Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by UK Sport



  1.  The United Kingdom Sports Council (UK Sport), welcomes the opportunity to provide the Select Committee with written evidence on the issue of the 2005 World Championships in Athletics and addresses the following three points as requested:

    —  Our view on the options available to the Government with regards to 2005.

    —  To assess the implications of Picketts Lock on the staging of future events in the UK.

    —  To determine the lessons to be learned from the Picketts Lock process.

  2.  UK Sport was established by Government to be the lead agency for the attraction and staging of major events in the UK. UK Sport has agreed a national policy and strategy for the hosting of major events with the support of the home country sports councils and the endorsement of Government. In this we co-ordinate the work with the national governing bodies, cities and local authorities. Examples have been provided in previous evidence but recent work includes the Rugby World Cup and the SFA bid for the European Football Championships. This Strategy includes the so-called "mega-events" of the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, Commonwealth Games and World Championships in Athletics (WCA). Previous evidence has explained the decision of Government to divide responsibilities between UK Sport and Sport England as it relates to these four biggest sport events. This separation of responsibilities has undoubtedly contributed to the lack of consistency, co-ordination and continuity in dealing with the development of proposals for this important event.

  3.  UK Sport has developed and continues to refine a leading industry-based knowledge and understanding of major events supported by its Major Events Steering Group comprising leading practitioners in the field. This experience has been a key ingredient in the successful staging and delivery of 35 events and 11 bidding exercises of World and European standard since we assumed this role in 1998. As the Committee acknowledged in its report in March 2001, this admirable record is sometimes overshadowed by our failure to attract certain high profile events such as the World Cup and the Olympics. The clarity of our responsibility for these events has assisted greatly in their success with confirmed funding and additional support services improving the quality of delivery.

  4.  UK Sport was responsible for the assessment of the bid and operational viability of the WCA that were to be staged in 2003 in Wembley. Sport England was responsible for consideration of support for the staging costs and any capital development required. On the basis of an extensive examination of the bid proposal which was based on a track being installed in the re-developed Wembley, UK Sport agreed a Lottery grant of £260,000 towards the bid costs having received an assurance from Sport England that they supported an "in principle" contribution to the staging costs of the event of £15 million. This was the assessed level of public support needed for the operational costs of the event at Wembley excluding the installation costs of the platform. The subsequent failure of the Wembley re-development causes a review of alternatives concluding with the proposal for Picketts Lock in the Lee Valley. UK Sport supported this decision on the understanding that the required funding package could be assembled and that the necessary infrastructure improvements could be delivered for 2005. Government's representatives involved in the selection process gave this assurance.

  5.  The detailed development of the Picketts Lock stadium and its assessment did not involve UK Sport, it being a responsibility of Sport England to lead in accordance with the Government's division of responsibilities. Thus, whilst having the strategic national responsibility for major events, UK Sport was not in a position to assume this lead responsibility with regards to the WCA. We have continued to monitor the situation and have provided regular advice to the Government with regard to the importance of this event to the national strategy—endorsed by Government—for the staging of major events over the next 12 years. The loss of this event seriously damages this Strategy and undermines our ability to secure any events in an openly competitive situation.


  6.  In its previous evidence UK Sport provided the Committee with details of its role with regard to major events and its strategy for securing events for the UK as a whole. This strategy has been operational for nearly three years and we have been building considerable experience and knowledge which is being shared across bidding and staging consortia across the UK. Securing and staging of the World Championships in Athletics—one of the most significant international sports events in the world—has been integral to this strategy. This event provides a key platform in our strategy to demonstrate organisational and technical competence to the international community. Without staging this event, it would be impossible to mount a credible Olympic bid at some time in the future. As such we are disappointed that a London solution could not be found thereby providing a modern, leading edge athletics stadium that could be used as part of the facility mix for a London Olympics.

  7.  Following the most recent Major Events Steering Group (MESG) meeting (3 October 2001) Members mandated the Chairman, Adrian Metcalfe OBE to write urgently to the Secretary of State about the rumoured decisions of the Government to pull out of Picketts Lock. The letter outlined the serious concerns of the MESG and the potential implications to the UK and UK Sport's Major Events Strategy, were London to withdraw from hosting the WCA. The MESG was fully aware of the strategy of the IAAF to see its world championships hosted in a series of major world cities as part of their global marketing plan in association with new sponsors. As such, it was convinced that any other city in the UK would not find favour with the IAAF. Having excellent contacts with the IAAF also meant that Members were aware that the IAAF had taken Government undertakings to deliver a stadium in London for the Championships, as a guarantee they would happily accept without a written contract. This information had been shared with the Government on a number of occasions. The Group felt it imperative to express these views, as it had not been involved in the event decision-making process since it had supported the successful bid in 1999.


  8.  In UK Sport's view, the possible options available to the Government are as follows:

    —  Find another site in London.

    —  Seek to exchange the event for 2007.

    —  Put a bid in for another UK city.

    —  Revisit Picketts Lock.

    —  Accept the event has been lost.

  9.  As has already been reported to the Committee, an exhaustive exercise was undertaken to review possible site options in London for an athletics stadium. Having rejected Twickenham for a number of reasons, Picketts Lock was considered the only option worth pursuing. It would therefore be fair to assume that there are currently no other viable sites when looking at planning permission, transport infrastructure, the footprint required and the limited timescale now available.

  10.  It is questionable as to whether the WCA could be moved to 2007 since the event has already been moved once by the kind permission of the IAAF (originally scheduled for 2003). In light of the open criticism of the handling of this event by the media and the known interest of other cities such as Budapest and Berlin, it is almost certain that they would not allow this. This rejection would create further embarrassment and seriously damage and undermine any aspiration for hosting the World Cup or Olympics in the short or medium term.

  11.  At meetings held between the Government, UK Athletics and the IAAF in advance of the recent World Half Marathon in Bristol, it was made clear that the event was awarded to London and that should another city in the UK wish to bid it would have to do so as part of an international competition. Whilst certain alternative cities have been examined as part of the Carter Review, UK Sport was not part of this exercise—despite our strategic responsibility along with the national governing body for the sanctioning of bids. Indeed, it is a policy of UK Sport (supported by the Home Country Sports Councils) that no bid requiring lottery or exchequer support should go forward with UK Sport endorsement. UK Sport would wish to undertake a proper feasibility evaluation as to whether any new bid from the UK could be successful in the current climate. We are sceptical that the MESG would be able to support another bid based on the views expressed by the IAAF since the decision not to proceed with a London solution.

  12.  In light of the conclusions made above, the only viable option in our opinion would be to revisit Picketts Lock. UK Sport was not consulted on the Carter Report, despite having been involved in the preparation of the event's operational budget and conducting a detailed evaluation of the three previous World Championships. We have not therefore, been in a position to comment on its conclusions in advance of their acceptance by Government. It could well be possible to revisit the proposal and determine whether any significant design changes could be made to reduce costs. Further, Government could be asked to clarify its willingness to ensure the necessary transport improvements and meet any shortfall in capital costs. This, however, seems a slim possibility in light of the rapidly approaching IAAF Council meeting where a final decision on the 2005 event will be made.

  13.  The final option, and probably the most regrettable but most realistic, would be to acknowledge that if there is no viable London option, that the Championships have been lost and the Government should therefore undertake an exercise of damage limitation. UK Sport's views of the long-term ramifications of such a decision have been well advanced in this submission. The British Olympic Association who has indicated that discussions with the new International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, tend to confirm the view that a future British Olympic bid would be seriously undermined by the failure of the WCA and therefore concurs with this view.


  14.  From an external perspective, the international sporting community will now be questioning the UK's desire to stage major events. If we are unable to successfully stage the World Athletics Championships, the third largest event behind the Olympics and the Football World Cup, then should we even be considered as an option of hosting the first and second largest World Class Events. As stated previously the ramifications for not hosting these Championships will be damaging for several years to come.

  15.  With regards to the 2012 Olympic aspiration, UK Sport would suggest that we now have a potential weakness that could be exploited by our competitors. Delivery of Government promises is a key to any successful bid, as the role of Government is central to the ultimate success of a Games. Whilst the logic of such a decision may be clear to Government, international perception will be that sport is not taken as seriously in the UK and that Government is disposed to renege on commitments. It is now difficult to judge whether the UK can overcome these serious disadvantages with any bid, immaterial of its technical quality, and justify the high costs of mounting a bidding campaign.

  16.  In broader terms, the impact on our ability to secure other World and European level events is unlikely to seriously be damaged except in very competitive situations where, as stated above, our competitors can exploit our history to their advantage. Clearly any event that requires a new facility to be constructed could not go forward with watertight guarantees, that it will be built or better still, that it be constructed prior to any bid.


  17.  UK Sport believes that there are critical lessons to be learned from Picketts Lock. Firstly there needs to be a co-ordinated world class facility strategy for the whole of the UK. This needs to address both the needs of a national wishing to compete on the international stage for world's biggest events with the ongoing domestic viability of costly facilities. Devolution has raised the issue of home nation national facilities but UK Sport would argue this needs to be seen within the context of an overall national plan that limits costly duplication. Such a plan needs to marry the aspirations of individual communities with the known quality and locational preferences of the international federations who ultimately award events to a city or country.

  18.  It is UK Sport's belief that there needs to be one lead Government agency for major events in order to allow "joined up thinking" and ensure proper co-ordination across the diverse demands of a large scale sporting event. Such an agency should be a key stakeholder in their staging, both in terms of the facility development and the organisational logistics. It the Government was to acknowledge one recognised agency, it will need to have the ability to access or pull down appropriate levels of funding. Bearing in mind the experience of the IAAF contract we would also contend that it would need to be able to sign contracts on behalf of the Government to provide the necessary guarantees or underwriting to the international federation. Such an agency needs to be supported by professionals who understand the business of major events and are in a position to advise on the best ways of capitalising on the potential events provide to the country. It would not be appropriate in our view to take this responsibility inside Government.

  19.  The Major Events Steering Group of UK Sport has a wealth of expertise in securing, promoting and running events, and should be utilised both by organisers and the Government. Our experience to date has demonstrated how this input can improve the delivery of events and increase the positive impact they have in a number of fields. Having been established to fulfil a strategic and support role, UK Sport and its MESG should be empowered by Government to fulfil a proper national co-ordination and development role in major events.

  20.  Credibility is an intangible, but vital quality for any nation wishing to secure the right (and in many international federations eyes, the privilege) of hosting major events. We have clearly learnt the lesson that such credibility takes time to establish and hard work to maintain but can be destroyed very quickly when promised commitments are not delivered. If the system is not prepared to deliver on promises made at the bid stage, we should not bid in the first place. The fact that undertakings were given by the Minister of Sport, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and endorsed by the Prime Minister, made it imperative the Government deliver in the eyes of the international community. There has been confusion in the minds of the IAAF about changes in the Government's position following changes in ministerial office.

  21.  It must be acknowledged that in order to stage any event of this scale that the costs involved will be considerable. This needs to be recognised by any key stakeholder. It also needs to be recognised that any event of this scale requires a strong transport and accommodation structure and this requires significant investment. There needs to be a greater sense of willingness to work with, rather than against, such events, to ensure their success for the benefit of the country as a whole.

17 October 2001

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