BBC's voice of swimming faces investigation into lottery deals

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The Independent Online
The Government is to launch an investigation into allegations that Hamilton Bland, who has an official role in the distribution of National Lottery money, is involved in a potential conflict of interests.

According to an investigation by Granada TV's World in Action and the Times, Mr Bland, whose role is to recommend which swimming pool bids receive lottery money, also has a profitable business as a consultant to those who want to secure lottery funding. Another aspect of his business has been to help a company win contracts to build swimming-pools, for which he has reportedly been paid 5 per cent commission.

Last night Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, said he would be calling for an inquiry, which is expected to be conducted by his department officials and the English Sports Council.

He said: "There are alarming implications if these allegations are true. They will require the most rigorous investigation and I will want to ensure that it is carried out as rapidly as possible."

The Amateur Swimming Association said it had commissioned an independent inquiry to report back to it by end of the month.

A spokesman said: "It is the ASA's intention that this inquiry is carried out as quickly as possible in order that the findings may be presented by 30 August to the ASA Committee and a decision taken as to the necessary action required. The ASA will make public the findings of this investigation."

He added that that Mr Bland had served the association as its facilities consultant for many years and had never received any complaints.

Concerns about Mr Bland's multiple business interests were raised by the Sports Council two years ago, but his pounds 16,000-a-year contract as a facilities consultant was renewed by the ASA. Since then, more than pounds 80m has been allocated from the lottery to build new pools and the ASA is seeking a further pounds 500m, for 19 more Olympic-size pools, 27 international competition pools, and many smaller pools.

Mr Bland, a former Olympic coach who commentates on swimming events for the BBC, runs the ASA/Kelloggs awards scheme, which provides a large amount of the governing body's income. He also promotes SwimGB, the ASA's brand of swimwear.

In his role as facilities organiser, a position he has held since 1988, he is the first person to know about almost every new public swimming pool proposed in the country.

Mr Bland was unavailable for comment last night.

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