concerns about that, then what were the alternatives. Therefore, a lot more work would be required in terms of those detailed costs for Sheffield. What I am absolutely clear about is that there is a clear expectation from government to meet the revenue costs and there is an indicative calculation in the Carter report of some £35 million.


18.  The decision is going to be made—we are in mid October—almost in a matter of weeks. You tell us that you have assurances from officials of the department that the Government will meet revenue costs, but, taking into account that it will be a yes or a no—and it might be a yes—before the end of this year, have you been able with clarity to define what the revenue costs would be, so that you would not later on have to say, "Oh, dear, we have found that there are some more revenue costs and we are now asking the Government to deal with those as well." Because one of the things that has worried me throughout this and a number of other episodes on staging international sporting events, is that originally calculated costs never seem to be final costs, and once the Government has committed itself, even Gordon Brown, with all his legendary prudence, then seems obliged to dip into his kitty for money which he was never originally expected to provide.

  (Mr Kerslake) The officials to whom we have spoken have focused particularly on getting the capital costs calculation right and have said to us, basically, "We don't want surprises on that," and therefore we have given them a very clear calculation which we stand by and it includes contingencies and so on. The revenue costs is something about which we are not in a position to say with absolute certainty what that figure is. That would be the honest answer to your question because the detailed specification of what would be involved in that is something that would still need to be worked out for Sheffield. The only calculation that is available to us is what is in the Carter report. That issue that you have raised there I think applies wherever in this country the championships were held. I would submit that the risks of higher costs are likely to be higher in London than they are in Sheffield.

19.  We have been assured that propriety was observed within the department and that Mr Caborn absented himself when the proposed venue was decided upon. It has now been decided upon—whether it will be accepted by the international athletics people is a different matter—and there you are and Sheffield is the chosen venue of the Government and Mr Caborn is Minister of Sport and Member of Parliament for Sheffield. Does it concern you that, were it to go ahead, both you and he might be placed in an invidious position; namely, that he might feel the need to bend over backwards and not to be seen to be favouring you, or, on the other hand, that he might very, very understandably be very, very receptive to your approaches? I make no bones about the fact that with regard to the Commonwealth Games I pressed the Manchester case extremely strongly with ministers all along the way, but then I am in the happy position of being irresponsible and Mr Caborn is not.

  (Mr Kerslake) First of all, to put it beyond doubt, the Minister has not been involved in the process and has stayed out of it and we have been very clear about the independent nature of the Carter review and decisions thereon. I think on the second point you raise, the Minister is obviously in his constituency role a great champion of the city, but we would expect no favours whatsoever in the process of holding the championships. We would expect the same treatment as would be given to any city, including the position for Manchester, and we recognise that because of the Minister's particular role he would not be in a position to bat on our behalf in these circumstances. So we go into the process knowing that that is the case, that we would have to make our own arguments in this situation.

1   Edmondton 2001 World Championships in Athletics:

Maximum stadium capacity: 60,000 (varying during the Championships on a daily basis due to different configurations required due to fit-out needs, photo-positions, athletes' seating, VIP seating, television camera positions etc. Average event-day capacity was 45,000 with seating for 55,000 for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Attendance was as follows:

Day One (Opening Ceremonies and Men's Marathon)
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven
Day Eight
Day Nine
Day Ten (Finals and Closing Ceremonies)
Total over 10 days


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 20 November 2001