Heads to roll at Casey's court?

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The Independent Online

BY Alan Hubbard

BY Alan Hubbard

28 November 1999

Sport England, the body responsible for what is considered by the Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, as a half-billion pound bungle over Wembley, is set for a major shake-up following a number of attacks over their distribution of lottery funding and spending on internal administration. This could result in the departure of the high-profile chairman Trevor Brooking and long-serving chief executive Derek Casey, both of whom are angered by what they consider unfair and misinformed accusations about their handling of these, and the Wembley issue.

Brooking, appointed earlier this year to the part-time role after several years as vice-chairman, is believed to have told Hoey "if you'd like me to resign, I will" over the Wembley affair while Casey, who has been with Sport England - formerly the English Sports Council - for 14 years and chief executive since 1995, is said to be upset enough to quit and accept one of a number of job offers he has received recently.

These include the opportunity to run a proposed new lottery scheme for funding sport in Australia and overseeing the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

It has been a bad week for the pair who head the quango which oversees the public spending and administration of English sport. Casey, in particular, came under personal attack from a number of sports bodies at last week's annual conference of the Central Council for Physical Recreation. As the umbrella organisation for sport's 200-odd governing bodies the CCPR are largely funded by Sport England but some individual members have accused Casey of running an "authoritarian regime bogged down by bureaucracy" and alleged that Sport England have created "a culture of arrogance and a conspiracy of secrecy". This is strenuously denied by the quietly spoken Scot as "a gross distortion of the facts" and both he and Brooking will defend their positions at a specially convened meeting of Sport England tomorrow.

It was significant that Hoey, embarrassed in Parliament two days earlier by questions over the Wembley muddle, chose the CCPR conference to deliver more of a broadside than a warning shot across the bows of Sport England.

She made it clear she wanted to see more money spent on grass-roots sport and less on red tape. In what was clearly a card-marking exercise she declared: "Money given to sport by taxpayers and the lottery is hard-earned and deserves to be spent efficiently and honestly on good purposes. If this money is delayed by bureaucracy or wasted by inefficiency I want to have exposed and named those responsible. We must never allow situation where governing bodies feel restrained by what they think to be right for fear of the power of the person holding the purse strings."

"I'll be ruffling a few feathers," warns Hoey. Putting the boot in, more likely.