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Sport England/UK Sport

Volume 540: debated on Thursday 9 February 2012

8. What progress his Department has made on his plans to merge Sport England and UK Sport; and if he will make a statement. (94337)

The project board set up at the request of UK Sport and Sport England, which is chaired by Sir Keith Mills, has identified four key benefits: shared resources to reduce costs, co-location, increased commercial income and enhanced strategic co-ordination. We will discuss the future governance arrangements after the 2012 games.

I thank the Minister for his response. These two organisations have different articles of association and different objectives. It is almost like one of them services a Lotus and the other encourages Ford Fiestas to become Lotuses. Other than sharing back-office functions, can he say what the cost savings are?

Yes. The cost savings are considerable. The bodies both have entirely separate back-office operations, and they both live in central London offices for which they signed leases at the height of the market without any break clauses at £57 a square foot and £35 a square foot, I think. There is no co-ordination of commercial strategy to drive success at the elite end alongside the mass market and their strategies operate in completely different spheres. There are many different savings and a lot of possible synergies.

When the Secretary of State was the shadow Secretary of State he respected the different roles of UK Sport and Sport England. In a press release that is still on the Conservative website, he said he would retain

“the current split between UK Sport and Sport England”.

He said one thing before the general election and something completely different—that these organisers should merge—after it. No one opposes economies of scale such as sharing offices and back-office services, or co-ordination where it is necessary, but these two bodies serve two very different functions. UK Sport has taken us from 36th to fourth in the Olympic medal tables. Will he say something now so that we can end the speculation about a merger of governance, not dither until after the general election and allow these organisations to get on with their jobs?

Nobody has ever said that the two organisations are merging. I think the hon. Gentleman misunderstands what is on the table—probably because the briefing has led him to do so. There has never been any question but that the new body will contain two separate organisations, one of which looks after elite and high-performance sport and one that looks after community sport. I simply want central governance arrangements over the top so that we do not end up with boards all over the place. Actually, the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, when she was in the chair, was well known for having described the organisation of British sport—she will correct me if I am wrong—as a nightmare.