Examination of Witnesses (Questions 127
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
Chairman: Sir Rodney, I would like to
welcome yourself and your Chief Executive here this morning. I
understand you have gone to some considerable trouble to be here
today, and I would like to thank you for taking the trouble.
127. You reviewed the Wembley situation in January.
Do you regret withdrawing athletics from it? Rod Sheard told us
last week, when he came here to answer questions, that it would
have been in time then to hold the Athletics Championships had
the planning and building started some time soon after January.
We have lost that chance now, have we not?
(Sir Rodney Walker) I think we need to
start back in December 1999, when the then-Secretary of State
announced that athletics had been withdrawn from Wembley National
Stadium. From that moment Wembley National Stadium Limited and
the Football Association, having committed the now famous £20
million repayment, have proceeded on the basis of a stadium for
football and rugby league only. It is fair to say that on 1 February
of this year, having done my review of the Wembley project, I
did in fact go to the Secretary of State and ask whether or not
they would like me to explore the possibility of reintroducing
athletics into Wembley. As I was advised that a decision had been
made that athletics would not form part of Wembley Stadium, and
that there was a commitment to an athletics stadium in London
for the World Athletics Championships, from that moment it has
not formed any part of my serious deliberations. Despite the fact
that towards the end of April/beginning of May a new design was
put to me by the architects for the Wembley project that did offer
some possibility of a new athletics deck solution at a much lower
cost than the original proposals.
128. Did you go back to the Secretary of State
at that point when you saw the new designs?
(Sir Rodney Walker) I do not believe I went back a
129. You just mentioned the £20 millionwith
your Wembley hat on, when is it going to be repaid?
(Sir Rodney Walker) The commitment is clearly there;
of that there is no doubt. I think the view of the Football Association
and Wembley National Stadium Limited, and perhaps even Sport England,
is that it will be swept up in the report presently being prepared
by Patrick Carter.
130. When you say "the commitment is clearly
there" perhaps you could clarify the situation. Mr Smith
was never able to clarify it. We were never able to establish
whether an actual piece of paper had been signed, who had signed
it, when it was signed and over what timescale it was agreed that
the £20 million should be repaid; nor, Sir Rodney, was it
ever clarified by the previous Secretary of State why it was £20
million rather than £25 million, £15 million or whatever.
(Sir Rodney Walker) As I think you know, Chairman,
these discussions took place between representatives of the Football
Association directly with the Secretary of State, and certainly
preceded my present involvement with Wembley National Stadium.
I was, however, part of the Board of WNSL, and I was aware that
the undertaking existed. I am not sure that it was ever formally
confirmed in writing. Certainly from the beginning that I became
chairman of the company, because athletics had been removed from
the stadium's intended usage, the FA and WNSL have always maintained
and recognised the fact that that £20 million would have
to be repaid; and that is the situation I feel pertains today.
131. That is very good of them to acknowledge
that, but I regard it as bizarreindeed far more than bizarrethat
£20 million of public money is somehow floating around, due
to be repaid by the FA to the Government, and yet nobody has ever
signed a piece of paper about it. This sounds to me a very strange
way of dealing with public money. Could I put another question
to you with regard to this: in view of the fact that the £120
million Lottery money was paid on the basis that Wembley would
be a stadium which was primarily a football stadium but also included
an athletics facility and that was not going to be the case, what
possible right did Wembley have to keep the £100 million?
Could I put another question to you. You may not have had the
opportunities (I understand you have been overseas) to have heard
that in fact £106 million of that £120 million Lottery
money was spent on purchasing the site. If you take £106
million from £120 million that leaves £14 million, and
yet we have still got the £20 million. Please be clear, Sir
Rodney, I am not ascribing any responsibility to you on this,
but since you are an extremely well informed observer, I think
we would all benefit from your views.
(Sir Rodney Walker) Why the figure of £20 million
was ever arrived at I, frankly, cannot assist you with, because
I am led to believe that the initial sum talked about was higher
than £20 million, but in the end a deal was struck at this
sum of £20 million. It is fair to say that £106 million
of the £120 million was spent in acquiring the footprint
of the existing Wembley Stadium, and the rest has gone on design
costs and generally getting us to where we are today. Plus an
awful lot of other money has been invested and spent by the Football
Association. Whether or not the sum of £20 million is the
right figure for the removal of athletics, it is for wiser people
than me to perform a judgment of that. My only interest is still
trying to find a solution to what is becoming a long, protracted
132. You have got a good, healthy, non-metropolitan
accentdo you really believe that it is essential that the
national stadium should be in London?
(Sir Rodney Walker) It is something I have always
been very clear about. Together with Derek Casey the then Chief
Executive of Sport England, when we began this process back in
1995 and we went through an exhaustive and thorough exercise in
reviewing all the opportunities, narrowing the five short-listed
bids down to the decision to look for a solution in London, and
having explored some thirty sites inside the M25, and reaching
the decision that Wembley was the right place, I thought then,
and I still believe, that the right place for a national stadium
is in the capital city. As I think we know from the IAAF, and
have indication from the IOC, that events of that magnitude are
only likely to be attracted to the UK if they are based in a capital
133. Did at any time UK Sport discuss Sheffield
as the alternative to London in the last three months?
(Sir Rodney Walker) UK Sport has not been invited
or taken part in any meeting regarding the World Athletics Championships.
134. Is that because you are irrelevant to the
sporting decision-making process, given that you are only the
(Sir Rodney Walker) Perhaps the Chief Executive would
like to comment. We have felt that as our Royal Charter gave us
the responsibility on behalf of Government to be involved in major
events, indeed as we are funded by way of the Lottery to assist
in the bidding of and staging of major events, I think it is fair
to say that since we were given that responsibility in 1999 we
have successfully assisted in the staging of over 35 European
and world events here in the UK. I think it is fair to say we
were a bit surprised not to have been invited to take part in
(Mr Callicott) The only thing I would add to that
is, since the Carter Review was first established I have not had
the opportunity of talking with or being contacted by Carter regarding
the whole question of the World 2005 Athletics. I do not know
the gentleman and would not know what questions he might have
135. Forgive me, I do not understand what point
there is then of creating you in1999?
(Mr Callicott) In reading the evidence that was given
last week, I think I would share your surprise that, having been
given the task of being set up as a major events organiser, and
I understand the Government has reconfirmed that position, we
believe that through our major events steering group we have the
best expertise available to undertake reviews of the appropriateness
of bids for world events; and we were involved in the original
assessment of whether the World 2005 Athletics bid would be worthwhile.
Since that time we have had an involvement, but when it came to
review of the 2005 WCA by Mr Carter we were not even contacted.
136. I think Adrian Metcalfe chairs your major
reviewdid he write to the Secretary of State? What did
you do as a body to complain about your position?
(Mr Callicott) You are quite right, Adrian Metcalfe
is the chairman of our Major Events Steering Group and certainly
he wrote to the Secretary of State when he became aware of rumours
that were circulating that might suggest that a decision was being
recommended that 2005 should not proceed on the basis of Picketts
Lock. At that point, although we had not been contacted by the
writer of the report, we wanted to put in writing that our position
was we were very concerned.
137. Sir Rodney, I have asked you this before
but it is worth continuing the debate: do you think really that
Sport England is the issue here; and if Sport England was broken
up into the RDAs, and that the map for England was based on regions
and you had the power in the UK to give us the vision for the
future of sport, do you think that would be better?
(Sir Rodney Walker) You ask me to answer, if I may
say so, an unfair question. It is for the Minister to decide;
and, I have to say, some of the indication coming from the Minister
is that that may be part of his intention. I have to say that
Sport England, in my judgment, has carried out a very proper role,
particularly in relation to Picketts Lock. I think it was their
increasing concern about the justification of the athletics stadium
on the value for money exercise that led to they themselves producing
a report which, in turn, led to the more recent events. I think
most of us who have been largely observers of these matters over
the last year or two have had a concern that on a value for money
basis it was always going to be difficult to justify a separate
stand-alone athletics stadium, because the associated infrastructure
costs were always there. They cannot have come as any surprise
to anyone, because even in the time that I accompanied the Secretary
of State, Len Hatton and David Moorcroft to Paris to secure the
rights, we knew then that there would be parallel investment required
in overcoming some of the difficulties in getting access to the
site. We have always known that the question of accommodation
was one that needed to be addressed. There were no surprises in
the circumstances surrounding the statement. I suppose the only
surprise might be, if there was never a commitment to spend that
amount of money, it is a shame it has taken so long to come to
138. I start with a comment that the Scottish
national stadium is not in the capital cityit is in Glasgow,
not Edinburgh; and it does not seem to prevent it from being very
successful. Given your experience and the length of time you have
been looking at this issue, do you really believe it is possible
to make the Wembley site into a multi-purpose stadium that would
bring together all the competing interests of football and athletics?
(Sir Rodney Walker) I am faced with a genuine dichotomy.
It has been put to me recently in correspondence that there is
a conflict between my role as Chairman of Wembley National Stadium
Limited and my role as Chairman of UK Sport. The reason I went
to Government on 1 February to see if they would be interested
in me exploring the possibility of reintroducing athletics was,
I suppose, not because football wanted me to do it (because they
clearly did not want me to do it) but I needed to know whether
it was an option that government still wanted me to look at. As
I have already reported, we know what the response was. I feel
that, at the present time, there is so much confusion around the
options for Wembley. As you probably know, what has now been exhaustively
explored is a scaled down Wembley project. The scheme I inherited
included offices, a hotel, large spaces for visitor attractions
and so on. That has been substantially revised. It is the viability
of the revised scheme that has now been fully explored. The decision
of the Wembley National Stadium Board I think, quite rightly,
has been to focus on that option and explore it to the point of
establishing whether that option, or an option in Birmingham,
or perhaps even one that is talked about in Coventry, is right
for our national stadium. I am only Chairman of the Wembley National
Stadium project; and whilst Birmingham very kindly invited me
to visit and view their site and look at their scheme (which is
very commendable, despite the problems perhaps around planning
which still need to be overcome), my responsibility as far as
the national stadium is concerned is confined purely and simply
to the Wembley project because it is that I am the Chairman of.
I have not been involved, other than one meeting on 14 July, with
Patrick Carter in the ongoing debate into the review of the national
stadium project either.
139. Do you think that it is possible to bring
together all the competing interests of athletics and football
and actually provide on one side a facility which would serve
all on the Wembley site specifically?
(Sir Rodney Walker) If you could ever get to a point
where everyone was pointing in the same direction at the same
time, I am sure a solution could be found that would satisfy football
and may provide an opportunity by one means or another to incorporate
athletics on a once-only basis into a new Wembley Stadium.