Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340-343)


12 DECEMBER 2006

  Q340  Chairman: That is true.

  Mr Caborn: That is something that we have to manage and manage properly.

  Q341  Adam Afriyie: While we are on the subject of the English Institute for Sport, we had an excellent visit to Loughborough University. It was incredibly encouraging compared to what my colleagues saw in Australia.

  Mr Caborn: I assume you did not go to Australia.

  Q342  Adam Afriyie: No, I did not make it—which is a shame because it was obviously a fascinating visit. When we were at Loughborough University we saw some lovely signs saying "EIS" and it seemed to exist in a virtual way but not in a physical and tangible way to a large degree. Why is it that the English Institute of Sport is divided into nine centres as opposed to a single, tangible centre with which people can identify?

  Mr Caborn: If you wish me to speak for another half an hour, I can do! Under your previous administration, one of the very good things that John Major did, if I may say so, was to go out to Australia and look at what they did in their Australian Institute of Sport (which I have visited on many occasions now)—and he brought that back to the UK as a single entity. When that was put under some discussion as far as athletes were concerned and those that support the athletes, it was decided that they would move into a regional structure. Quite honestly, if you go to the AIS now in Australia, you will see they have done exactly the same: they are moving into the regions. This is an interesting point: some of them have linked that to universities—like we see Bath, like we see Loughborough—or, if you then look at Sheffield, the EIS there is a stand-alone with universities supporting that. We are still going through a bit of a learning curve but the principal decision to move from the central organisations, like you have in Australia, to the decentralised ones for each of the regions, was a decision taken against a background of consultation with governing bodies and athletes.

  Q343  Adam Afriyie: And you are satisfied that it is value for money when you have got the administration and bureaucracy associated with those nine centres, and, like I say, they do not appear to exist in any markedly tangible form but rather in a virtual form.

  Mr Caborn: I should tell you after Beijing and the 2012 Olympics deliver the medals. The only thing I can say to you is that, if you speak to Kelly Holmes, she will say that she came from being one of the best to the best, both in Paris when she ran in the IAAF the year before the Olympics in Athens and when she took two golds in Athens. She puts that down to her six or nine months or whatever it was at the EIS in Sheffield. That took her from being one of the best to the best in the world. That is the delivery at the end of the day. But it is a very finite line if you are going from being one of the best to the best, and it is whether we can wrap around our athletes that type of service. Whether we have got it right at the moment I am really not an expert to say. We will look at the results.

  Chairman: Minister, on that very positive note, we will bring this session to an end. Thank you very much indeed for your attendance.

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