Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
140. Picking up something you just said therewhat
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
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
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 yearit 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.
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
eventsEuropean 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 sayingwell, 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.
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 sportit 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 costsand I can give
you countless examples across the whole of the United Kingdom
and I am sure you could toobut 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