Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 155)



Miss Kirkbride

  140. Picking up something you just said there—what is the planning issue about the Birmingham site? My understanding was that Solihull Council are very happy about it.
  (Sir Rodney Walker) Yes, they are. The original proposal back in 1996-97 was opposed by Solihull Council. It is of course still Green Belt, and because it is Green Belt it may be subject to a call in by the Secretary of State. That is the issue.

  141. With planning of that magnitude, it is an issue that would affect any area?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) No, I do not think that is strictly true. It only appertains to this particular site because it is Green Belt.

  142. All things being equal, there is no planning issue now around Birmingham?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) My understanding was there were still the two hurdles to be overcome, but if you advise me differently I obviously accept that.

  143. I was wondering also why, in answer to Mr Wyatt's question, you said that the national stadium really needs to be in London. I can see that there might be an argument to say that if the national stadium were going to incorporate athletics and go for an Olympic bid. I can see there is merit in having it in your capital city if you want the world to come here; but if it is only just for FA Cups there does not seem to be any merit in going down that route?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I was asked the question, as a Yorkshire man, where did I think the right site was for the national stadium and my views have been consistent; just in the same way I think I have said before this Committee on a previous occasion, that the Birmingham bid had a tremendous amount to commend itself back in 1996-97 but we then were faced with the planning issue. I understand from Mr Doug Ellis, who was very much involved in the Birmingham bid, that he feels that many of the football club chairmen, Premier League chairmen in particular, are very supportive of the option to have a stadium in Birmingham; but, of course, at the end of the day it depends on where the Football Association themselves want to play their major events. Wherever you site the national stadium, and whatever decisions Mr Carter or anyone else might make, unless the Football Association are happy to stage their events there, then you cannot build a national stadium because it is the income that is derived from football's major events that services the debts of actually building the stadium in the first place. The decision really is very much at the door of the Football Association and where they want to play their major events.

  144. Yet it is going to be made by the Secretary of State. I am a bit confused.
  (Sir Rodney Walker) All that I know is that Patrick Carter and his team have spent an enormous amount of time with the Football Association exploring the scaled-down option, which is the scheme we are presently concentrating on. I believe that the Carter review team was set up specifically at the request of Government to look into the national stadium option.

  145. Obviously I come with a brief to be supportive to Birmingham since it is my next door constituency, but if we were to find that the stadium were to be in Birmingham after all, what happens to the £120 million, is that a resolvable issue?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) The simple facts are that under the Lottery funded agreement the FA were given the £120 million to buy the Wembley site and my recollection is (and it is a long time since I was involved) if the development of a national stadium does not take place at Wembley there is a requirement under the Lottery funded agreement for that money to be repaid.

  146. How could that happen, as the Chairman of this project?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) It cannot be repaid by Wembley National Stadium Limited because we rely totally on the Football Association for our funding.


  147. In what timescale?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) The first deadline has already passed, Chairman. Forgive me, the dates come and go, but I think that the first timescale was that we were required to have started work on site by the beginning of this year—it might have been March. At that stage repayment of the money would have been triggered had we not started work. The view of Sport England at the time, which continues to be the position, is that for as long as there is the possibility of a stadium being built on the Wembley site they have chosen not the write to Wembley National Stadium Limited and request repayment of the money. The answer to the question, I suppose, is if the time comes when the decision is reached that there may not be a stadium at Wembley that will be the time when Sport England will write that letter and say, "Please may we have our £120 million".

  148. We have got Sport England coming to see us so we can ask them. Can you tell me if the FA want a stadium in Wembley or anywhere else why should my constituents pay tax or buy Lottery tickets to buy it for them?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I am not here to defend the FA, but I think it is right that I should attempt to clarify that the large amounts of money that certainly go into football, by and large, go into the Premier League through the broadcast and media rights. The Football Association is a governing body of sport and I know, as the Chairman of another governing body of sport which happens to be Rugby League, that a governing body has to be risk-averse. The FA came to the decision in March of this year that they were being called upon by the potential bankers of the national stadium to put up more guarantees, more permanent equity into the stadium, and they felt they were being asked to invest more than was reasonable for a governing body because they have these considerable commitments to grass root football, football foundations and so on. It was at that stage they felt they were being asked to do too much. It was shortly after that that Adam Crozier, the Chief Executive, wrote to the Government and requested they become involved in the project.

Mr Doran

  149. UK Sport was established to lead the UK's efforts to attract major sporting events to this country. From your written submission you were quite critical (at least that is my interpretation) that the Government does not seem to have given you the tools to get on with the job?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I think I can only state facts. We receive £1.6 million a year from Lottery funds to assist us in helping with the bidding and staging of major events. As I said earlier, we have successfully assisted in over 35 major events—European and world championships. Indeed, we were involved in the Half Marathon that took place in Bristol where the meetings took place between members of the IAAF and members of Government. The truth is, we have always known and I think Government have always accepted, that the four major world events (the Football World Cup, the World Athletics Championships, the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games) were outwith our ability to be involved; because with £1.6 million a year you are not going to be able to go very far towards playing a meaningful part in any of these major events.

  150. Is it simply a question of resources?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) No, I do not think it is. We believe, in our Major Sporting Events Committee, chaired by Adrian Metcalfe, we have assembled a great deal of knowledge and experience of major events; and you add to that all the time, by virtue of the fact you have assisted and been involved in more and more major events. I feel it is a shame that some of our wealth of experience has not been called upon.

  151. The fact remains that for these four major sporting events, is it your view that you are under-equipped?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I am very mindful of what this Committee has said on previous occasions about there being a need for a lead person or, in my case, an organisation who, on these events, actually has the power and authority to drive the project forward. I think that is what is lacking. The truth is that on these major projects what is lacking is an organisation or individual with the power and authority to drive a project forward. If I could just illustrate that very briefly, if I may. Some of you will know I am involved with Leicester City and we are building a new stadium. That stadium is costing £38 million with 32,000 capacity. £7 million is the land acquisition and £31 million is the cost of the new stadium. That started out at over £10 million more but its costs came down because it was driven down by the sheer strength of people negotiating. That is how you have to deal with large contracts. Somebody has to be in charge to drive the costs and to control the programme.

  152. You are talking about an improved and sharpened focus. Does that come from a quango like yourselves, or does it come from central government, or where?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) If someone asked us to do it we would be delighted to take the responsibility. It is for others to make that call. Clearly it is not our call. If someone asked us to do it and resourced us to do it then we would not be wanting in responding positively.

  153. The issues we are looking at just now present a fairly sorry saga of our ability to deliver these sort of events and facilities that they need. Is there anything your organisation could have done better, and do you take any responsibility?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I am always happy to accept responsibility if that be the case. I think Richard Callicott attended one meeting some time at the beginning of last year at Lee Valley and that meeting is on record as saying—well, you say it for yourself. Since that time we have not been to a single meeting.
  (Mr Callicott) I was invited to the one meeting, and at the one meeting which was a room full of people I questioned on what basis anyone had gone forward with assumptions greater than the £60 million which, what I understood at the time, was the amount of money on the table. I asked the question with what authority those around the table were progressing in a bid which was greater than the £60 million. There was no agreement because I am not sure those around the table necessarily had the authority to answer that question but I did question it. That was the only meeting I went to and I was not invited again and have had no further contact.

Mr Bryant

  154. As far as I understand it, you were saying earlier you believe if any of these big international championships are to be successful the bid needs to come from a capital city?
  (Sir Rodney Walker) I think in the case of the Olympics we have now exhausted bids from Birmingham and Manchester. I cannot imagine this country ever being successful in an Olympic Games if it were not based on a London bid. I think the IAAF have made it fairly clear they awarded the 2005 Athletics Championships to London, not to England. As I understand it, and again I am not really involved in any discussions with the IAAF, they have made it fairly clear that they regard themselves as let down; and that a bid from Sheffield, had that been the basis of our bid when we went to Paris, may not have received the same response as we did with London.
  (Mr Callicott) We must never forget, with the exception of the Commonwealth Games, the four big events we have discussed this morning are in the responsibility of the governing bodies of the sport—it is only they who can make the bid. A sport like UK athletics have recognised that such a bid was only possible if it had the support and the backing of the Government, because the potential costs involved were greater than its own resources. Frequently you find individual cities of this United Kingdom being prepared to take on the underwriting costs—and I can give you countless examples across the whole of the United Kingdom and I am sure you could too—but there has to be this basis of underwriting before progressing.

  155. Yes, I think Sheffield made clear in their submission that they were never a bidder, and obviously that is important. The point I am trying to get at is, the last four World Athletics Championships were Gothenburg, Athens, Seville and Edmonton and only one of those is a capital city. I am just wondering why it is you think for the UK it has to be a capital city, but it does not have to be a capital city for anywhere else in the world. Have we got into such a path about the way London is represented internationally as opposed to anywhere else?

  (Sir Rodney) I think we are influenced by what the IAAF themselves are now saying. They are saying Edmonton was the last of the events that was not based on a capital city. They are now saying they believe the events for the foreseeable future will be based on major cities. That is why you hear cities like Paris, Tokyo, Berlin and so on being talked about.

  Chairman: We have lots and lots more questions we would like you to answer but we are grateful to you for coming.

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