Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



Derek Wyatt

20.  Good morning. I understand you met the IAAF in Edmonton during the World Championships.

  (Mr Kerslake) Sheffield did not officially meet the IAAF. We sent one representative from Sheffield International Venues to Edmonton but we did not send a delegation to Edmonton.

21.  Who was that person?

  (Mr Brailey) Wayne Coyle, who is head of our major sports events team in Sheffield.

22.  What was the purpose of his going?

  (Mr Kerslake) His sole purpose in going was really that, following the announcement of the Carter review and the early visit by the Carter team, we felt there was sufficient potential, if you like, to make it worthwhile sending someone to Edmonton to be basically clear whether or not there were issues for Sheffield in holding the games. So we sent someone out to find out for themselves what actually happened and they produced their own report on the requirements in order to host the championships. So it was for our benefit to know what was involved in holding the championships.

23.  So you formally met or informally met the IAAF.

  (Mr Kerslake) I do not think he met the IAAF. I would be very surprised if he did because he went simply as someone to find out what was happening. I do not expect he did meet them actually.
  (Mr Brailey) I can say categorically that he did not meet the IAAF.

24.  Just coming back to the £40 million. We have had in the past the Secretary of State saying he categorically can assure us that £65 million would be put aside for Picketts Lock and then Sport England saying categorically that it has not been put aside. You are now saying categorically that £40 million, it looks as though the officials are saying, is categorically going to be made available. But is it the department that is going to pay or is it Sport England?

  (Mr Kerslake) My understanding is that there are two parts to this. One is the capital costs, which would be Lottery funded, the £20 million. The revenue costs would be for the UK Government. It seems to me that the question of whether that has been put aside is something that you need to address to them.

25.  The IAAF now has a championship every other year. Some of us feel that demeans athletics, that there is too much, because athletics is the centre of the Olympics as well in the third year of the four-year cycle. Looking at the figures, the year after the Olympics, spectators go down substantially and world records fall. There are not so many world records the year after. The year before the Olympics, many more of the athletics see it is a stepping-stone to their preparation. We are in that cycle where 2005 is the year after. Is there as much excitement for those games amongst the athletes and the media as there is for the one that is the year before?

  (Mr Brailey) A difficult question to answer with any certainty. If you look at the attendances for the world championships over the last probably eight different events there does not appear to have been a dip in spectator attendances in the years following the Olympics.

26.  I have got them here. Do you want me to tell you that there has been? For instance, in 1995 there were 592,000; in 1997 there were 361,000; in 1999 there were 497,000; and this year there were 400,000. So the year after the Olympics, there was a substantial drop. And, anyway, you do not know whether they were fee paying or free tickets. Edmonton was empty for lots of the days that I saw it.

  (Mr Kerslake) I think the point about the capacity of the stadium is relevant here. Part of the fact that it looks so empty, of course, is it is a bigger capacity stadium that we are talking about here. You may be right about this. It is not something we have given consideration to. Even if it is on a lower level of activity in the circumstances you have described, it is still the third largest sporting event in the world. It is still a major opportunity for a city like Sheffield. So, even on the lower attendance, you are still talking about 400,000 attendees at Edmonton.

27.  Just reviewing this, there was no bid for this. It was a conversation between Nebiolo and UK Athletics one day to say, "You deliver this; we will deliver that." Now we have this mess. Would you like to see the UK Sports Council actually define the bidding systems, so that there is fair and equal opportunity for all cities to bid for these world events?

  (Mr Kerslake) I think clearly a more structured process would assist in this situation. Clearly you rightly say that what has occurred here has not been a structured process. It has been a series of decisions in the light of circumstances that moved from Wembley to Picketts Lock; it did not involve a wider canvass of the opportunities at the time. Clearly there would be benefits in a more structured process, yes.


28.  Mr Wyatt has raised some very valid concerns. It is perfectly obvious, is it not, that at present, and maybe for a number of years to come, there is an almost insatiable appetite for people to go and watch football. It is the most popular sporting event, probably the most popular cultural event, that takes place in this country and throughout the world where soccer is played. On the other hand, there is no evidence that there is a huge appetite for people wanting to go to Spain to watch athletics. It is one thing for people to turn on either their terrestrial TV or their digital sports channel and sit and watch athletics events for a bit, but, taking into account your own somewhat bruising experience with the World Student Games and taking into account the commitments you have been told about (the Government providing the revenue costs), do you believe that there are enough people who are in this country or who would come into this country to provide large audiences to justify the staging of the games? One of the things that has been said recently, I think by Mr Carter, is that basically people watch all of these things on television but it does not much matter where they take place, and the great thing for British athletes and competitors is to win and get trophies, regardless of what particular spot on the earth they achieve this.

  (Mr Kerslake) Clearly the ability to watch the championships on television is an important factor and there has to be a realism about the scale of these events. I actually think that goes to the point about why the aspiration is there for capital cities. If your argument is correct—and I think there is a point about that—what is the essential need for a capital city, given that it brings with it almost certainly higher costs and major issues in terms of congestion? But, in terms of our experience in Sheffield, we have had the largest attendance at events in this country for athletics. We have had three capacity events with 25,000 attendance. Although the financial impact of the student games was considerable, the actual impact on the city when the games were held was very positive. I was not there at the time, but many people who were have commented on it. So I think it is right to say that there must be a realism about the scale of attendance of these events and the aspirations behind them: one of the reasons why we have gone for a capacity that we think is perfectly able to cope with the actual requirements that there were at Edmonton. But even with that reduced involvement, there is still a huge boost to cities such as Sheffield from such events, that has a major impact, a regenerative impact, on the city, and that should not be lost. So I think you can have the best of both worlds: you can have good facilities for athletes and regeneration of cities and you can have availability to see those things on television and in other ways. I would question the policy of the IAAF in saying: "It is capital cities or nothing." That seems, in the light of what you have said, an unwise way to go forward.

Michael Fabricant

29.  I just want to follow up that rather interesting line of questioning and your remarks with regard to capital cities. We know that when the considerations were being made for the selection of a city for the Olympic Games—and it does not always have to be a capital city, in fact it has not been of late—they tended to be what I would call "sexy locations". They are locations which are not only good for the events but also for the wives of competitors and so on and so forth to come along and, indeed, for the committees who actually make the decision as to where the location is going to be held. Do you think Sheffield perhaps suffers from the fact that it does not have quite the glamour—or maybe you will argue that it does—of London. Indeed, does the climate come into it? I do not think there is a huge climatic difference between London and Sheffield, but there might be a perception that there is.

  (Mr Kerslake) I think this is more about perception than reality. I was a chief executive in west London for five years before going to Sheffield and I can tell you now that the quality of life in Sheffield infinitely exceeds that in London.

30.  I am sure you are right in what you say, but is perception not more important? Unless you can change the perception of the IAAF are you not going to be always at a disadvantage.

  (Mr Kerslake) I think it is about changing the perception of the people in this country towards major cities, because if there is not that level of confidence in what we can achieve ourselves, how in hell can we persuade the IAAF of the arguments?

  Chairman: You are quite right about the climate actually, Michael—and I am coming from Leeds. The fact is that the cold winds sweep across from Siberia, with no high ground to stop them until the Pennines, which is why Manchester has a much more benign climate!

Derek Wyatt

31.  Just to reverse the capital city, given September 11. It would be much easier for security in Sheffield, than in any capital city to maintain security, because of its location and scale. Is that not a plus?

  (Mr Kerslake) I think that is true. One of the thoughts I have considered is where as a chief executive would I like to be responsible for organising such a championship. In Sheffield or London? Sheffield would come ahead because we have at our disposal, in the same way as you do in Manchester, a much more coherent set of functions in one city. So I think security and the whole range of administrative things that go with organising championships like this are much easier to manage in a place like Sheffield. That is my personal view, having done both, if you like.

Rosemary McKenna

32.  As one who shares your view about how Londoners and perhaps the Government look at the capital city, is it your view that Sheffield is the only option to have a successful bid, to have it in place for 2005?

  (Mr Kerslake) I think our judgment is that that is correct. Manchester could clearly have been the location were it not for the issues around making available the facilities, which would have required negotiation with Manchester City Football Club. If you leave that out of account, then we believe that Sheffield is really the only viable location now for the UK to consider, given the time scales and the other issues involved.

Mr Bryant

33.  I agree with you about your issues about how cities other than London are perceived. Cardiff, I think, has been a revelation for many people who have had to go there for football matches, to the Millennium Stadium, and suddenly they have discovered a city which they did not realise was a great city in which to live. The day after the announcement that Picketts Lock was not going to happen and the IAAF seemed to make it pretty clear that they were not very interested in Sheffield, how surprised were you by their immediate reaction?

  (Mr Kerslake) We knew that this was a possibility from the IAAF. We had it very clear—and I take my hat off to those involved in the process. We were never at any time misled about the potential issues, about the choices and the potential that the IAAF would decide that they would not accept the alternative and go out for a new process. So I think we were always aware that that was a high possibility. I guess what surprised me was the strength of some of the comments they apparently made—and obviously there is a risk in commenting on press comment, if you see what I mean—at the time and I would have hoped there would have been a slightly more open approach to these issues in their deliberations.

34.  What I am really asking is do you think this is an entirely academic exercise, because the decision is effectively already made and it is not going to be Sheffield? Or how would you rate on a scale of one to ten your chances of actually having the championship in the year 2005?

  (Mr Kerslake) I have been asked that question before and I have refused to speculate on it.

35.  Go on!

  (Mr Kerslake) No, no, it is not my decision. What matters in a way is the extent to which there are ready alternatives to Sheffield in capital cities and the willingness of other capital cities to take on the responsibility. The Carter report highlights the fact that the costs of hosting events have become more onerous over time, the expectations have become higher, and there may be other factors in the minds of cities when they make their decision. For example, Berlin has been quoted as a potential host but, if anybody knows anything about the finances of Berlin just at the moment, they might think twice about taking on additional commitments. So I think a lot depends upon whether there are other capital cities that are willing to take on the burden that is involved here. Clearly, if there are, I suspect there is a high chance that the IAAF will go with that. But, rather than speculate, I would rather wait until the IAAF have met in November and see what the outcome of their discussion is.

36.  I am not sure about the process now. Will you be making a submission? Who makes the submissions? How will your position be considered by them?

  (Mr Kerslake) The way it works is that there is not at this stage a bidding process. There is not an invitation for proposals. That only happens when the IAAF meets on 26 November and decides whether it wishes to go out again. What happens at this stage is that the UK Government writes to the IAAF—or it may already have written—saying basically, "This is what we are now proposing," that is to say, Sheffield as the location. It is then for the IAAF to decide whether or not it goes out for a further round of bidding consultations.

Mr Doran

37.  Following on from what Chris has said, in a very short period of time you have got an awful lot of concentrated activity and at the end of it you have no way of knowing whether you will be successful or not, so clearly there has been a substantial amount of investment in time and resources. Can you just take us through a little bit how you see that time being spent and where your main focus is?

  (Mr Kerslake) I think we feel we have made the technical arguments about Sheffield. We have put forward a quite detailed submission to the Carter review. That is available to the IAAF. We have prepared information about the city to counter some of the perceptions that have been talked about. But actually I think our feeling is that there is not a huge amount of work that Sheffield has to do at this stage. I think the issue is about whether the key bodies in this country want to get behind the Sheffield proposal. I think that is the key issue. I think our task would be to talk to them and say, "We think Sheffield is the best opportunity for this country to be the host. Will you get behind us and support our proposals?"

38.  So it is basically a PR exercise locally. But in terms of the relations with the sports body, for example, are you doing any work there or are you assuming that is being done by government?

  (Mr Kerslake) I think we would want to, with government, talk to the sports bodies, get a better understanding of the issues for them and also to understand how best to make the arguments to the IAAF. It is obviously a more difficult process when there is not a bidding régime at this stage. There is nothing formally that we have to do at this stage.

39.  For example, you do not envisage having any direct contact with the IAAF?

  (Mr Kerslake) I do not think that would be appropriate unless they asked us. We would be very happy to host them if they wanted to come and see Sheffield and what we have to offer, but I think that must be in their court.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, I would like to thank you very much indeed. I am sure everybody hopes (a) that you get it and (b) it will be successful. Thank you.

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