The previous Committee's conclusion
on the matter (March 2001)
The previous Committee concluded that "the continuing
dispute, despite attempted clarification, about precisely who
are the parties to the agreement to pay £20 million represents
a symptom of the uncertainties that have surrounded the payment
since its inception. The payment appears to have originated with
a handshake between Sir Nigel Mobbs and Mr David Richards, Chairman
of the FA Premier League. It was then the subject of a second
handshake between the Secretary of State and Mr Bates. More than
fifteen months after those handshakes, the agreement has still
not been given final documentary and legal form and even the timetable
for payment remains open to doubt. The delays and difficulties
arise from the extremely unusual manner in which the payment was
negotiated." The situation has not changed.
We believe that the agreement struck between the
former Secretary of State and the Football Association for the
payment of an arbitrary £20 million to Sport Englandwhich
after nearly two years has yet to result in a signed legal document,
let alone a single penny being paid overrepresents a scandalously
inept treatment of public money.
The Government had no business effectively to
rewrite the terms of a Lottery Funding Agreement to which it was
not a party. Equally Sport England had no business allowing this
to happen and deserves censure for being so slack and negligent.
We require that, in its reply to this Report, the Government makes
clear the nature of its response to the demarche sent to the Permanent
Secretary of the DCMS by the Chief Executive of Sport England
on 13 December 1999.
It is clear from evidence supplied by Sport England
that the organisation was deeply concerned from the outset over
the ramifications of the decision to remove athletics from Wembley
and by the status of the agreement for £20 million to be
returned to them. Our concern arises over the nature of the action
that they took to seek redress. For some time it has been open
to Sport England independently, on grounds of the delay to the
project, to foreclose upon the Lottery Funding Agreement with
Wembley National Stadium Limited and demand the return of the
£120 million grant in full. Leaving aside the question of
whether a subsequent application for a grant of £100 million
could, or should, be entertained, we believe that the moment for
Sport England to deploy that threat has long since passed.
In our view, a rushed and flawed decision to remove
athletics from the Wembley project led to a rushed and superficial
agreement purporting to be a partial refund of Wembley's Lottery
grantsomething specifically ruled out by the Funding Agreement.
Presentation of this deal as a 'heads of agreement' to be fleshed
out subsequently by WNSL and Sport England is a thin veil for
a political stroke which failed to take account of legal and financial
In the case of neither decision do the right people
seem to have been consulted nor time allowed for the less obvious
implications to be considered. We conclude that the matter
merits the attention of the Comptroller and Auditor General and
the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts and we urge them
to investigate the Wembley Lottery Funding Agreement, the handshake
over the £20 million and the circumstances which have allowed
the situation to arise and persist unresolved to this day.
It is for the Comptroller and Auditor General to decide whether
the whole saga of the national stadium and Picketts Lock is worth
examining from the point of view of his ability to assess the
efficiency, effectiveness and economy of the use of public funds.
We would regard such an exercise as a valuable complement to the
review major events policy being undertaken by the Performance
and Innovation Unit in the Cabinet Office at the request of the
Secretary of State.
If the fate of the full £120 million Lottery
grant to Wembley National Stadium Limited is not clearly resolved,
in favour of the public, by the long-awaited conclusion to the
English National Stadium saga we intend to pursue matters with
the FA, Sport England and the Secretary of State until a satisfactory
outcome is reached.