SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
We regard this premature grant by Sport Englandin
advance of certainty on planning permission and other elements
of the Wembley proposalas a cavalier and egregious use
of public funds (paragraph 11).
Events have confirmed the previous Committee's
commendations of the proposed athletics platform for a new national
stadium at Wembley which the previous Secretary of State so abruptly
rejected (paragraph 21).
We conclude that the initial decision to remove
athletics from Wembley was beyond the proper responsibilities
of the then Secretary of State and was taken in a hurry on flimsy
and subjective grounds (paragraph 23).
The national stadium concept was developed precisely
to solve the problem that an athletics-only stadium for the largest
of events would be economically unsustainable. To abandon that
solution precipitately and propose in its place an athletics-only
stadium was therefore perverse. To abandon athletics at Wembley
on the grounds of its possible unsuitability for an embryonic
Olympic bid, and substitute efforts to build an athletics-only
stadium which was, by design, not suitable as a main Olympic venue,
can only be described as bizarre (paragraph 24).
Given the position taken by the previous Committee
on Picketts Lock, the present Committee agrees with the decision
of the new Secretary of State not to proceed with the project
We fail to see any justification for the shift
in the Government's position on Picketts Lock, from confidence
to alarm, between March and June 2000. The grounds for the Secretary
of State's decision to abandon the project were all identified
as serious challenges from the very start of the assessment process
and were fully set out in the previous Committee's Report. Much
effort was put into dealing with them by the Lee Valley project
team. These difficulties were also the subject of consistent requests
for clarity and action from Government from Lee Valley, Sport
England and others until the project was dropped (paragraph 52).
As far as we can see the shift in policyon
Picketts Lockarose when a Secretary of State who was inexplicably
wedded to the project was replaced by one who was not (paragraph
We believe that Sheffield has the potential
to host an excellent championships based on the evidence from
the City Council itself which sets out its track record. We trust
that the IAAF will view the Government's offer seriously, taking
into account the increased certainty and value for money inherent
in the city's existing facilities (paragraph 54).
We conclude that, in switching from Picketts
Lock to Sheffield as the venue for the 2005 championships, the
Government has traded one risk for another. With Picketts Lock
the perceived risk was of an expensive and possibly problematic
event. With Sheffield as the venue the risk is more straightforwardthat
IAAF policy on what it defines as world class cities could lose
UK the championships (paragraph 59).
We support the decision to offer the IAAF a
venue for the 2005 Championships. However, in the light of our
evidence, we would regard it as seriously unwise for any further
expenditure from central funds to be made in advance of a careful
and realistic assessment of Sheffield's chances of success in
an open competition for the event (paragraph 60).
We expect the Government, in its response to
this Report, to set out in full its conclusions in respect ofproposals
for a football and athletics stadium from the Genesis Consortiuma
late arrival to the Wembley party (paragraph 66).
We recommend that, if Sheffield is rejected
by the IAAF and the UK loses the 2005 championships, then the
Government should consider seriously whether there is a last opportunity
to return to the original strategy of a national stadium at Wembley
for football, rugby and major athletics events. Without this it
seems clear that there will be no venue for athletics in London
capable of staging the World Championships, or the Olympics, and
therefore little prospect of attracting these events to the capital
for the foreseeable future. We recognise that this would be a
bold and controversial step involving significant consultation
and negotiation with all relevant bodies which might well cut
across the maturing work of Patrick Carter on behalf of Government.
Nevertheless, we believe that the original Wembley concept was,
and remains, a highly commendable plan; knocked off course by
hasty decisions arising from a lack of co-ordination between long
term Olympic ambitions and more immediate priorities (paragraph
We recommend that the Government, in replying
to this Report, set out in full the direct, indirect and associated
expenditures of public money arising out of the cancellation of
Picketts Lock, including such items as the legacy investments
referred to by UK Athletics and the compensation sought by Lee
Valley and Enfield Council (paragraph 73).
It now emerges that Sport England did not know
of any reference to the relaxation of commercial constraintsin
discussions between the Government and the FAuntil copied
in on correspondence by WNSL six months later in August 2000 (paragraph
Should the Wembley project go ahead with the
potential to host athletics, there is at present no legal mechanism
to implement Sport England's claim on the £20 million. What
does exist is the 'big stick'the clawback of the total
grant (£120 million) if the project does not proceed or proceeds
without fulfilling the conditions of the original Lottery Funding
Agreement (paragraph 84).
It is quite deplorable that the FA has shown
no intention of returning public money to which it has no right.
The FA has at least a moral obligation to return £20 million
to Sport England (paragraph 85).
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 (paragraph 92).
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 (paragraph 93).
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 (paragraph 94).
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 realities (paragraph 95).
We conclude that these matters merit 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 (paragraph 96).
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 (paragraph 97).
We believe that the Government must decide,
and state clearly, whether or not it wishes the UK to be a host
for the larger sporting events: to secure home advantage for UK
athletes; as a facet of its wider sports policy, including the
encouragement of grassroots participation; and as an element of
the way the UK is perceived internationally (paragraph 100).
Mr Carter told us that the UK should "establish
a major events group ... which establishes a process to make sure
the right questions are asked at the right time, ie, early enough."
We think that Mr Carter has the right approach but the wrong solution.
We believe that the case for a dedicated Minister for Events,
with the responsibilities and resources identified by the previous
Committee, has grown yet more compelling. The same approach should
be applied to all major events, sporting or otherwise. We recommend
that the Prime Minister gives serious consideration to the conclusions
of the previous Committee on this subject when he studies the
outcome of the review of major events policy to be undertaken
by the Performance and Innovation Unit (paragraph 106).