Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 21 February 2008

Multi-Sports Stadium

21 February 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Dominic Bradley
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Paul Maskey
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

Witnesses:
Dr Duncan Morrow ) Community Relations Council
Mr Edwin Poots ) Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Mr Edgar Jardine ) Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Ms Julie Clarke ) PricewaterhouseCoopers
Mr Philip McDonagh ) PricewaterhouseCoopers
Mr Tony Whitehead ) Strategic Investment Board

The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):
The Community Relations Council (CRC) is represented by its chief executive, Dr Duncan Morrow. Members have a copy of CRC’s most recent letter to the Committee. The Committee’s letter of 22 January 2008, which is referred to in CRC’s letter, is for information, and members also have a copy of the procedural advice from the Principal Clerk.

Mr McNarry:
May I draw your attention to the time, Chair?

The Chairperson:
I will make the next section as brief as possible.

Mr McNarry:
The next section should not be as brief as possible.

The Chairperson:
I have to make it brief, David, because the Minister is the next witness.

Mr McNarry:
That is mean and unfair to the Community Relations Council. The Minister is due to be here in five minutes. Will the fact that we are way behind schedule cut into the time that the Minister has available for the Committee?

The Chairperson:
It will, but I will ask the Minister to stay for as long as it takes to hear his evidence. We will try to deal with the next section of the meeting as expeditiously as possible. I need to get on with that now, David, OK?

Mr McNarry:
You are being unfair, Chairman. You are not managing the meeting correctly.

The Chairperson:
The time in an hour is limited to 60 minutes, so I must move on.

In light of the 2005 PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the multi-sports stadium, Dr Morrow will clarify the Community Relations Council’s position. Do you wish to make an opening statement?

Dr Duncan Morrow (Community Relations Council):
I am happy to make an opening statement.

The Chairperson:
Please make a brief statement, following which members will ask questions.

Dr D Morrow:
Outside, I heard Mr McNarry say that it had been difficult to get the Community Relations Council to give evidence to the Committee. Will you clarify the Committee’s view, because I am not aware of that? I have come to the Committee as soon as I could and I wish to be as helpful as possible.

I shall clarify the council’s position, which is reasonably straightforward. First, the Community Relations Council does not hold a position on any particular location for the stadium. That is not our job. However, we do have a long-standing commitment to the notion of shared space and to the maximisation of that shared space through the Shared Future strategy, and the council attempts to apply those objectives to every project, including the Ilex site in Derry/Londonderry and the Crumlin Road/Girdwood site. The council is committed to the notion of shared space.

Secondly, shared space in sport adds a useful and important dimension to the overall strategy. In the past, sport has been identified as a divisive subject, and a shared sports stadium has an iconic value in changing the notion that particular sports belong to one group or the other. The council has long supported the sports bodies’ initiatives to change such opinions. For example, we have supported and promoted the Irish Football Association’s Football for All campaign, and, over the years, all the sports bodies have attempted to change the base from which they have been working. To date, the most iconic initiative, which has produced ripples across the whole community, has been the opening up of Croke Park for various sports.

Thirdly, the council believes that, in the new Northern Ireland, concerns relating to such major building projects are the type of problems that we must tackle if we are to create shared space from contested space, in the sense that there are spaces into which people will not go and buildings that belong absolutely to one side of the community. Obviously, there are sometimes cultural issues. Nevertheless, if the Shared Future strategy is supposed to encourage prosperity in Northern Ireland — and that is the direction in which the Programme for Government has gone — it is important to develop a sense that such spaces are shared and jointly owned. Social, political and economic benefits will be better achieved through promoting wider investment and a more positive atmosphere.

Finally, I shall address the particular issue in the minutes concerning the Maze stadium. The Community Relations Council’s key objective of promoting inter-community shared space means that we are keen to support any site that would be suitable for a three-sport stadium and would add to the greater good.

So far as I am aware, when we initially considered the Maze stadium proposal, it had already been agreed by a cross-party panel and there was buy-in from all sides. Therefore, the Maze project met the shared-space conditions that the Community Relations Council has always espoused. However, any other stadium might also do that, and it is the task of business and the sports bodies — not the Community Relations Council — to resolve such issues.

The minutes in question relate to a conversation that I had with PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2005, and, at that time, the council’s position — pro shared space — was similar to that which I have outlined today. Of the three sites that were then being discussed, the only site that attracted buy-in from the three sports bodies was at Maze/Long Kesh. Therefore, the Community Relations Council’s position is absolutely not that there is only one suitable location, but that, when possible, shared space should be promoted generally.

The Chairperson:
Members should keep their questions brief because the Minister will shortly make a presentation.

Mr McNarry:
I am grateful to Dr Morrow for what he has told us. You referred to an opinion that you gave in 2005. Is it correct to say that you have not had discussions with PricewaterhouseCoopers since 2005 or given them an opinion?

Dr D Morrow:
No. I met PricewaterhouseCoopers two or three months ago for a discussion and clarification around shared space questions. I reiterated exactly the same points that I have made to you today.

Mr McNarry:
It may be that you are underestimating the influence that you have had. On page 113 of this report —

Dr D Morrow:
Is that the new report?

Mr McNarry:
Yes. Referring to the Maze site, the report says:

“We understand that the Community Relations Council views the proposed stadium as an icon of integration by creating a shared space that can be enjoyed by all parts of the community”.

How did PricewaterhouseCoopers come to that view? Perhaps it is unfair to ask you, but it is their interpretation. It is quite different from what you told us. They are talking about you viewing the stadium as an icon.

Dr D Morrow:
A shared stadium would be an icon.

Mr McNarry:
We are talking about this stadium.

Dr D Morrow:
Any shared stadium would be an icon. If we can find one, it has to be taken on its own merits. It was not part of my conversation with PricewaterhouseCoopers, but the Maze is, potentially, a contested site. It would project a totally different image of a contested site, and it is not the only one. As I said, we have been involved with the Ilex site, and at the Crumlin Road —

Mr McNarry:
You do not think that you have been interfering in a sporting matter, as I would view it. This is a sporting issue. Do you not think that you have been interfering? The ideas that you have about integration and shared space do not have political support. What is this privileged position that you are coming from?

Dr D Morrow:
The Community Relations Council’s position is that the notion of shared space, as it evolved out of the discussions around a shared future, is a key element in developing a different type of society, and that we have to move from previous notions, particularly around safety, on all sorts of issues. It is very clear that beyond the issue of sharing over separation, it is not a council matter. That is absolutely right, but we try to apply that, in as practical a series of contexts as possible.

Mr McNarry:
Thank you. Finally, in your discussions with the GAA —

Dr D Morrow:
I have had no discussions with the GAA.

Mr McNarry:
You have had no discussions with the GAA?

Dr D Morrow:
I have had no discussions with the GAA on the stadium.

Mr McNarry:
Have you had discussions with the Irish Football Association (IFA)?

Dr D Morrow:
Not on the stadium.

Mr McNarry:
Have you had discussions with the Ulster branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU)?

Dr D Morrow:
Not on the stadium.

Mr McNarry:
That is very interesting. Thank you.

The Chairperson:
Will you be brief, Pat? I will ask Dominic to put his questions after you, because time is of the essence.

Mr P Ramsey:
You are very welcome, Dr Morrow, as are your comments. The Community Relations Council has expressed opinions on natural integration and a shared future, and on the shared space that a single stadium would provide. Would the Council accept that it can be a stimulus for other regions across Northern Ireland, particularly at local council level, to use the same model as best practice to integrate young people through the various sports governing bodies? Bearing in mind your points in reference to David’s questions, it is very hard for a council to come out politically against a favoured site when an all-party panel has agreed to it, and when all the party leaders and the sports governing bodies have agreed to it.

Mr D Bradley:
Good morning. How would you assess the impact of the shared sports stadium on community relations in Northern Ireland?

Dr D Morrow:
Those are two very important questions. The discussions about the stadium that I was asked to get involved in arrived at our door on the basis that there was cross-party agreement. It seems to me that there are two separate issues. The first is whether there is a specific agreed location; the answer to that is no. The second is whether the Maze, with cross-party and inter-governing body support, is a shared space; the answer is yes. You are right; CRC engaged on that basis. However, there is a need for an open conversation between the sporting bodies and the business community.

In relation to the knock-on effects, it is not a question of naivety about people mixing, because sports will have them on their own occasions. However, the generation of commonly owned spaces, as opposed to spaces where only some people go and spaces where only other people go, is not something to be sneezed at.

Secondly, sport has a particular role in focusing community and people. It is important to note the possibility of a celebration around sport.

Thirdly, wherever a stadium is situated, it should generate international attention; for example, investment for tourism or for a new image.

Finally, the particular dimensions of the issue are not just in the stadium itself as a sporting venue, but in the stadium as a business proposition that must be used for more than just a few days a week. A conference centre that is open to all and owned by all three sports would be a more attractive option than one that is seen as belonging to one side or the other. That would create a different sense of stakeholding in a new development — wherever the stadium is built.

The Chairperson:
Jim Shannon and Nelson McCausland will ask their questions together. The Minister will arrive in about five minutes. Could the questions and answers be as brief as possible please?

Mr McNarry:
I have one quick question. Does Dr Morrow believe that Windsor Park is an integrated site?

The Chairperson:
We will park that question for now. It will be answered along with the questions from Jim and Nelson.

Mr McNarry:
I am asking him the question.

The Chairperson:
We will carry on with the meeting.

Mr Shannon:
Thank you for coming to the Committee. I apologise for the haste.

Mr McNarry:
It is absolutely dreadful.

Mr Shannon:
In its letter to the Committee, CRC referred to location, and in replying to questions from the Committee, Dr Morrow said that he does not have any issues with the location of the stadium. If the stadium is not located at the Long Kesh/Maze site, is it acceptable to have it located in Belfast, where a shared venue could be considered? In its letter, CRC referred to the principle of “sharing over separation where possible”, therefore, at some stage, CRC must have considered the fact that it might not be possible to find a shared location.

I am asking all my questions very quickly, Mr Chairperson, and I apologise for the haste. Some people perceive that there may be a danger that, one week, the stadium will be used as a soccer stadium, the next week, it will be used as a Gaelic stadium, and the next week, it will be used a rugby stadium. How will reconciliation and community cohesion come together? Those questions relate to Dr Morrow’s role in the Community Relations Council.

Mr McCausland:
In relation to the commitment to community cohesion and sport, does Dr Morrow agree that an end to the practice of naming GAA grounds, clubs and competitions after republicans, and the removal of the nationalist aspiration from the GAA constitution, would make a greater contribution to community cohesion in sport than a multi-sports stadium, and it would be an awful lot cheaper?

Dr D Morrow:
I hope that I remember all Mr Shannon’s points. I apologise if I miss any, and I will try to come back to him at some other point. I will then try to answer Mr McNarry’s and Mr McCausland’s questions together.

The Chairperson:
Our time is limited. Irrespective of what happens, the Minister will be making his presentation in five minutes.

Dr D Morrow:
Acquiring a shared site is exciting. Historically, in Northern Ireland, shared sites have been few and far between. We are working initiatives on the Crumlin Road that have brought to our attention other iconic sites that need to be opened up somehow for everybody, and that will create huge inter-community cohesion.

Over the past few years, the Community Relations Council has sought to do two things. The first is to emphasise that as a community, we must move from endless contest to finding ways in which those issues can come together. Reconciliation at that level is not simply a question of meeting all the time; it is a question of safety around normal and appropriate access to different areas, such as city centres. Our key goal is to make the stadium directly relevant to major activities. My best example of that is the recent event where 82,000 people went to Croke Park to watch the Republic of Ireland play Brazil. Rugby internationals have created a huge demand for tickets. In many ways, we have moved from a position —

Mr McNarry:
What has a foreign country got to do with this?

Dr D Morrow:
I am giving a recent example of where the three sports have interacted in another context. It would be interesting to see whether we could reproduce that sense of normality around sports in a Northern Ireland context.

Mr McNarry:
My goodness.

Dr D Morrow:
Also, with regard to the sporting bodies in Windsor Park and the GAA, over the years, we have worked hard to ensure that all stadiums are shared. We have invested heavily in Windsor Park through the Football for All campaign. There has been long-standing investment from the Community Relations Council, and it is broadly recognised that that campaign has changed the atmosphere at Windsor Park. If a decision was made to have separate stadiums, the Community Relations Council would still try to ensure that, as far as possible, those stadiums would be shared. The opportunity of building a multi-sports stadium gets round that issue, so, at the moment, that seems to be the most appropriate option.

Mr McNarry:
My question was: Is Windsor Park is an integrated stadium?

Dr D Morrow:
It is not entirely integrated, but huge efforts are being made to address that issue.

Mr McNarry:
Is it 80% integrated? Is it 90% integrated?

Dr D Morrow:
I apologise, but I do not have the figures for that.

Mr McNarry:
You have opinions though.

Dr D Morrow:
I have opinions based on working on the Football for All campaign. Windsor Park has had to build itself from a place that was seen to have a chill factor to one that has a more open factor.

Mr McNarry:
Windsor Park could become an icon.

Dr D Morrow:
The same issue applies to the GAA. It is a question of moving from a place that was political in its origins and reducing aspects that were highly controversial in the past. It has been acknowledged that there have been real changes there.

Mr K Robinson:
We must apologise to you, because we are doing you an injustice this morning. You have come up with information that is valuable to the Committee in making its decision, but you are being rushed. We would appreciate it if you could come back again to address the Committee.

The Chairperson:
I am rushing because the Minister has said that he will make himself available for one hour, and I want to make the most of that hour.

Mr K Robinson:
I understand that. I have already had one brief encounter with a Minister in this Chamber. Time is needed to develop some of our questions; therefore, I propose that Dr Morrow be invited to come before the Committee again.

The Chairperson:
I agree.

Mr K Robinson:
Dr Morrow said that the issue arrived at his door and he was asked to get involved in it. Who asked him to get involved?

Dr D Morrow:
I got involved through PricewaterhouseCoopers. I got involved in the Maze stadium project through our sponsoring Department — the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister — which, at that time, was responsible for its development.

Mr K Robinson:
The Maze site is also iconic, but I think that you will agree that a white elephant would also be an icon.

Dr D Morrow:
Those are business matters — I cannot comment on them.

Mr K Robinson:
This morning, Dr Morrow has seen evidence of the Committee’s pressure for time, and, as a result of that, we could be rushed into making a decision that although iconic, might not be the right decision.

Dr D Morrow:
I feel confident of the Community Relations Council’s position on issues relating to shared space over separate space. Rightfully, issues of business should be dealt with by the Committee. The sporting bodies need to decide what constitutes a shared space and what will work for the three sporting bodies. That sums up my position, but I will happily return to the Committee if members so wish.

Mr K Robinson:
Once again, I apologise to Dr Morrow for the rush this morning.

The Chairperson:
OK. We are agreed that, in the near future, we want to have a return visit from Dr Morrow and the Community Relations Council to further explore the issues.

Mr McNarry:
This is not a filibuster — it is genuine, so do not read anything into it.

The Chairperson:
OK. Thanks again, Dr Morrow.

The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):
We now proceed to receive the presentation on the multi-sports stadium from the Minister. The Minister will be joined by senior officials from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

We all know that the Minister, the senior officials and PricewaterhouseCoopers are here to provide an update on the multi-sports stadium, with particular reference to the business case, which is now with the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP). Members have received copies of the business case. In welcoming you Minister, I offer you the opportunity to introduce your team.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Mr Poots):
Julie Clark is head of sport and leisure in the UK for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Edgar Jardine is the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Tony Whitehead is from the Strategic Investment Board (SIB).

From the outset I have said that, as Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, I wanted to be as open with the Committee and the public as possible and to give as much information as possible. In July 2007, the Committee received all of the documentation that was available on this issue. In the last few weeks, the business plan has gone to the Department of Finance and Personnel. After consultation with DFP, DCAL has brought it to the Committee in the interests of openness, so that the public and the Committee have the opportunity to view the work that is being carried out in the development of the processes around a multi-sports stadium, or stadium replacement. A crucial stage has been reached in the evolution of the proposed multi-sports stadium. I thank the Committee for the opportunity to attend.

In introducing Julie Clark, I did not explain the degree of expertise that she brings to the table. Julie is recognised as a leading expert in the field of sports stadiums. She has advised some of the sporting clubs, governing bodies and banks on the feasibility of a wide variety of stadiums, including Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium, the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Wembley Stadium. We are grateful that someone with that expertise has helped to develop the business plan. In due course, members will have the opportunity to pose questions to Julie Clark on the business case.

Before the meeting, members received a copy of the sports stadium outline business case. I trust that you found it informative and that it puts into perspective the detailed and time-consuming work that has been required to develop the proposal. I congratulate PricewaterhouseCoopers on its professionalism and perseverance in working with a wide range of stakeholders to produce that comprehensive document.

On 30 May 2006, the then Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) Minister David Hanson officially launched and published the Maze/Long Kesh master plan and implementation strategy, which included the stadium proposal. That has brought us to where we are today. The master plan identified that the stadium would cost some £400 million. For obvious reasons, that caused concern to local political parties. As a result, Minister Hanson engaged with the private sector to determine whether a development consortium could help reduce the cost to the public purse. In late 2006, the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister launched a major EU-wide procurement process to appoint a development partner. That work has now been concluded, and it is important that the Committee is aware of the decision-making processes that are currently under way. There are three critical points to bear in mind.

First, OFMDFM, in conjunction with SIB, carried out detailed negotiations with three development consortiums throughout 2007. Those three consortiums were on a shortlist, which had been reduced from nine consortiums. One of those consortiums is made up from the top development companies in Northern Ireland. Another includes one of the leading development companies, particularly in the field of sport, in the UK. Another is an international consortium, which is led by one of the world’s leading developers, with 70 sports and 500 companies on its books. I understand that the work has been successfully concluded, but the results have not been made known. When and if a decision is taken to begin the Maze/ Long Kesh regeneration project, one of the bidders will be appointed as a development partner. That development partner would build a stadium and the surrounding infrastructure.

It is for OFMDFM to take that matter forward. I cannot comment on the proposed deal in any more detail than that. Suffice it to say that the stadium, once constructed, would be handed back to Government, who would then commission a specialist stadium company to operate it.

Secondly, OFMDFM Ministers now know, as a result of the negotiation process with developers, how much it will cost to build the stadium and develop the rest of the site for the benefit of the wider community and the economy. That provides the Government with an affordability estimate for the Maze/Long Kesh project. The Department of Finance and Personnel is now examining the affordability terms.

Thirdly, it is not enough to ask whether we can afford to spend the money; we must also ask whether developing the Maze/Long Kesh site in that way represents a good investment. The value-for-money case, otherwise known as a business case, is completely separate from the issue of affordability. The Department of Finance and Personnel is examining the business case for the development of the whole site. OFMDFM has prepared that overall business case, and the Department of Finance and Personnel is, of course, looking at the separate detailed stadium business case.

I have not asked that the Maze/Long Kesh site be the only site to be considered in developing the business case. I asked that a Belfast location also be included, and that was part of the work that was required for 30 June last year. We did not receive any information from Belfast City Council at that point, so we proceeded with the Belfast location that we were aware of that had a possibility of happening; that location was the north foreshore, and it was included in the business case.

We also included in the business case the possibility of upgrading of existing stadia in Belfast, and I have no doubt that Committee members will wish to ask questions about that. However, it is important to stress that, in doing so, we did not have — nor did we ask PWC to have — a preconceived notion about one particular stadium. We sought to look at other options.

In addition, I have asked my senior officials to consult senior officials in both the Planning Service and the Roads Service on whether they have any issues with the possibility of upgrading Windsor Park to a 25,000- to 30,000-seater stadium, and the possibility of developing the Blanchflower site to create a 25,000- to 30,000-seater stadium. Previous advice was that such developments could not happen — certainly not at the Blanchflower site. However, there have been some subsequent changes to roads, and we are duty bound to ask questions so that we are aware of what the possibilities are, whether indeed there are other possibilities.

In conclusion, I am today giving the Committee an opportunity to view the business plan and ask questions about it. We must be very careful in what we do in that the Department of Finance and Personnel is now in the lead role on this issue. It is very clear that that Department will make its recommendations based on professional expertise and advice within the Department.

My understanding is that its economists will work on this matter for a full month before making their initial assessment. After that month, they will seek clarification from PWC on a series of matters that would arise to any good-quality economist. Once that clarification has been received, the professional economists in the Department of Finance and Personnel will make recommendations to their Minister, who will then pass that on to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. That is the process.

The particular process in which I am engaging today involves keeping the Committee and the general public as well informed as possible. It allows the Committee an opportunity to ask questions of the professionals who have drawn together the business case. I will now hand over to Julie Clark, who will go through some of the issues, and then Edgar Jardine will speak about his engagement with the sporting bodies.

The Chairperson:
Minister, we are anxious that Committee members are afforded the opportunity to ask questions. We are concerned that this session has been scheduled for only one hour. Can you stay as long as it takes?

Mr Poots:
I will stay for as long as Committee members want me to.

The Chairperson:
I am grateful for that.

Ms Julie Clark (PricewaterhouseCoopers):
The outline business case — of which Committee members have copies — reflects the culmination of a number of separate studies. The first study that we were asked to conduct was about whether a stadium in Northern Ireland to be used by the three sports is feasible, irrespective of location.

On completion of the site-selection study, a high-level economic appraisal was conducted, which was followed by a further detailed analysis of the feasibility of a stadium. Therefore, the outline business case reflects the considerable consultation with the sports bodies — individually and as a group — and our own analysis of comparator stadium projects. A range of other studies that were commissioned by DCAL were also considered. Edgar Jardine will talk about those, particularly the design and cost aspects.

The business case covers the key areas of analysis that are set out in Treasury and DFP guidelines. Therefore, the methodology that was used adhered to those guidelines. The key elements are: an assessment of the need for the stadium; the identification of a range of options to deliver the agreed objectives for the study; the quantification of the costs and revenues associated with the stadium; and an assessment of the non-monetary benefits.

I will outline a few fundamental issues, after which I am happy to answer any questions that Committee members may have. In addressing the need for a stadium, our report highlights the overall context of increasing spectator expectations about the quality of facilities. There has clearly been a considerable amount of investment in new stadiums in the UK and Ireland, particularly in the past 20 years.

Our study found that without investment, the existing stadiums — the main ones being Windsor Park, Ravenhill Rugby Grounds and Casement Park — are at significant risk of having to reduce capacity in order to meet the requirements of the Safety of Sports Grounds ( Northern Ireland) Order 2006.

Another important point is that the quality of the current facilities does not meet the expectations of spectators of top-flight sporting events. There is a particular concern about Northern Ireland’s ability to host international football matches in the short term. The fact that the quality of those facilities does not meet spectators’ expectations could also impact on the ability to attract major sporting and entertainment events in the future.

A lot of the analysis in the report refers to the demand for matches and events. After extensive discussions with the sporting bodies, analysing their past performance and analysing the impact that the development of new stadiums elsewhere had on attendance levels and the ability to attract new events, we identified a base case regarding numbers of events.

My job has been to independently and objectively challenge those assumptions to ensure that a base case represents a viable case. Therefore, our base case was prudent when considering the number of games and the potential attendance levels. The base case of 23 events should be viewed as a minimum. In practice, there are opportunities to attract additional events to the stadium, which is in line with what many other stadiums are currently doing.

We considered a number of events, and attendance ranged from 10,000 as an absolute minimum up to the 38,500 capacity. That capacity is required to support the larger GAA games, which already attract well over 30,000 spectators.

It will also enable soccer to fulfil the latent demand for higher–profile fixtures, for example a repeat of the recent World Cup qualifying groups involving England would require a larger-capacity stadium. There would also be the potential for holding friendly matches against Brazil or Italy.

In addition, there is an important strategic context, because each of the sporting bodies is starting to expand the demographics of its respective fan base. Again, that is happening in line with many other sports bodies. They are trying to attract families, women and children and trying to take advantage of locations that will be accessible for all sections of the community. Other sports in the UK and Ireland have found that the development of a new stadium has helped them to broaden their fan bases — that is a fact — because the facilities are more attractive to a wider group of people. That is not only due to the new facilities, but the fact that they are backed up by proactive marketing strategies to ensure that stadiums are well used.

To get into some of the technical details, the standard Treasury/DFP methodology for a business case is to examine a range of options in order to ensure that best value is obtained. The Minister has already outlined that we considered the main options of refurbishing the existing stadiums, together with some new-build options across the Maze/Long Kesh and north foreshore sites.

For completeness, we also considered two comparator options. One was the option of doing the absolute minimum of improvement work to each of the existing stadiums, so that they would meet the absolute minimum requirements that would enable the sporting bodies to continue to use them in the short term. We also looked at the option of building a stadium on the north foreshore in Belfast. We consider that to be a hypothetical option, because, at present, there are no current plans for that site to be used for a stadium. It is a landfill site, which is not ideal for building, but, as the Minister said, it is right that we should consider a Belfast option.

The main substantive options, and much of the detail, refer to a more significant refurbishment of the existing stadiums, and we have broken that into two different, detailed options, which reflect some detailed differences in refurbishment. I can go through those details if members wish. We then examined an option of creating a slightly smaller stadium on the north foreshore, which would be used by only two sports, soccer and rugby. Finally, there was the option of a full-capacity stadium for 38,500 people at the Maze/Long Kesh site.

The value-for-money business case provides cost estimates for those options, and we weighed them against the benefits that each option could bring to Northern Ireland. We also examined the risks and uncertainties in each option and the impact that they might have.

With regard to monetary aspects, each option was examined with reference to capital cost, the cost of infrastructure, site-opportunity costs, visitor spend and the agreed income, which is, in effect, the rental payments from the sporting bodies and other users. The report includes many details on page 13, if members wish to look specifically at that element.

Broadly speaking, the report gives a net present cost, or NPC, for each of those options. As I said, the report is very detailed, but it reflects the standard methodology, which, as members will know, is a means of comparing different options that have different flows of costs and benefits on a like-for-like basis.

We will now look at the main business case options. First, there is the refurbishment of the existing stadiums, which we refer to as options 2 and 3. Both of those options produce relatively high net present costs of £50 million and £60 million respectively. The reason for that high cost is the higher capital cost associated with each option, but, importantly, they do not produce additional net economic benefits.

The north foreshore option is a slightly smaller stadium for two sports. The net present cost is around £88 million, which is high by virtue of the major building costs. On the other hand, its location, close to the city centre, creates additional economic benefits. However, those benefits are limited by the fact that there will be lower spectator numbers as it is assumed that only two sports will use the facility.

The Maze/Long Kesh option incurs the lowest costs of all the main options. Although the capital costs exceed those of some of the other options, the site opportunity costs, operating costs, the visitors’ spend and contributions from the sporting bodies all combine to produce a net present cost of £37 million.

In addition to those monetary costs and benefits, PricewaterhouseCoopers also considered some non-monetary benefits; the main elements being sports development, community cohesion, Northern Ireland’s emerging profile and the new targeting social need (TSN) implications. If members wish to examine them in more detail, information is provided at page 12, which includes the broad outcomes of applying each of those non-monetary benefits to each of the options. The Maze/Long Kesh option has proved to be the most favourable with regard to non-monetary benefits.

Therefore, the outline business case concludes that the 38,500-seater stadium at the Maze/Long Kesh site, with a NPC of around £37 million, is the preferred option. That conclusion is based on PricewaterhouseCoopers’s assessment that the NPC is balanced by the non-monetary benefits that are offered by that option.

As I explained earlier, PricewaterhouseCoopers’s work drew on the input of others. Edgar Jardine will outline some of the other activities that were conducted in parallel with our work.

The Chairperson:
Before you do so, Edgar, I want to remind everyone to switch off their mobile phones because they interfere with Hansard’s recording equipment. It appears that a mobile phone is switched on. I ask everyone to ensure that their phones are switched off.

I want to make the Minister aware of the Committee’s unease that prior to its members receiving the business plan, the media appear to have been in possession of it. I have been asked by members to record the Committee’s displeasure on the matter, which was raised by Jim and others earlier in the meeting.

Mr Poots:
When did the Committee receive the business plan?

The Committee Clerk:
The Committee received an electronic copy on 14 February, in the afternoon, before 4.00 pm.

Mr Poots:
The business plan certainly did not enter the public domain until after that time. I want to make it clear, Mr Chairman, that it is certainly not in the Department’s interest that that information has been released to the media. I do not want there to an accusation that the Department was responsible for leaking the information. It is quite clear that the information was leaked in a negative way as regards the proposal, in that the highest figure possible was the one that was released to the media.

The Chairperson:
Having covered the issues of time, leaking of information and mobile phones, I shall now hand over to Edgar.

Mr Edgar Jardine (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):
Thank you, Chairman. Julie has emphasised the interdependence of the design and the business-case process. The governing bodies of the three sports — the IFA, GAA and Ulster Rugby — have worked closely with DCAL. Taking forward both the design and the business case has been very much a collaborative process. I acknowledge the sports bodies’ commitment and the quality and quantity of their engagement with the Department and its advisers throughout the process.

The Minister referred to the publication of the master plan in 2006, which set off two streams of work — the business planning stream, which Julie has discussed, and the design stream. With the assistance of the engagement of each sport’s governing body, the Department has come up with a design which will produce a venue that enables players of each sport and their supporters to feel as though they are playing in their own stadium. For example, it takes into account the capacity and pitch size that the GAA requires. It provides the close proximity of spectators with the field of play that is desired by the IFA. Indeed, when the stadium is in soccer mode, spectators will be closer to the touchline than is currently the case at Windsor Park.

The stadium gives Ulster Rugby a venue that can be both busy and compact for smaller numbers of spectators.

If the Maze/Long Kesh development is approved, the development partner appointed will start the construction work once planning permission has been secured. The earlier that we identify the development partner consortium, the sooner we can work with them to develop the scheme and prepare the planning application.

In addition, the governing bodies have accepted the business case, which effectively sets the minimum baseline to test operational viability. All three sports bodies have confirmed in writing their intention to commit to the development and use of the stadium at Maze/Long Kesh. In practice, a key feature of their commitment is that they will work to develop a staging agreement between each sport and the proposed stadium company.

The stadium company will comprise qualified and experienced people with track records in stadium operations, sports and event management. That company will run the stadium on behalf of Government. Each of the three sports bodies will be represented on the board of that company.

The staging agreement will be the main contractual document through which each sport will ensure that the stadium provides the facilities and services it requires to fulfil its responsibilities to the sports competitions, players, fans, staff and sponsors. It is intended that the staging agreement will detail important matters such as managing the calendar of events, access to stadium advertising, ticketing and seating provision, and so forth. It is assumed that the agreement will last for approximately 25 years.

The sports bodies have also agreed to an outline of the commercial arrangements associated with the multi-sports stadium, which is an important component of the work. Ulster Rugby reckons that by playing in the stadium, it can increase its income by between £70,000 and £80,000 per game. The Irish Football Association (IFA) has also told the Department that the additional income that sport will gain from the stadium’s larger capacity is critical to its business plan.

The commercial arrangements will include the minimum number of events to which each sport will commit, the minimum rent to be paid by each sport and the income to be retained by the sports. Critically, if the sports are successful in bringing more attractive fixtures and more spectators to the stadium, the proportion of the income that they retain will increase accordingly.

If, and when Ministers give the green light for the project, the development of the staging agreement will be the next key area of work for the Department.

The Chairperson:
Thank you, Edgar. Minister, do you wish to finish off this section of the meeting?

Mr Poots:
There is not much to add, other than that the Department of Finance and Personnel will work with the accounting officers from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Strategic Investment Board to produce its final recommendations. My Department awaits those recommendations.

The Chairperson:
Not surprisingly, almost every member has told me that they wish to speak.

Mr McCarthy:
I thank everyone for their presentations this morning. I am becoming a bit frustrated. I welcome the fact that I was able to read the final report last Saturday. However, if Northern Ireland is ever to have a first-class multi-sports stadium, the time has come to make decisions, and I get the impression that the Minister is like-minded. The Alliance Party agrees that Northern Ireland should have, is entitled to, and deserves such a stadium.

The only location in the city of Belfast to come anywhere near fulfilling the needs of the three major sporting organisations is the north foreshore, which has been mentioned. It has many advantages.

The Chairperson:
Will you get to the question, Kieran?

Mr McCarthy:
Yes. That site has the support of many people. However, bearing in mind the money that has already been spent, does the Minister completely rule out the north foreshore for one reason or another? Perhaps Belfast City Council has other plans for it, or the GAA is not interested in the site.

If that is the case, and all other options have been exhausted, will the Minister, without further delay, seek Executive authority to deliver to the people of Northern Ireland a first-class multi-sports stadium at the Maze? Otherwise, we risk losing the concept of a shared future in sporting activities.

Mr Poots:
I am not ruling anything in or out. I am taking professional advice from PWC and DFP, and it would be wrong to pre-empt that. I will base my judgement on sound empirical evidence, because we are spending a lot of public money and are seeking to secure substantial investment from the private sector. We must weigh up all the benefits and costs before making a decision — the decision must be based on qualitative information.

Mr McCausland:
My first question is for Edgar Jardine. The Department has had the business case for some time. As the accounting officer, has the permanent secretary signed off on the business case?

Mr Jardine:
The business case went to DFP under the signature of —

Mr McCausland:
That is not an answer to the question that I asked. Has the permanent secretary signed off on and approved the business case?

Mr Jardine:
The permanent secretary has agreed that, of the options —

Mr McCausland:
That is not an answer to the question that I asked — the answer is either yes or no. Has the permanent secretary signed off on and approved the business case?

Mr Poots:
I can deal with that question easily. The permanent secretary sent a letter with the business case. The letter states that the Maze is the strongest option, and that he has some reservations about part of the business case, which he wants fully qualified. Therefore, the answer is yes; he has signed off on the business case, albeit with some qualifications.

Mr McCausland:
My understanding of that answer is that the permanent secretary has not signed off on the business case— if he has reservations, he has not signed off on it. I ask again — has the permanent secretary signed off on the business case?

Mr Poots:
As I said, the business case has been signed off with the permanent secretary’s advice. The permanent secretary has identified a significant number of advantages in the business case and some points of clarification that are required. I said earlier that DFP will also want clarification on certain issues. That is all part of the process. The permanent secretary has indicated that if there is clarification on a number of issues, satisfaction could be achieved.

Mr McCausland:
In other words, he has not signed off on the business case.

Mr Poots:
The work is not complete.

Mr McCausland:
If the work is not complete, he has not signed off.

Mr Poots:
I repeat what I said: at this point in time —

Mr McCausland:
Edgar is nodding.

Mr Poots:
The process is not complete, which is the same response that I gave Mr McCarthy. There is still work to be done before decisions can be made.

Mr McCausland:
That is not a positive yes, and as there are so many qualifications, I take the answer to be no. My second question —

Mr Poots:
The answer was a qualified yes.

Mr McCausland:
There is no such thing when signing off a document.

The Chairperson:
Nelson, how many questions do you have?

A Member:
About 29.

The Chairperson:
I ask that because members must get the same opportunity to ask questions.

Mr McCausland:
That is why this session will last several hours instead of one.

On page 62 of the business case, there is reference to the Millennium Stadium and stadiums in city centre locations. Julie should answer my question on this matter because she is the expert. The business case states:

“Findings from an evaluation of the Millennium Stadium has shown the increased numbers of spectators attracted to the city can deter local people from making their journey into the city centre on days of events.”

When were those figures obtained? What was the date of the survey? What was the percentage of shoppers who would be deterred from entering the city centre?

Mr Jardine:
That information was presented on the BBC by the Cardiff city centre manager some time ago. His estimate was a 40% decline.

Mr McCausland:
That is interesting. On the website, a 5% reduction is shown. That reduction is greatly outweighed by the percentage gain from the spectators. It is unsatisfactory that a document is delivered to us, relating to a very expensive project, and we are relying on something that someone picked up from a BBC statement. There has been no examination of the figures: it is the personal opinion of someone in Cardiff. That totally discredits the document.

My next question relates to the infrastructure costs attributed to the stadium. I will ask this question and one other and then stop. What percentage of the infrastructure costs for a stadium in Belfast are attributed to the stadium, and what percentage of infrastructure costs for a stadium at the Maze are attributed to the stadium?

Ms J Clark:
At both sites, 80% of the infrastructure costs of delivering are attributed to the costs of the stadium.

Mr McCausland:
What is the total cost of infrastructure at the Maze?

Ms J Clark:
I refer you to the detailed analysis in the report. Let me find the relevant paragraph.

The Chairperson:
Edgar, do you want to make a contribution?

Mr Jardine:
I refer back to the premise that underlies the point about Cardiff. The first requirement is an operationally viable stadium that does not depend on the public purse for its continued running costs: that point must be recognised. If that is lacking, it does not matter where the stadium is situated.

Mr McNarry:
Say that again.

Mr Jardine:
The first requirement is an operationally viable stadium: that is, a stadium that brings in sufficient rent to meet its overheads. If that condition is not met, where the stadium is put is totally irrelevant.

Mr McCausland:
What has that to do with the impact of the stadium on shoppers?

Mr Jardine:
The assumption was made that a city centre location was critical to the viability of the stadium.

Mr McCausland:
That was not the question. The question was about the statement made on page 62 of the business case. It is important to get the facts right. It says:

“Findings from an evaluation of the … Stadium has shown …”

That implies that there is a source document, but we are relying on something that someone said.

I return to the costs of the project. What is the total cost of the infrastructure for the Maze stadium?

Mr Poots:
Let us first clarify the source of the evaluation of the Millennium Stadium.

Ms J Clark:
Let me clarify the source of the information. I am afraid that I do not have the precise date of the evaluation, but it was an official evaluation of the Millennium Stadium. I will find that information for you.

Mr McCausland:
Is the source Cardiff Council?

Ms J Clark:
I will find the complete source: I want to reassure the member that it was an official source.

Mr Poots:
We will give you the source of the evaluation in writing.

Mr McCausland:
I will finish shortly: these are my last two points. With respect to non-monetary benefits, 5% is given to targeting social need. That is dealt with on pages 12 and 116. Page 116 is the more interesting of the two. It states:

“Maze/Long Kesh — the proposed stadium could act as a catalyst for development across the rest of the MLK site and would provide additional employment opportunities for disadvantaged areas of Lisburn and West Belfast.”

I remind the Committee that the Maze ward is one of the most affluent wards in the country. How far is Lagmore — the furthest point of West Belfast — from the Maze?

Mr Poots:
Julie will respond to the element of your question that deals with infrastructure. The issue of TSN will also be addressed. I want all the questions to be answered today.

Ms J Clark:
The detailed analysis on the infrastructure costs is shown in table 6·9 on page 74 of the business case. Belfast City Council provided us with an initial site selection study on which it had done a considerable amount of work to highlight the costs of infrastructure that would allow a development on the north foreshore site. That produced a cost of £41 million, which includes inflation to reflect the time since the report was undertaken.

There has been work done recently on the Maze/Long Kesh site, as a result of the decision to progress with the master plan. The infrastructure cost for Maze/Long Kesh is £88 million.

Mr McCausland:
The infrastructure costs for the Maze site are more than twice as much as those for the north foreshore site. A footnote below table 6·9 states that 50% of the Maze costs will be removed in 2012, because it is assumed that the remainder of the site will be developed. In other words, it has been decided — somewhat arbitrarily— to divide the costs in two and balance them out, because the remainder of the site will be developed. Is it not the intention to develop the rest of the site at the north foreshore?

Ms J Clark:
Our review was carried out on the assumption that only a small element of the north foreshore site can be developed, because it is a landfill site. The majority of the site, therefore, is suitable for low-intensity use only. A golf course or park was considered for the site.

Mr McCausland:
When did you last consult on that with the officers of Belfast City Council?

Ms J Clark:
The study referred to the original site selection report.

Mr McCausland:
That was carried out years ago. When did you last have a discussion with officers from Belfast City Council?

Mr Poots:
Mr Chairman, we requested information from Belfast City Council, and that was not forthcoming.

Mr McCausland:
Ms Clark, when did you last request information from Belfast City Council? You referred to plans for a golf course and park. Is a golf course part of Belfast City Council’s plans for that site?

Mr Poots:
I requested information from Belfast City Council that would help us to draw the proposals together. Belfast City Council had the choice of providing information or not. In the absence of receiving information from Belfast City Council, we have to progress on the basis of the information that is available.

Mr P Maskey:
Go raibh maith agat. The previous member who spoke talked about the Belfast option. I want to mention that as well, and, as we are both Belfast city councillors, we should, perhaps, declare an interest.

I, along with other members, was part of an all-party delegation that met the Minister a couple of months ago. Belfast City Council assured the Minister that he would have the latest proposal by January or February. Has the Minister received that yet? It has not been brought to my attention or to the Committee’s or the council’s. Belfast City Council’s handling of the stadium for Belfast has been pathetic.

The council assured the Minister that the proposal would be ready, but it is still not ready. In fact, Belfast City Council has not even discussed it yet. Therefore, it will be several more months, at the earliest, before anybody gets to see the proposal because the council will have to approve it through its committee stage and it will have to be endorsed at a full council meeting, too.

The response from Belfast City Council has been poor. I urge the Minister and the Department to rule Belfast out as an option at this stage. There are other proposals for the north foreshore site. Looking at this matter from the point of view of a business case, it is clear that the option is hypothetical. It is unfair to have such hypothetical options in the business case. It is unfair to the other sites.

The Chairperson:
Is there a question?

Mr P Maskey:
I have asked the question. Has the Minister received any further correspondence from Belfast City Council since we last met with him? I would like to come back on some other points, if possible.

Mr Poots:
Subsequent to that meeting, my officials have remained in contact with officials from Belfast City Council but, as yet, we have received nothing in writing from the council.

Mr Shannon:
I welcome the Minister and his team. My questions are all for Julie, because I hope that she is the person who can answer them — or perhaps not, as the case may be.

Paragraph 25 on page 6 of the business case states:

“For this reason the business plan discussions have been based on the assumption that the Stadium would be located on that site.”

If all available options were being considered — refurbishment, enhanced refurbishment, the creation of a multi-sports stadium at the north foreshore, and so on — why was there an assumption that the stadium would be located at the Maze/Long Kesh site? With respect, if that assumption formed the basis of the considerations, surely the report is coloured in the conclusion that it has reached. In other words, from the start, the assumption was that the preferred location was the Maze/Long Kesh site, and that is the site that the report has found in favour of.

I have a few more question that I would like to ask now, if that is possible.

The Chairperson:
Go ahead.

Mr Shannon:
Paragraph 42 of page 10 refers to sports development. I am very keen to hear your opinion on this. It is stated:

“A new Multi-Sports Stadium has the potential to improve both participation and performance in sport in Northern Ireland.”

Why do you think that such a stadium would bring those improvements? Many of us feel that three enhanced stadiums could deliver participation and performance much better. They could develop those sports in a particular way.

I have just one last question; I am conscious that other members have questions, too, so I do not intend to delay the Committee. There was mention earlier of Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, and they are great projects that have worked very well: those stadiums can attract crowds of five to six million. Northern Ireland has a population of only 1·75 million, whose ages range from nine-days-old to 99-years-old. I am always mindful of the size of our population. On what basis could you convince this Committee that a national stadium at the Maze/Long Kesh site would work out?

I do not mean to be critical, but paragraph 48 on page 11 mentions the UEFA cup final. With respect, that event will be held here every 40 years, if we are lucky. That is not a good example of how to generate income: if we have to wait for the UEFA cup final to be held here to generate some income, we will be sadly disappointed. I am not entirely convinced of what potential there is to generate income, outside of the big sporting engagements.

I am very conscious that other members need a chance to speak as well, so I will leave it at that.

The Chairperson:
Thank you for asking only three questions, Jim.

[Laughter.]

Mr Poots:
I will deal with the first question and hand over to Julie to deal with the others. You asked about the assumption that the Maze/Long Kesh site would be the preferred location. That is the process that we inherited in 2006, and the engagement with the three sporting bodies on the development of that particular proposal had already taken place. It was the only proposal to which all three bodies had signed up.

Ms J Clark:
I will answer your second question about sports development. One of the key reasons why a number of sports are increasingly trying to share a stadium is so that both sports can generate additional income from the stadium to reinvest in the grass roots of the sport. One of the primary economic benefits of having a shared stadium is that there are sufficient events and attendance in that stadium to create a viable enterprise. That will enable each of the sports involved to potentially generate additional income, which they can then reinvest in the grass roots of the sport. That is a common policy among many sports bodies, and is, I understand, the aspiration of the three sports in question. That is the primary quantitative benefit for sports development. There are, then, more qualitative issues that we have tried to outline in our report, which relate to increased numbers of people being able to go to the stadium, and, therefore, getting the buzz of sport. However, that is more difficult to quantify.

Mr Shannon:
I made that point because the three stadiums have the collective potential to house 76,000 people, whereas the national stadium that you are talking about would house 40,000 at the most. I am talking about participation. The three sports can be better developed around the existing facilities. Why do you feel that that is not the case?

Ms J Clark:
Our opinion is based on the quantifiable benefits of the additional income that the sports can achieve from using the one stadium. They will achieve enhanced revenues through additional attendance and opportunities to offer a range of seating facilities, including premium seats, which they do not currently offer. That will allow them to increase their revenues, which they can then invest in the grass roots level of sports development and participation.

Mr Shannon:
I am not convinced. I think that we will differ on that.

Ms J Clark:
There was a final question about the catchment area. In a way, my answer is very similar to the previous one, in that many other stadiums bring two sports together. There is an opportunity in Northern Ireland to bring three sports together to share a stadium. We looked at the option of bringing two sports together, but that was much less viable from an economic point of view. That economic viability is enhanced if the three sports are brought together. I agree that the catchment area is smaller, but the three sports have a track record of being well supported. If all three sports share the stadium, that gives us more confidence. The viability appraisal demonstrates that the three sports are required to generate that confidence.

Mr Shannon:
The capacity in the Emirates Stadium would probably outweigh the total attendance at one event of the three sports combined. I am not an Arsenal supporter, but that is an example that the situation is not like-for-like.

Ms J Clark:
I agree totally, but the Emirates Stadium is not the same as this stadium. Many of the principles that I have applied in my 20 years of working in sports stadia are related to the impact of investing in a new stadium. I was very mindful of working with the sports bodies to understand the specifics of attendance levels and the prices that the local market will bear. I have applied principles from other sports stadium developments to the local market conditions and sporting culture of Northern Ireland.

Mr Jardine:
I wish to add a small point. Mr Shannon’s question makes an assumption about the future capacity of the three existing stadiums if they were to be developed. The indications are that any development at Ravenhill would reduce capacity rather than increase it. The ability does not exist to make any significant changes as far as upgrading is concerned.

Mr P Ramsey:
Minister, you and your team are welcome, and I acknowledge that you have stayed to answer questions.

One priority of the Programme for Government is that of a shared future. Is the principal objective of this exercise to provide sport with a shared future and a shared space for future generations? That is a prelude to further questions, Chairman.

Mr Poots:
The primary objective is to provide a facility for the sporting organisations that meets operational viability. The shared future objective is one that we are working towards, but the principal objective is to provide a stadium that is fit for purpose for the sporting organisations, so that they can play at the highest level and in the best possible conditions.

Mr P Ramsey:
Thank you, Minister. A panel comprised of representatives of all the parties in the Assembly agreed that the Maze site would be the primary site for a stadium for all the governing bodies. I wish to remind members that the party leaders endorsed that.

Mr McNarry:
That is not true. That is misinformation, Chairman.

Mr P Ramsey:
Well, bring something to the contrary to the table, David.

Mr McNarry:
My party leader made his position clear in a debate in the Assembly.

Mr P Ramsey:
Edgar Jardine used the term “operationally viable”. The Maze site would be viable, because it would generate revenue streams. Is it fair to say that there would not be any return on the capital investment required for the north foreshore site, because only two sports would be involved, and it would not be operationally viable in comparison with the Maze site?

I have other relevant questions. The Minister referred to an agreement between the governing bodies. Is that a formal agreement? Edgar Jardine mentioned something about 25 years. Is there a written agreement between the bodies? Is it fair to say that the project cannot go ahead unless the three governing bodies are involved in it?

With regard to the capital involved, what private investment is being considered? Is there any possibility of the infrastructure costs being met by the private sector? What public investment is required from DCAL, and will other Departments, for example, the Department for Regional Development, contribute money towards the infrastructure costs? If the new stadium generates revenue and benefit, will there be a return of some of the profits? I also have a question about the governance of the stadium, just so that we are clear about it. If we opt for the Maze option, and if DFP allows it to go ahead, will the stadium be run as a charity or as a private company?

Mr Poots:
First, there was a slight altercation between Mr Ramsey and Mr McNarry. I suggest that Mr McNarry consults his party chairman, as to what the leader of the party —

Mr McNarry:
I do not need the Minister to tell me who to consult. My party leader is not David Trimble. The Minister should get his records right, because that is the four-party deal to which he is referring.

The Chairperson:
We can afford the Minister an opportunity to speak. David, you can come in next.

Mr McNarry:
The Minister is not here to tell me what to do with my party.

Mr Poots:
If I may be allowed to speak, Mr Chairman. For the record, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party at that time made his position clear. Mr McNarry can have a conversation with his party chairman, as to what was actually agreed.

Mr McNarry:
Perhaps the Minister has not realised it yet, but we changed our party leader some time ago.

Mr Poots:
A development at the north foreshore would have added value. That cannot be disputed. It is a question of the type and scale of added value that can accompany a stadium there. We must make considered assumptions as to the scale of added value at that site. The added value that can be assumed for the north foreshore is considerably less than that which can be assumed for the Maze/Long Kesh site.

The assumptions that can be made for the Maze/ Long Kesh site are somewhat more considered, because work has been done with a development partner on that subject. The development partners have identified the scale of added value that they can bring to the site. Therefore, that has a considerable bearing and impact on the infrastructural costs that can be applied to both sites. Considerable opportunities at the Maze/ Long Kesh site have been identified by serious developers who have said that they are interested in developing the site.

Julie Clark will answer the next question, followed by Edgar Jardine, and back to Julie. There were about six questions.

Ms J Clark:
I will answer the question about the return on capital from stadiums. That will help to answer the question about the Emirates Stadium. The report points out that very few sports stadiums are developed totally commercially, generating a return on capital purely from the stadium. The Emirates Stadium and Old Trafford are some of the only stadiums that generate a return on capital. Even then, one has to question whether that return is generated from the stadium or whether it is from income from the sport. The vast majority of stadiums attract some form of public-sector support for all the reasons that are discussed in the report. I wanted to clarify that point, because making a return on capital from a sports stadium is an unrealistic aspiration, given the context of stadium development.

The second question was about the staging agreement between the sports bodies.

Mr Jardine:
I will answer that question. The current situation is that all three sports have, on the basis of agreeing the business plan and the design, formally signed an intention to commit to the stadium. Assuming that the green light is given to go ahead, it will take us into a process of work on the staging agreement, which would be a formal, binding agreement with the sports. That would cover a range of issues, including the calendar of events, what happens with postponed or abandoned games, facilities for fans and teams, access to the stadium on and around event days, ticketing, promotion and management of premium seats, and merchandising arrangements. That will be the next stage in the formal set of agreements with the sports bodies.

Mr P Ramsey:
Will the time frame for a stadium being built allow Northern Ireland to benefit from hosting football games as part of the 2012 Olympics?

Mr Jardine:
Obviously, a decision is needed first. Following that, it would take around a year to secure planning permission and another couple of years to build the stadium.

Mr P Ramsey:
Will the stadium be ready in time for the 2012 Olympics?

Ms J Clark:
Currently, there is still time, under the timetable that is needed for the planning and construction of the stadium, for it to be ready by 2012.

Mr McCarthy:
Minister, will you be around to open it?

Mr Poots:
I hope to be around, Lord willing. Whether I am around to open it, or what position I will hold then, I do not know.

Mr Jardine:
A question was asked about profit sharing. We have a broad agreement on how the finances would work, but the specifics of that would be dealt with by the staging agreement. The plan is to commission the operation to a stadium company. The three sports would appoint directors to the board of that company.

Mr Poots:
Have any more of Pat’s questions not yet been covered?

Mr P Ramsey:
Would they be responsible directly to DCAL?

Ms J Clark:
No. Our recommendation, from the analysis that we have undertaken from both the structures of other stadia and in order to be most cost effective, is that it would need to be an organisation that is not under the control of DCAL, but at arms length from it. If DCAL were responsible for the stadium, it would have considerable financial implications on its budget. We have looked at all the governance options at a high level and, given the objectives of DCAL, it would appear that a separate stadium company, either a charitable trust or a company limited by guarantee, would be the best option for all concerned, including the sports bodies. Additional detail needs to be worked up on those two options, because they have different taxation implications. However, that seems to be the best option at this stage.

Mr Poots:
I can elaborate on that, as it is an issue that the accounting officer had sought clarification on. However, we were not in a position to give that clarification. If the stadium, which is estimated to cost around £120 million, were held by the Government and DCAL, that would go on to our balance sheets. There is a requirement to write down 7% costs for maintenance and potential loss each year, which would apply £8·4 million of a deficit to DCAL’s balance sheets each year. However, if DCAL were to set up the company on the basis of the Odyssey Trust Company for example — although there are other variations — that would not be on its balance sheets; therefore, that £8·4 million would not have to come out of DCAL’s accounts. Those are among some of the issues that DFP officials and my accounting officer have to clarify and reach a conclusion on before we can make final recommendations.

Mr McNarry:
I welcome the Minister and his officials. It is important that I make two brief statements. It is clear that it would not be appropriate to discuss the issue of the shrine — which is an important issue for me and the people that I represent — this morning. However, I remind the Minister, although I am sure that he does not need reminding, that it is difficult to form an opinion on the stadium without knowing what is going to happen with the shrine to terrorists on the same site.

From what I gather, my colleagues and I are all sports fans, and we want what is best for sport and spectators in Northern Ireland. A convoluted, flawed report has been drawn up that does not take into account anything that we have said. Mr Jardine probably gave a bit of it away; although I did not like him saying the “green light”, but if green is for go we will accept that — assuming we do that. That seems to be your pitch. You have come to sell, and to sell one thing only, and that is what your report says. That is your recommendation.

How much has it been agreed to pay PricewaterhouseCoopers for the report?

Mr Poots:
I will deal with the questions as they were asked. My Department is dealing with the stadium. I have made it absolutely clear that anything that is akin to a shrine, anything that can be identified as a shrine, or anything that can be identified as glorifying terrorism will not work. It is not acceptable, and no party requested or agreed to that. I do not think that his former party leader or his current party chairman agreed to that previously when they were involved in the process. There will not be a stadium where there is a shrine — end of story. I want to make that absolutely clear to everyone. There will not be a stadium in association with a shrine of any description.

Mr McNarry:
What is your definition of a conflict transformation centre? Is that not a shrine to terrorists?

Mr Poots:
It will be the responsibility of OFMDFM to identify what can be done with the listed buildings on that site, without glorifying terrorism. It is not my Department’s responsibility. There are a lot of ideas out there, but it is not for my Department or the Committee to deal with them — it is the responsibility of another Department. However, I will not be associated with a shrine in association with a stadium — end of story.

Mr McNarry:
It depends on your definition of a conflict transformation centre.

Mr Poots:
The member said that the report was convoluted and flawed. Perhaps he would like to elaborate and identify those flaws and then we can deal with them. Such a broad-brush statement does not give any credit to the member or to the wider Committee if he cannot back it up.

Mr McNarry:
How much are you paying for the report?

Mr Poots:
I would like to explore the areas where you think that it is convoluted and flawed.

Mr McNarry:
I am asking you the questions: how much are you paying for the report?

Mr Poots:
In the absence of any evidence from the member that the report is convoluted and flawed —

Mr McNarry:
I will give you that evidence Minister. That is my next point.

The Chairperson:
How many questions do you have?

Mr McNarry:
I have as many questions as you will allow me.

The Chairperson:
There is a legitimate question at the heart of David’s point. How much did it cost to commission the PricewaterhouseCoopers report?

Mr Poots:
We are happy to put that information in writing to the Committee.

Mr McNarry:
Do you not know? Can you not tell the Committee?

Mr Poots:
I have a fair idea, but I do not want to give a figure that is not precise and then be criticised for it. I have an idea of the cost within a few thousand pounds.

Mr McNarry:
The Minister does not know how much the report cost — can you believe that? Minister, you are going to pay for the report, in the same way as it was alright to pay £250,000 for an audit of the Northern Ireland Events Company — and you knew the cost of that. You commissioned the report and you are going to pay for it, but you do not know how much it will cost.

Mr Poots:
I did not commission the report.

Mr McNarry:
It is worrying that the report contains a shining reference to the defunct Northern Ireland Events Company. That why the report is flawed and convoluted. If the Committee were to indulge me, I would be content to sit here all day and take you through the flaws in this report, but I need the information to find out where we are going.

I am a sports fan, and I want what is best for sport, so I would like a bit of a wash-up before we get down to the nitty-gritty. There is reference in the report to Windsor Park. In the light of what has been said about international football and the proposed stadium, and in the light of supporters’ anxieties about future internationals, what will the level of Government commitment be to maintain interim viable levels at Windsor Park, as suggested in the report?

Mr Poots:
The member suggested that the report is convoluted because it refers to the Northern Ireland Events Company. Many successful aspects of the Northern Ireland Events Company included bringing the Under-19 World Rugby Championships to Northern Ireland. Another of its success stories is that Northern Ireland will stage the third largest sporting event — the World Police and Fire Games.

Mr McNarry:
It was not a success story to lose £1·2 million that cannot be accounted for.

Mr Poots:
Before I came into office, management deficiencies were brought to my attention. They were then brought to the attention of the Executive and the Assembly, and the matter is being dealt with. However, I will leave others to judge whether a report is convoluted on that basis.

Linfield Football Club commissioned a report into Windsor Park, which was carried out by the Miller Partnership and paid for by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

It identified a number of deficiencies, some very significant. If Windsor Park is to remain the home of international football in Northern Ireland, it will require a substantial investment. If we embark on development elsewhere, there may, in the meantime, be work that has to be carried out. We will identify such work on the basis that we will go ahead elsewhere. If the decision is to stay at Windsor Park, we will have to identify how much it will cost.

I cannot put tens of millions of pounds of public money into a park, privately-owned by a group of trustees and members, under the current contract. That is critical. It would be wholly unfair to every other football club in Northern Ireland, and it would not be the best use of public money. Irrespective of where Northern Ireland’s international matches are played, we could not use the template of the current contract.

Mr McNarry:
I only ask because it says in the report that there will be a level of commitment to maintain interim viable levels at Windsor Park. What will that be?

Mr Poots:
Previously, I have indicated that we will do our best to ensure that international football was not taken out of Northern Ireland. A small number of millions will be needed to keep Windsor Park going.

Mr McNarry:
That is helpful and I thank you for it. Soccer supporters will appreciate that answer, because there is such uncertainty.

The Chairperson:
I can give Mr McNarry one more question in this round. Later, I will return to him.

Mr McNarry:
The Budget allocates to Mr Poots’s Department up to £70 million to be spent on this. The report is dated November 2007. Did you discuss this with the Finance Minister before that date? Was he aware of it, before he allocated £70 million for a stadium to your Department? Has he seen the report? Does he know the size of the sum involved, yet gave only £70 million?

Or, if you did not show it to him, why was that? Why is only £70 million available when the figure from November is clearly at least double that?

Mr Poots:
Officials of both Departments have discussed this matter in conjunction with OFMDFM officials, who have been in discussion with private-sector partners. That is the benefit of having the private sector involved in the project. The burden is not exclusively on the public purse: significant contribution will be made from other than public sources for a development such as this.

Mr McNarry:
You stress the importance of the developer. No one can deny that the Northern Ireland Events Company lost £1∙2 million. The report states that the developer will indicate — I would have used the word “dictate” — the level of public money that the Government will put into the project. Where does that come from? What kind of a Government is going to allow a developer to tell them how much they must contribute on behalf of the public?

Mr Poots:
It is simple. You have something to offer; you go through a fully-qualified EU procurement process, properly advertised; you build up a list of individuals and consortiums that wish to participate; that is reduced to a shortlist; and detailed negotiations ensue.

You find the bottom line of how much the private sector can afford to invest, what is in their interest to invest and what is in the interests of the public sector. When those two lines converge, you come to the point of striking a deal. That is the way you do business.

Mr Brolly:
I want to go back to the question of the time that will be required for the stadium to be functioning. We are assuming that the stadium is going to be at the Maze/Long Kesh site.

Mr McNarry:
I have made no such assumptions.

Mr Ramsey:
You are not being objective, David.

The Chairperson:
Francie, please carry on.

Mr Brolly:
I am conscious that it is February 2008. The new Wembley stadium was not finished on schedule. Obviously, if anything like that were to happen with the new stadium, it would be impossible to meet the deadline.

Aside from attracting Olympic events or people to train at the new stadium, the huge international coverage that the stadium would generate would offer terrific marketing opportunities. Maybe we should stop talking and asking questions, and get the contractors in to get on with the business of building it.

The Chairperson:
OK, Francie wants some diggers on the site.

Mr Whitehead:
The first time I got asked how long will it take to get a stadium up and running was 2005. We have always said that the stadium will be ready approximately four years after the decision is taken. That takes into account 12 months to 18 months of planning and two or two and a half years of construction.

In 2005, we were talking about a stadium functioning from 2009; we were probably slightly optimistic. However, as it is now February 2008, everyone will understand that what is now in jeopardy is the prospect of attracting any events from the 2012 Olympics.

Mr Brolly:
I suppose there is the consultation that 2008 and 2012 are leap years, which gives us two extra days.

Mr Whitehead:
We might just wait for those extra days. [Laughter.]

Mr McNarry:
Tell us what Olympic events you are bringing; put them down on the table. You are bluffing.

The Chairperson:
Minister, what is the earliest possible time that a decision could be taken?

Mr Poots:
The earliest possible decision will be —

Mr McNarry:
Tiddlywinks; there is nothing on the table.

The Chairperson:
Less invective, please.

Mr Poots:
A decision cannot be taken until the reports and recommendations come back from the Department of Finance and Personnel. I have always said that we need to consider the issues of viability, affordability and value for money. When those reports and recommendations are received, we will have a political decision to make.

Seb Coe has indicated that three football matches will be played at the site if it is ready in time.

Lord Browne:
My questions will be mainly directed — [Interruption.]

The Chairperson:
Wallace has the Floor.

Lord Browne:
Thank you, Mr Chairman. My question will be mainly directed to Julie. One of the main options on page 7 of the business case refers to the capacity of the grounds. If the three existing stadiums were to undergo enhancement refurbishment, they would have a combined capacity of approximately 76,000. That would be made up of 39,000 for Casement Park, 25,000 for Windsor Park and 10,000 to 15,000 for Ravenhill Rugby Grounds. That would be almost twice the capacity of the preferred option of the Maze site. Do you agree that that would provide more opportunities for each sport?

The Committee had just been told about a new stadium potentially hosting events from the Olympic Games. Surely three stadiums would increase the potential to host more Olympic Games events.

Page 2 of the business case refers to a number of studies that were conducted by Sport Northern Ireland, which suggested that:

“the cost of upgrading the three existing stadia to a basic but functional standard would be prohibitive and in addition would provide limited capacity for ancillary revenue generation by each of the three Sporting Bodies.”

How much would it cost to upgrade the three existing stadiums? Is that cost reflected in your own analysis?

Ms J Clark:
Concerning your point about the total capacity of three stadiums being greater than that of a single, multi-sport stadium, I have always adopted the approach set out in the initial brief, which was to upgrade sports facilities and enhance the funding available to sports bodies in order that they can develop their respective sports. Under such a scenario, combining facilities for the three sports would ensure that there would be one economically viable stadium. If three large facilities were developed, the concern is that there would not be enough events to ensure the economic viability of each of them. The danger is that it would be necessary to subsidise three stadia, whereas, by staging all such events, there would be one economically viable stadium. That was the philosophy behind the initial brief and the fundamental factor necessary in order to achieve economic viability.

I shall not attempt to address the question of whether having more than one stadium might attract more events. However, if there were a single, bigger stadium with the expected, modern facilities, which would generate a higher profile due to the involvement of the three main sports, that could be an important additional feature in helping to promote Northern Ireland as a host of major sporting events.

The figure for the capital cost of upgrading existing sites that we used in the report was provided by the facilities manager in Sport NI. As you heard, the Miller Partnership is conducting a study of Windsor Park, and, therefore, more information about that will become available. However, until then, all the analysis on the capital costs of the refurbishment options have been provided by the specialist, sports-facilities manager in Sport NI, who is experienced in evaluating such costs.

Lord Browne:
There is a recurring phrase throughout the report. Will you explain what “optimism bias” means?

Ms J Clark:
Treasury and DFP guidelines require any public-sector comparators, such as an outline business case, to assume that a project is to be developed by the public sector. On that assumption, a contingency allowance must be allocated to any capital-cost estimate. That reflects the fact that, for any project delivered by the public sector, history shows that the final costs end up being higher than the original estimate. Optimism bias is a methodology that allows for that contingency. Members should bear that in mind when considering figures in the report. For example, there is an optimism cost on top of the £103 million stadium cost, and another in addition to infrastructure costs. Optimism bias is a technique used by the Government. If it is decided that the private sector is to deliver the stadium, the construction risks will be transferred to the private sector and the actual costs should be much lower than estimates that include optimism bias. Hopefully, that makes sense.

Mr D Bradley:
Good morning. The SDLP has expressed its preference for the Maze/Long Kesh site. However, on reading the business case, I have a number of questions about risk management and uncertainty. The choice of the Maze/Long Kesh site is considered to be the best option because it has the best revenue return due to the involvement of the GAA.

We are told that the stadium should act as a catalyst for other investment in the area. However, there are very high infrastructural costs relating to issues such as road access and sewerage, the total costs of which amounts to nearly £110 million, not including the construction of the stadium. A portion of those costs has been attributed to other developments on the site. Bearing that assumption in mind, how certain are you that there will be other developments? How will the inherent risk be managed?

Mr Poots:
I will ask Tony to deal with that, because he has taken the lead role in the procurement process for the private development partners.

Mr Whitehead:
I worked closely with OFMDFM and the central procurement directorate on the procurement process for the private-sector development partner. One of the key evaluation criteria was the private-sector developer’s plans for the whole of the 360-acre site. We were not simply considering the anchor facilities of the stadium and its surrounding infrastructure, which we are talking about today, but what else would go on that 360-acre site. That site can be developed in a way that the north foreshore site cannot, because it is a landfill site.

All the private-sector consortiums came back with a mix of commercial generating activities. The high profile one that everyone knows about is a potential business park to attract inward investors, including the potential relocation of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society from Balmoral, approximately 20 to 30 acres of commercial leisure and retail space around the stadium, with pubs and restaurants, and a significant level of residential development on the remainder of the site over the next 10 to 15 years

Mr D Bradley:
How would you assess for us the level of risk involved?

Mr Whitehead:
As Julie said, one of the benefits of engaging with the private sector is that a great deal of risk is transferred to the private partner. The deal that we have done with the private-sector partner not only transfers construction risk in relation to the stadium, but planning risk in relation to the significant residential allocation over the next 10 to 15 years. It would up to the private-sector development partner to proceed with the planning applications and assume that risk.

Mr K Robinson:
Thank you for coming along this morning, which is now the afternoon, but we need the time to explore this matter. I have a question for the Minister to ponder while I make one or two other points. Is the Minister totally at ease with all aspects of this project as outlined in the documents laid before us this morning? Do not answer now, Minister; I would like you to reflect on that.

Will the officials explain to me how they arrived at the ratings that are contained in this document? I am particularly concerned, because they seem to ignore the latent geography of the north foreshore. The north foreshore site is the first thing that people see when coming up Belfast Lough. If people are flying into the City Airport or coming into Belfast by road or rail, they are able to see it. Much of the transport infrastructure is already there. There is a five-lane motorway — not a two-lane motorway — adjacent to it. There is a railway site beside it with potential for development. There is a ferry port literally 100 yards away from it down the Dargan Road. There is a very wide road system at Dargan Road that can cater for parking. There is none of the interference with commercial or residential life that has been referred to at other locations.

Why has a 5% rating been given for TSN when, adjacent to the site, there are shared vision sites in north Belfast, which is a mixed community, on the Crumlin Road and at Girdwood? It seems that a chance for a shared site is being baulked at by one of the three participants in the scheme. Why are we not considering that? What about the chances for regeneration in north Belfast?

A whole series of issues has not been addressed this morning. I want to know how you came to those ratings. There has been much discussion at this end of the table about how to generate extra revenue. Do not forget that wages in Northern Ireland are below average, or that we have a very low level of disposable income. How are we going to generate extra revenue in those circumstances?

You say that visitors will be brought in, but the Liverpool ferry literally ties up beside the north foreshore already. The Port of Belfast is to move to the same site, with cross-channel, P&O Scottish Ferries to move there as well. It worries me greatly that all those factors have been pushed aside.

Quite frankly, Minister, I have concerns about the private enterprise that we have been told about. In the past, some of us served on the Education Committee. We were told that private enterprise was the bee’s knees; PFI would pay for this, that and the other. We all know what PFI has done for education: it has been quite disastrous.

The Maze site reminds me of granny’s clock. It has been left to us, but we do not know quite what to do with it. Therefore, we are just going to stick a wee bit on here and a wee bit on there; push it this way and that. However, granny’s clock will not fit into somebody else’s house. My fear about the Maze site is that we are trying to make a case in favour of it when, in fact, there are other locations that have a lot going for them.

It has been mentioned that hotels will be built later in the development. Where will all the extra visitors that it is hoped will come be staying? Will they stay in a hotel in Lisburn? Will they spend money in the restaurants and bars in Lisburn? An infrastructure is in place in the greater Belfast area that can cope with those visitors and can be expanded to meet the tourist potential that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has always tried to achieve. Therefore, I want an answer on how the Department arrived at those weightings and how it was able to ignore all the geographical and infrastructural benefits that the north foreshore seems to have that the Maze does not?

Mr Poots:
I shall deal with the question that was put in my direction. I am uneasy that we are procrastinating and that we are having difficulty in arriving at a political decision.

Mr K Robinson:
With respect, Minister, I am not procrastinating. I want to find out which option will stack up. A large amount of public money — and, possibly, a large amount of private money — is involved. I want to ensure that the right decision is made.

Mr Poots:
The Northern Ireland Assembly is procrastinating on the issue. It is having difficulty arriving at a decision. Sport could be damaged as a consequence. So, too, could Northern Ireland’s public image. Northern Ireland will not achieve as much as it should during the Assembly’s lifetime — the next four years — as it could otherwise achieve.

Mr K Robinson:
If the wrong decision were made, and the stadium were built in the wrong place, that would damage Northern Ireland’s image irreparably.

Mr Poots:
That is precisely why I want to deal with all the financial aspects of the issue first, and why I have ruled nothing in or out at this point. We cannot, however, continue to put off a decision for ever and a day and expect that damage will not be done to a wide range of Northern Ireland’s sporting infrastructure and, indeed, to its image. I will ask Tony Whitehead to discuss transportation — he has dealt with Mott MacDonald on that issue — and hotels. Julie Clark will deal with weightings.

Mr Whitehead:
I will discuss hotels. I speak as a football fan of 30 years’ standing who has watched matches all over the world. I go to games regularly. I was at the game the other night; it was a great game.

Mr K Robinson:
Are you aware that Italy has played the Northern Ireland team twice at Windsor Park; once with a local referee and linesman and once with a FIFA referee?

Mr Whitehead:
Almost all international sports fans stay in hotels in the city centre irrespective of where the stadium is located. I speak from personal experience. When I went to Istanbul for the European cup final, the stadium was 25 miles out of town. However, we all stayed in Istanbul city centre. All international sports fans stay in city centres where the hotels are, regardless of where matches are played.

Mr Poots:
Was that a Liverpool match, Tony?

Mr Whitehead:
Yes, they won on penalties.

The key issue about the stadium’s location is viability. The word “viability” keeps being repeated. If the stadium’s viability can only be achieved with an out-of-town location, Belfast city centre will still gain all the economic benefits of international visitors to the stadium, because almost all those visitors will use the hotels and facilities in Belfast city centre.

Mr K Robinson:
I will stop you there. If the visitors and folk who have attended the matches return to the city centre, how will you transport them in and out? The road system cannot cope; the rail system does not have the potential to cope either.

Mr Whitehead:
A combination of private and public transport arrangements is being developed for the whole of the 360-acre Maze site. The site will be opened up through a new motorway junction adjacent to the stadium, the upgrading of the Blaris Road and provision of the new Knockmore Link dual carriageway. That will provide access to the site for both public and private transport. It will increase bus and coach provision. As we have said, we have discussed significantly increased public transport provision with Translink.

In addition to that, on match days, with the proper event management which has been in place for other events, park-and-ride provision will be made and buses will travel on the inside lanes of motorways. With those arrangements, it will not be difficult to transport, in a fairly efficient manner, significant numbers of supporters from Belfast city centre to the Maze and back.

Mr K Robinson:
For no cost at all?

Mr Whitehead:
For no cost to whom?

Mr K Robinson:
No cost to the travelling spectators?

Mr Whitehead:
That is perfectly possible. One of the options that we are considering, and I know Southampton did this last year —

Mr K Robinson:
Free transport for football spectators and Gaelic spectators? That is great.

Mr Whitehead:
When I went to Istanbul it was free. The example of Southampton —

The Chairperson:
We can allow for a limited round of final questions. Members will appreciate that we are short of time and we need to keep discussion moving.

Ms J Clark:
I can reassure members on two points. On page 8, table 2, we outlined the infrastructure costs of developing the North Foreshore versus the Maze/Long Kesh site. Relative costs in that take into consideration the point members made that much of the infrastructure is already in place at the North Foreshore. Those costing reflect your comments.

Mr K Robinson:
There is no other place in Northern Ireland adjacent to a five-lane motorway.

The Chairperson:
Certainly not in County Tyrone. [Laughter.] You neglected roads for many decades and took the railways off us, but we will not go there.

Ms J Clark:
I will keep to specifics: we have taken the point about infrastructure into consideration. The main point you asked about was the non-monetary scores. I refer members to page 12, table 4. I will explain that to answer your question. I can reassure members. On the left-hand side, there are the various non-monetary elements which we considered. We attached weightings to each, which add up to 100%. The weightings reflect the objectives of the stadium. As the Minister mentioned earlier, the sports objectives are deemed to be most important. That is why sports has the highest weighting.

Mr K Robinson:
We have heard several times today about the shared vision. In a TSN area, and particularly in North Belfast, the cockpit of the Troubles, there is an opportunity to address that shared vision, regenerate an area and bring something new to the sporting scene as well. The 5% weighting for New TSN objectives is extremely low, given all the advantages offered in infrastructure, the community problems that there have been and the steps towards the shared vision that we are all trying to realise.

Ms J Clark:
Let me help you understand the table. We have given community cohesion the second-highest rating. The scoring in new targeting social need reflects the relative merits of each site with respect to each element. We have tried to reflect the mix of different criteria, the weighting and site characteristics.

Let me explain the process of how we got to this. We consulted widely on these ratings and these scores. Those scores are non-monetary, so, inevitably, they are a matter of judgement. We used our judgement, and that of the people with whom we consulted, to arrive at those scores.

Mr K Robinson:
If the stadium was up and running and generating the sort of income that you predict, people from that area could access jobs. There is a ready made workforce in an area where unemployment is relatively high compared to the rest of Northern Ireland. Surely an opportunity is being lost.

Mr Jardine:
To make a one-sentence addendum, if the stadium will not have operational viability, and it will not have it on the north foreshore with two sports, that issue will not matter.

Mr K Robinson:
Why will there not be three sports at the north foreshore?

Mr Jardine:
The GAA have bought into the Maze option.

Mr K Robinson:
Therefore, we are being put into a corner by the GAA. I see no reason why there should not be a three-sport stadium on the north foreshore. I see lots of reasons why there might be one. However, you have answered the question.

The Chairperson:
OK. This is the final round of questions. Not every member has entered into the spirit by asking a question. I will go to Kieran McCarthy, then Paul Maskey, David McNarry, Jim Shannon and Nelson McCausland.

Mr McCarthy:
Correct me if I am wrong, but I asked a question about the north foreshore being attractive, and Ken has laid the situation out for us. Is it not the case that that land belongs to Belfast City Council, and the council is not interested in doing anything with it, as we have heard from councillors? We are wasting time, and getting nowhere. Let us get on with making decisions.

The Chairperson:
Perhaps a couple of Belfast councillors can help us. We can ask Paul and Nelson.

Mr P Maskey:
Belfast City Council does own the land on the north foreshore. There are no plans whatsoever, at this stage, to build a football stadium on it. It will be a considerable time before that land can be built on. Parts of it cannot be built on, and that is another issue. If we are seeking to have a stadium in time for the 2012 Olympic Games, there is no chance of it being built there.

We must also examine costs. Many of the Belfast councillors have said that it will not cost Belfast ratepayers a single penny to build a stadium in Belfast. However, more than £250,000 has been spent already on proposals and pieces of paper, which we may or may not see — we certainly have not been able to see them yet. What value has Belfast City Council put on that land? Who will pay for it? I am not sure how big the site is, but it may cost many millions of pounds. Will the Government pay for that, or where will the money come from? Belfast City Council says that it will not cost the ratepayers any money, so they are hardly going to gift the land to anyone.

Mr McNarry:
The GAA want a stadium with capacity for 40,000 to 60,000 people with seating for two thirds of them. Will option 5 meet that requirement? The rugby representatives state that the IRFU determine all its local and international matches. Are there guarantees that matches in the Six Nations championships will come to a stadium here? What guaranteed benefits will the 2012 Olympic Games bring to Northern Ireland? Section 7 of the report shows that £1·38 million per annum will be generated from other events, what will those events be? Is it correct that, as I understand from the report, the sporting bodies are unable to raise money to contribute to the project — not one penny? Is it correct that the viability of the stadium rests entirely on the sporting bodies selling tickets and attracting spectators?

Mr Poots:
The three sporting bodies have signed an agreement that they will deliver a minimum number of attendees at the stadium. The business plan has been derived from the fact that a minimum number of people are prepared to attend those matches, according to the sports bodies. That agreement will last for 25 years. In that respect, the risk lies with the sports organisations. They have all been very modest and moderate in predicting the number of individuals that they hope to attract to events. They expect to get considerably more. It will be to their benefit to attract more people than they have guaranteed, because the fees that they will pay will be reduced. The sports bodies will benefit from making the stadium a success, as opposed to going the other way and being held to a contract. I can only refer to what Lord Coe said, and we stand by that. I trust that that deals with —

Mr McNarry:
Will that come through, Minister?

Mr Poots:
It will, if we have the stadium ready in time.

Mr McNarry:
What about the £1·38 million from other events?

Ms J Clark:
I make the distinction between contracted revenues, which are the revenues associated with the sports events. As the Minister has explained, they will be part of a staging agreement. In addition, we drew a range of comparators from other stadia and looked at the events that other stadia attract. We also looked at what other events are held in Northern Ireland where substandard facilities are used or where the promoters believe that there is latent demand for new events, and that was in the context of the opening of the Odyssey Arena. I refer to the Odyssey Arena because it is good evidence of the fact that people thought that there was no need for the arena. However, once the new arena was developed, and with good management of the facilities, new events were attracted to Northern Ireland, and the public were attracted to go to those events. That is a bit of an aside, but the Odyssey Arena has been a success story.

Mr McNarry:
Would the stadium company be responsible for organising those events to the sum of £1·38 million?

Ms J Clark:
The stadium company will be responsible for promoting the stadium for use by other events. Normally, promoters own their event, so concert promoters will bring their events to the stadium. The stadium company will ensure that it can host those events. The assumptions used in the business plan are that there would be three concerts each year and three additional entertainment events. I have illustrated a range of different events and activities. It is hypothetical in the report, but it is the actual description of the event that is hypothetical. Any comparator stadia that is promoted in the way that this stadium could be promoted, having additional events —

Mr McNarry:
So, those events would sit easy as additional events and not detract from the Odyssey Arena or any other events that we are used to hosting?

Ms J Clark:
Absolutely.

Mr McNarry:
That is very important. Is it additional?

Ms J Clark:
It is absolutely additional. There are certain events that will go into an arena and there are other events that look for outdoor venues. That is important, and we took that into consideration.

Mr Whitehead:
The chief executive of the Odyssey Arena, Nicky Dunn, has been one of the key consultees in the process all along to ensure that any events that we attract to the stadium are complementary to the Odyssey Arena.

Mr McNarry:
It is a big revenue area. Finally, are the sporting bodies putting no money into the project?

Mr Poots:
The sporting bodies are not putting in any capital. However, they have a contractual arrangement to put persons on seats over a 25-year period to make the project viable. In relation to concerts, we are aiming to take business away from the Point Depot, Slane Castle, and Croke Park. We are not aiming to take business away from the Odyssey Arena or any other events that take place in Northern Ireland. Over 50% of the people attending one of the latest concerts in the Odyssey Arena did not come from Northern Ireland. If we have a quality venue — wherever that venue may be — we have the ability to bring tens of thousands of people to Northern Ireland each year, which will add millions of pounds to our economy.

The Chairperson:
I thought that you would emphasise the multiplier effect, as opposed to taking people away from other venues. However, I will not go down that road.

Mr Jardine:
I want to return to a question that was not answered. We have not factored the Six Nations games into the business plan. However, we expect to pick up autumn internationals and such like from time to time. The Six Nations already fills Croke Park with more than 80,000 people. It would be economically unviable to put the Six Nations into a facility that would hold 38,000.

Mr McNarry:
So, we are not going after an international Six Nations match then? We would not get it.

Mr Jardine:
No. We would not get it.

In relation to the figure for maximum capacity, the GAA would have liked a higher figure and could use a higher figure. However, it believes that the capacity of 38,500 will meet almost all of its requirements and anything else would be staged at Croke Park.

Mr K Robinson:
Given the improved motorway links between Dublin and Belfast, Croke Park becomes a significant competitor.

Mr Jardine:
The reverse is true, because Croke Park is under great pressure to reduce the number of games played there. The stadium at Maze/Long Kesh would not only host Ulster games, but also some non-Ulster games, such as quarter-finals and semi-finals of competitions, and so forth.

Mr McNarry:
Are you talking about non-Ulster Gaelic games or non-Ulster rugby games?

Mr Jardine:
Sorry, I meant non-Ulster Gaelic games, such as quarter-finals and semi-finals, and so forth.

Mr McNarry:
That would hardly be good for crowd control. There is a condition that the stadium must ensure the security of the crowd. Yet you intend to bring foreigners here and guarantee their security? For goodness’ sake.

The Chairperson:
Paul, are you satisfied that your question was addressed?

Mr P Maskey:
No. I asked how much the land at the north foreshore would cost, who would pay for it and given the contamination, how long before it can be built on?

Mr McNarry:
Invite the Greeks and the Turks to play a soccer match.

Mr McCarthy:
If they have plenty of euros and sterling, David, we will not say no to them.

Mr McNarry:
They will hardly get down to Portavogie.

Mr McCarthy:
You never know.

The Chairperson:
OK, that question has been answered. Julie, please help us here.

Ms J Clark:
I need to help you. The assumption of the value of the north foreshore site is included in the total cost of that option. As per Treasury and DFP guidelines, we used a valuation based on a forecast provided by Land and Property Services.

Mr P Maskey:
How much will Belfast City Council charge? How much will the council receive by the time the project is finished?

Ms J Clark:
I do not know the answer to that. We follow the methodology required by the process, which calls for a valuation figure.

Mr P Maskey:
It is an important point: will whatever Belfast City Council charges be added to the final figure for the north foreshore option?

Mr Poots:
It has been factored into the final figure according to the recommendations of Land and Property Services recommendations.

The Chairperson:
This referee will allow only three minutes of injury time after the final whistle today.

Mr Shannon:
Chair, I sent a wee note to you to say that members are coming back for the second round, when we hope for more time.

Julie, in the report, number 20 of the ‘Project Aim and Objectives’ refers to meeting the needs of association football, Gaelic games and rugby. Ever mindful of the fact that 97% of Northern Ireland fans said that they neither intend nor wish to go to a national stadium at the Maze/Long Kesh site, did you survey the fan base at any stage?

Point 47 on page 11 of the report states:

“Therefore the MLK option which brings the three Sporting Bodies together has the potential to contribute significantly to reconciliation and community cohesion relative to the other options.”

I suggest that it has the potential to contribute negatively: for instance, what flags will be flown and which anthems will be played when all three bodies are in attendance?

My understanding is that in preparing the site for use as a prison, the concrete foundations were some 40 to 50 ft deep. When you were considering the Maze/Long Kesh as a potential site, did you take into account the cost of removing those and refurbishing the site before any work could start?

Mr McNarry:
Did some inmates not try to tunnel out of the prison?

Mr Shannon:
Yes, but they hit the concrete wall.

Ms J Clark:
I consulted the three sports bodies that understand their respective fan bases.

Mr Shannon:
Did you not consult the fan base by going to the supporters’ clubs? I speak as a supporter.

Ms J Clark:
The sports bodies gave us access to surveys that they had undertaken.

Mr Shannon:
In a survey of the Northern Ireland Supporters Club, some 97% said that they did not want to go to the Maze. That is a clear result. It is hard cut. That is the end of the line. Some 60,000 Northern Ireland shirts were sold in Northern Ireland last year. That demonstrates that there is a significant fan base.

Mr Jardine:
The IFA has done its own market research and shown that it can expand its fan base in a variety of ways including, as Julie said, attracting more families and women to matches, as well as people from a wider geographical area.

Mr McCausland:
I asked a question on TSN, but I did not get an answer to it. Page 12 of the business case shows that, in the non-monetary scores, 5% weighting was allocated to TSN and 25% to community cohesion. Why was so little weighting allocated to TSN, and so much to community cohesion, when you already know that the sites other than the Maze will be at a disadvantage because of the GAA veto? How did you arrive at those figures?

Page 116 of the business case states the proposed Maze stadium could act as a catalyst for development in disadvantaged areas of Lisburn and west Belfast as well as the immediate area. How many miles is the proposed Maze stadium site from west Belfast? It is 10 miles. That is like putting a stadium in Helen’s Bay, Cultra or Crawfordsburn —

The Chairperson:
Or Fintona. [Laughter.]

Mr McCausland:
Or Fintona, and people who could go there on a horse tram. The stadium could be in Cultra and the people from west Belfast would be as close to it as they would be if it was at the Maze. Why is there no recognition that the Maze and west Belfast are 10 miles apart? Other parts of west Belfast, such as the Shankill, are 15 or 16 miles away. In contrast, the North Foreshore site is only a mile, at most, away from wards with significant social deprivation, both unionist and nationalist.

Mr Poots:
Not all the TSN areas are in Belfast. There are TSN areas within two miles of the proposed stadium site — one of those is a ward that is in the top ten of the most educationally disadvantaged. Twinbrook is seven miles from the proposed Maze stadium site, and there are 25,000 people in west Belfast who live in a seven or eight mile radius from the site. If people want to access jobs or other opportunities, transportation is very important.

Mr McCausland:
Where did the figures of 5% and 25% come from?

Ms J Clark:
The factors used to calculate the non-monetary scores reflected the objectives, and the weightings were discussed with a number of organisations including Sport NI.

Mr McCausland:
There may have been discussion with a number of organisations, but I want evidence of how they arrived at their conclusions and who they were. That is the type of information that I want. I can see no justification for the 5% weighting given to TSN and the 25% for community cohesion. What organisations were involved in the discussions, and what was the rationale behind the weightings?

My final question is on an issue that David McNarry and the Minister have already referred to, which will not go away. The Minister said that there would not be a shrine to terrorists at the Maze. However, a number of Sinn Féin groups have stated that they visit the existing shrine to “pay homage”. A shrine is a place where people go to pay homage, and that is the language used on the Sinn Féin website. The business case states that:

“given the potential links to the ICCT, the MLK site can offer greater reconciliation and community cohesion benefits than any other site option.”

Therefore, the presence of the H-blocks is considered as an advantage for the proposed Maze stadium. Through the conflict-transformation centre, we are being offered a glorified shrine, which is more upmarket than the existing one. That should have been considered as a potential drawback of the Maze stadium proposal because if it project is located there it will be tainted. It is also one of the main reasons that many people oppose the Maze stadium proposal.

Mr P Ramsey:
Will you come back to the Committee to inform us of the adjudication that DFP makes when it has appraised the business case? Will the business case go to the Executive? Given the fact that we have been discussing the development of the stadium over recent months, it is important that you attend the Committee to inform us of the appraisal from DFP.

Lord Browne:
I declare an interest as a Belfast councillor. Much mention was made of the north foreshore and the wonderful infrastructure that it has because of the ferries. However, the George Best Belfast City Airport is located in east Belfast. The Minister mentioned that consideration was given to developing the land at the Danny Blanchflower Stadium and Inverary Park. Am I right in thinking that a small, junior stadium, which could be shared by sports, could be developed there? The infrastructure in east Belfast is as good as that in north Belfast.

Mr Poots:
I will deal with the questions in reverse order.

The IFA has identified the Inverary site for a junior stadium. There has been some suggestion that that site could be used for a full national stadium. I have asked my officials to liaise with the Planning Service and the Roads Service to identify what is achievable at that site. That might show that a junior stadium could be developed for around 10,000 to 12,000 people, or whether a stadium for 25,000 to 30,000 people could be developed. Previously, an SIB report concluded that that could not be done for 25,000 to 30,000 people. Subsequent to that, some adjustments have been made to roads, and there may a possibility of further adjustments being made to roads. I want complete clarification of what can be done at that site to find out whether it would be restricted to a smaller stadium, or whether it could be developed into a larger stadium. Even if the proposal at the Maze were to go ahead, I would be keen for a junior stadium and a centre of football excellence to be developed at the Inverary site. I am prepared to work with the IFA and with the private developer on that site. This morning, I spoke to that private developer about that development. I do not hide the fact that I am happy to speak to such people, because speaking to people who are prepared to make an investment is in the wider interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

I am not exactly sure when I will come back to the Committee, but you can agree that I have sought to be open throughout the subject, and on all subjects. That will continue to be the case.

Although the shrine issue is a matter for OFMDFM, I do not completely walk away from it. I take heart from the fact that Nelson McCausland and others have come to some kind of agreement on the Crumlin Road Prison. That prison housed all of the people who ended up in the Maze, and 17 people are buried in its confines. The last hanging of an IRA man took place at Crumlin Road Prison. People could pay homage at Crumlin Road Prison, but I understand that that issue has been dealt with in north Belfast. If it can be dealt with north Belfast, it can be dealt with elsewhere. However, it is not part of my role to deal with that.

Mr McNarry:
Can I ask one question?

The Chairperson:
Is it relevant?

Mr McNarry:
I will leave that to your judgement. When does the Minister see a convergence between the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister’s decision on the shrine and his decision on the stadium?

Mr Poots:
The Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister deals with the totality of the site. I do not think that the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister’s opinion will be any different than mine about the development of the shrine. They will not bring forward proposals that include the development of a shrine.

Mr K Robinson:
If the Minister were to find himself as part of OFMDFM, would he change his opinion on that?

Mr Poots:
If I were part of OFMDFM, I would be wholly opposed to the development of anything that would glorify terrorism. I am quite confident that the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister will not produce or support anything that glorifies terrorism. That is not in the interests of the wider public of Northern Ireland.

The Chairperson:
I thank the Minister, Edgar Jardine, Tony Whitehead and Julie Clark, and other officials who have accompanied the team for their attendance, and for engaging in this exercise.

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