Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport



  1.  Since the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee announced in July its intention to conduct an inquiry into the state of play on securing a national stadium for athletics at Picketts Lock in the Lee Valley Regional Park, the Government has announced that the project will not proceed following discussion between Sport England and the Government in the light of Patrick Carter's report on the project. This memorandum, therefore, sets out in some detail recent events and the rationale for the Government's decision.

  2.  Before setting out recent events, the Government would like to make clear that it does not regard the failure of the Lee Valley National Athletics Centre project as directly attributable to the actions of the Lee Valley project team. Indeed, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and, in particular, the commitment of its Chief Executive, Shaun Dawson, has enabled the project to achieve a great deal in a very short period. Rather it was the risks associated with the development of the new stadium, the budgetary uncertainty and the scale of infrastructure improvements needed which led to the Government to act decisively to end the project.

  3.  Sport England's memorandum to the Committee has explained the background to the Lee Valley project including the approach to DCMS Ministers in June 2001 to discuss the Council's concerns with the Lottery application from the Lee Valley project team. The Government agreed with Sport England that Patrick Carter should be asked to review the Lee Valley project. His report was received by Sport England and the Department on 31 August 2001.


  4.  The report's conclusions are very clear. Since the commitment was made to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships the anticipated cost of providing the stadium and running the event has increased and there is a serious risk that further expenditure would be necessary to deal with newly emerging shortcomings in accommodation and transport provision. As a result, there was a significant risk that the 2005 World Athletics Championships held at Lee Valley would be a poor quality event with very large financial implications, and that this would not represent value for money. Finally, the report concluded that even if such an investment were made, there was a significant likelihood that the stadium and the related facilities would not be completed in time.

  5.  Patrick Carter was also asked by Sport England to look at alternative venues for staging the Championships if, in his opinion, the Lee Valley project could not be funded and managed in its current form. This section of the report has been discussed with UK Athletics but has not been published as it contains commercial information material to the discussion between Government/Sport England and the potential alternative venues to Lee Valley and relevant to the continuing discussions with Sheffield City council to stage the Championships. Patrick Carter concluded that there was no other suitable London site that could be ready in time for 2005 and that if the UK were to stage the Championships, a non-London venue would have to be used. He assessed a range of non-London alternatives.

  6.  Having received and read the report, which raised the possibility of Sheffield as an alternative location to London, the Secretary of State issued an instruction to the effect that the report and associated papers should not be seen by the Minister for Sport. The Minister for Sport entirely concurred with this action. Both Ministers agreed that, once a decision had been made on the Lee Valley project and/or an alternative location, then he would be brought into discussions and papers would be circulated to him in the usual way. An instruction to this effect was issued in accordance with the Ministerial Code on 3 September.

  7.  DCMS sought Sport England's reaction to the Carter report and this was provided by Sport England officials on 14 September. The Chairman of Sport England then met the Secretary of State to discuss the project on 24 September. The Secretary of State and he agreed that the changes which have taken place since the time of the UK's bid, and identified in Patrick Carter's report, made it impossible for the Government to guarantee to the IAAF that it could deliver a World Athletics Championships at Picketts Lock of the quality and standard that the IAAF has a right to expect and the UK wants to deliver.

  8.  In particular, there was a serious risk that the necessary improvements to the transport infrastructure would not be made in time, and that athletes' accommodation would not be available within a reasonable distance of Picketts Lock. It was therefore agreed that DCMS and Sport England officials would look quickly at the practicability of the non-London options.

  9.  DCMS and Sport England officials initiated discussions with representatives of Manchester City Council and Sheffield City Council. The other alternative venues considered by Patrick Carter either offered no certainty of being delivered on time or no significantly lesser risk or cost than Picketts Lock.

  10.  The Government is grateful to Manchester and Sheffield City Councils for their assistance in this process. It was clear that both cities would be suitable for staging the Championships. However, the costs of delaying the reconfiguration of the Commonwealth Games Stadium into football mode and the costs of compensation to Manchester City Council and Manchester City Football Club would have exceeded the costs of improving the existing Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield.

  11.  On 4 October, following further discussions with Sport England, the Secretary of State met UK Athletics to advise them of the decision that Lee Valley was not viable as the venue for the 2005 Championships, to seek their views on whether they would be prepared to support a switch to Sheffield and for their assessment of the likely IAAF reaction. UK Athletics agreed to support the switch and having advised Sheffield City Council of their decision, the Government and UK Athletics approached the IAAF by telephone to explain the UK position and seek an urgent meeting. The IAAF agreed to a meeting the following day at Heathrow Airport.

  12.  The Secretary of State and Sport England also met representatives of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and the London Borough of Enfield on 4 October to explain the conclusions that had been reached on the National Athletics Stadium project.

  13.  Following the conversation with the IAAF, the Government and Sport England announced the decision not to proceed with Lee Valley and that a meeting with the IAAF had been arranged for the following day to discuss the offer of an alternative venue. Sport England published the discussion of the Lee Valley proposals in Patrick Carter's report alongside the Government announcement.


  14.  The Secretary of State and the Minister for Sport, together with UK Athletics, Sport England and Patrick Carter, met Lamine Diack and Istvan Gyulai, President and General Secretary of the IAAF on 5 October. The purpose of the meeting was to brief the IAAF on the outcome of the Picketts Lock review, to express the Government's regret that Picketts Lock had not proved a viable option and to present the IAAF with an alternative proposal which had three key elements. These elements were that:

    —  the 2005 World Athletics Championships should be moved to Sheffield;

    —  the IAAF bi-annual congress should be staged in London; and

    —  the IAAF might be able to help with the development of a bursary programme for athletes in developing countries.

  15.  At the meeting, the Secretary of State made clear to the IAAF that the Government still supported the UK staging the 2005 World Athletics Championships but that in the light of Patrick Carter's report, it could not guarantee to deliver a first rate event in London in 2005. Instead, the Secretary of State wanted the IAAF to consider switching the Championships to Sheffield, a city which has a good record of staging major international sports events, an athletics venue—the Don Valley Stadium—in place, and transport infrastructure in place which has already demonstrated that it can handle the arrival and disposal of 50,000 spectators (well in excess of that which would attend the Championships) at events held at the stadium. University accommodation for athletes is also available very close to the stadium.

  16.  The Government suggested that the IAAF biannual congress, which coincides with the World Championships, could be staged in London. The Government expressed its commitment to ensure that the same programme of events that had been planned for the Championships in London would instead be timed to coincide with the congress.

  17.  As planned, the Government also raised with the IAAF whether, as part of the long-term legacy for athletics, the IAAF would be interested in working with the Government to develop an international programme, initially in the UK but in the long-term with other EU partners, to enable athletes in developing countries to benefit from the extensive facilities in the UK and other EU nations. This scheme would build on the Prime Minister's commitment in his speech to the Party Conference to provide more aid to developing countries.

  18.  The IAAF responded that the Championships had been awarded to London and it would require an IAAF Council meeting to agree to move the Championships to another venue.

  Mr Diack was of the view that the Council would prefer to re-open the bidding for the 2005 Championships rather than simply agree to the move to Sheffield. However, that would be for the Council. He asked the UK Government to set out their position in writing to enable the Council to consider the request at their Council meeting on 26-27 November.


  19.  The offer made by the Government remains on the table and the Secretary of State will be writing shortly to the IAAF to reiterate the offer. A copy of that letter will be given to members of the Committee when it is sent. We urge the IAAF to consider seriously the exceptional circumstances and to look very carefully at the merits of Sheffield. Should the IAAF decide at its November Council meeting to re-open the bidding process, the Government will reach a decision on whether Sheffield should re-bid for the Championships in close consultation with UK Athletics and Sport England.


  20.  Both Sport England and the Government recognise that while Picketts Lock will not now serve as the location for a National Athletics Centre it is a site which has the potential to serve both regional and local sports needs. It is likely therefore that during further discussion between the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and Sport England, agreement can be reached on whether the existing ageing leisure centre can be replaced by a facility of regional significance. The Government is minded to invest some of the funds originally earmarked for the National Athletics Centre's youth and community facilities for similar facilities in another development in the Lee Valley.


  21.  The Government is disappointed that the National Athletics Centre has not been deliverable and that, to date, the IAAF have not been willing to consider the merits of the world class facilities they are being offered in Sheffield. However, the Government is of the view that it was better to act decisively now when it was clear that the level of risk to the Lee Valley project were such that the Government could not guarantee to the IAAF—even with substantial further injections of funds—to deliver a world class event.

  22.  Since the decision to bid for the World Athletics Championships at Picketts Lock was taken, the project has faced a number of significant additional hurdles:

    —  the package of necessary transport improvements schemes that need to be in place for the 2005 World Athletics Championships is now much clearer;

    —  there is now no guarantee that the provision of accommodation for athletes near to the stadium can be ready in time; and

    —  the budgetary requirements for staging the Championships have risen significantly in the light of experience of the Commonwealth Games and Edmonton's staging of the World Athletics Championships.

  23.  Any one or even possibly two of these issues might not have proved fatal to the Lee Valley project. However, their combination has meant that the degree of risk is too high for any investment of taxpayers' or Lottery players' funds and the Government chose to act decisively now to halt the project. It did so also on the basis of its assessment that resolution of these important issues was outside the control of local management.


  24.  Following the experiences learned from the Football Association's bid for the 2006 World Cup, the escalation in costs of staging next year's Commonwealth Games and the significant increase in risk and budgetary requirements for the 2005 World Athletics Championships, the Secretary of State now intends to commission a review of policy in relation to the bidding for and staging of the largest international sports events. UK Sport and the home country sports councils have a good track record in attracting and staging medium and small scale international sports events to the UK, but it is clear that a rethink is required on bidding for the largest events which require significant Government support—regardless of whether those leading the bids undertake at the start of the process to underwrite all risk.

  25.  An aim of the review will be to produce a clear set of ground rules before bids for large events proceed. These ground rules would cover the need for:

    —  budgetary certainty;

    —  identifying and managing risks;

    —  ensuring deliverability.

  26.  The review should also identify a way to ensure that the role and expectation of Government is always clear at the outset. Any ambiguity will always lead to the Government being asked to be funder of the last resort and the Secretary of State is acutely aware that every £1 million spent on a struggling large project is money not spent on grass roots sport or other priorities needed to help athletes win medals.

  27.  The Government therefore intends to undertake a review that will look closely at the ways that decisions to bid for the larger world class events are taken as well as examining the provision for hosting the events themselves. An announcement on the details of the review which will want to draw on the reports of the Select Committee including that on the current enquiry will be made shortly.

16 October 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 November 2001