Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340 - 354)



  340. What do you think they envisaged by saying that Birmingham would be the preferred second bidder if Wembley did not go ahead?
  (Mr Coward) I cannot answer that.

Ms Shipley

  341. I hope it does not sound rude but in relation to Birmingham (and my constituency is ten miles from Birmingham) you are speaking with forked tongues. Just outline for me again why Birmingham is not wasting its time because everybody here went "ugh" at my colleague's question because we thought that you, if I can speak for the group, collectively had demonstrated on the record this morning that Birmingham was wasting its time. Just outline for me clearly how Birmingham could end up with a national stadium in your view?
  (Mr Coward) It is not for me to suggest whether Birmingham is or is not wasting its time, and that was the point that I made. What we have made clear throughout—

  342. No, no. Outline for me the route where it might because I do not think from anything you have said that it could, in fact I think you have demonstrated that it could not for contractual reasons, for all sorts of reasons I think you have demonstrated that it could not. You said that was wrong so demonstrate for me a route that it could.
  (Mr Coward) If the parties with whom we have contractual obligations allowed us to do so we could speak to Birmingham about taking our events there. As I made clear earlier, we have been obliged by Sport England, by Wembley National Stadium Limited, to take our events to Wembley National Stadium.

  343. Mr Jeffries, what a mess. You have walked into a horrible mess. Like my colleague, Mr Bryant, I am so glad that you have accepted that there have been major deficiencies which have to be rectified. If you could think laterally a bit here, what action do you think the Government should now take to ensure that (a) public money is not put at risk in the way that it clearly has been and (b) that nationally important projects are brought to fruition?
  (Mr Jeffries) As far as I understand the position on this project there is no more public money coming into it, it is all either coming from funding from the FA or it has been raised in finance and the business plan has to pay off both the interest and the principal.


  344. Mr Jeffries, the Secretary of State has told the House of Commons that £20 million could be forthcoming and she has made it absolutely clear to me that that money is a substitute for expenditure that you, WNSL, would have made and, therefore, the Government is contemplating a subsidy of £20 million.
  (Mr Jeffries) I stand corrected, Sir. I have tried to absorb so much information in such a short time that that slipped my mind. To answer your question, what has got to be done in WNSL in my view, and a lot of it is already being done, is we have to put in compliance procedures, corporate governance, to see that public interests are safeguarded in any additional monies that come into this project. I see that as my clear responsibility. It has exercised my mind a lot over the past four weeks, particularly as I have read the reports on the past history of this project. That is obviously my prime responsibility. What I have done so far is proposed a committee structure for the board which in my view is much more rigorous than you would find in any corporate situation. I have set up committees which involve at least two non-executive directors (NEDs) in each of the areas, construction, corporate governance, and so on and so forth. I will expect monthly reports in writing to our board meeting. By that method I expect the NEDs to be involved directly with the executive in the business on a month by month basis which in my view should end the criticism that there was a gap between what was happening in the executive of WNSL and what the board knew about what was going on.

Ms Shipley

  345. I would suggest to you that your answer demonstrates that our first two witnesses this morning were absolutely correct in their criticisms because everything that they said suggested that those things were not in place and you have just demonstrated that indeed they were not because you have had to put them in place.
  (Mr Jeffries) They were in place but they were not perhaps implemented as well as they ought to have been. I would have to disagree with some of the comments made in the Tropus Report and some of the recommendations that they made, that is my professional opinion as opposed to theirs. One of the Members of the Committee this morning did make the point that we have to keep in perspective the so-called report by Tropus is in fact allegations made by a disenfranchised supplier of professional services I should say, to WNSL.

  346. Can I ask you, Mr Maslin, I think it was you, when replying to the worst case scenario for return of the £120 million that has got to be paid back, I think it was you who said some would, not all. What percentage?
  (Mr Maslin) It all depends on the business case that is actually put together. For instance, if we do reopen the stadium then I would suspect all the money that we would make from the stadium would as a priority be repaid back to Sport England.

  347. Best guess, what percentage?
  (Mr Maslin) We would pay back 100 per cent of the monies until such time as the full £120 million was repaid, it is as simple as that as clearly described in the LFA.

  348. I think you also said the stakeholders would be part of this, Sport England, FA and the Government, is that correct?
  (Mr Maslin) Clearly we would be meeting with Sport England and the FA and other members to assess what the best options were at that time.

  349. And the Government?
  (Mr Maslin) And the Government.

  350. Why would the Government have to pay money back to the Government in effect? Why would the Government be part of this? Why would you expect the Government to pay back part of this money?
  (Mr Maslin) Sorry, what I mean is the key stakeholders there would be Sport England and the FA, not the Government per se.

  351. I think earlier on you said there were three stakeholders.
  (Mr Maslin) The two appropriate stakeholders in this case are Sport England, representing DCMS in that sense, and the FA.


  352. Could I ask one final question which may turn out to be two final questions. What are the liquid assets of WNSL?
  (Mr Maslin) The liquid assets?

  353. Yes. How much money have you got?
  (Mr Maslin) About 1.2 million quid in the bank at the moment, Chairman.

  354. That is not a lot of money for a project like this, is it? I suppose it protects you from being described absolutely as a shell company but you are pretty near.
  (Mr Maslin) No. Since we have been closed as an operating stadium we are doing two things. One, we are running the hospitality for the FA on the road which gives us an income stream but, secondly, our other costs are funded by the FA.

  Chairman: That is a very interesting relationship which we may have to ask about further at some point. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

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