Birmingham beats Liverpool to become UK candidate for potential 2022 Commonwealth bid

Having beaten Liverpool in a tight race to win the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's backing, Birmingham must now convince the government to approve the bid

Matt Slater
Thursday 07 September 2017 12:36
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Both Birmingham and Liverpool expressed early interest and put together competing bids after Durban was stripped of the event in March
Both Birmingham and Liverpool expressed early interest and put together competing bids after Durban was stripped of the event in March

Birmingham has been chosen ahead of Liverpool as the recommended city for England's bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Having beaten Liverpool in a tight race to win the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's backing, Birmingham must now convince the government to approve the bid and underwrite the event's costs.

In a statement, sports minister Tracey Crouch said: "I am grateful to the bid teams from both Birmingham and Liverpool for their hard work in making the case for their respective cities as potential Commonwealth Games hosts.

"Now, after a comprehensive assessment process, the government will look at the final bid proposal from Birmingham and decide if a formal bid will be submitted to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

"We need to be completely satisfied that the bid offers overall value for money from hosting the Games and that a strong economic and sporting legacy can be delivered from it.

"The UK has fantastic expertise in hosting the biggest events in sport, as recently showcased at the London 2017 World Para Athletics and IAAF World Championships, and if we are to bid and are selected to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022 I have no doubt that Birmingham would host an excellent sporting spectacle."

The call on whether Birmingham 2022 will deliver what DCMS has described as "clear value for taxpayers' money" will be made in the coming weeks, with the CGF's final decision on where the Games will be held expected by the end of the year.

The event became unexpectedly available in March, when the CGF stripped the South African city of Durban of the right to stage the Games because of financial issues.

Mo Farah at Alexander Stadium, which will be refurbished as part of Birmingham's bid for the Commonwealth Games

That effectively wasted two years of preparation time and fired the gun on an abridged bidding contest for a late replacement.

With Birmingham already doing a feasibility study for a bid for the 2026 edition, the midlands city had a clear early advantage over Liverpool.

After making initial applications, the cities were visited twice by an independent assessment panel set up by DCMS panel this summer and at least once by the CGF, with revised bids going in three weeks ago.

Both bids had strengths and weaknesses, and it is understood Liverpool closed the gap in terms of impressing the panel and the CGF's inspection team.

Ultimately, however, Birmingham's bid has been judged to have more certainty, largely because they already have a main venue for the athletics and ceremonies at the Alexander Stadium, whereas Liverpool were proposing to stage the athletics on a temporary track in Everton's new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock.

Birmingham were also commended for their management of risk, existing infrastructure and plans for a long-term sporting legacy.

The previous Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow in 2014

That last point is perhaps the key, as the Alexander Stadium will be expanded from its current capacity of 13,000 to 20,000, with 25,000 additional seats for the Games.

This will make the Perry Barr venue, already the home of UK Athletics, the largest, permanent athletics track in the country, and it is also intended to be used for other sports, concerts and conferences.

There are some concerns about its legacy use, though, as UKA has already committed to hold most of its major events at the London Stadium every summer.

On the other hand, Liverpool's plan to spend a significant amount of public money on a temporary track was always going to be a tough sell, despite the fact the stadium will be paid for privately and the city's bid made imaginative use of its other venues, including Aintree, Anfield and Goodison Park.

There had, in fact, been some questions about Everton's ability to remove the track in time for the start of the 2022/23 football season, but that was forgetting the availability of a decent alternative in Goodison Park.

Apart from redeveloping the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham's plan also makes good use of its existing world-class venues, such as the National Exhibition Centre and Villa Park, while the building of a much-needed swimming pool in Sandwell will now be accelerated.

Durban was stripped of the 2022 edition of the Commonwealth Games in March due to financial reasons

With the CGF understood to favour an English solution to its 2022 headache and the absence of any committed rivals, apart from a potential challenge from Kuala Lumpur, Birmingham would appear to be home and hosed.

But there is one more hurdle to clear at home, first, and that is the final approval from Prime Minister Theresa May and the Treasury.

With costs expected to exceed £600m, the government wants Birmingham City Council to provide at least 25 per cent of the budget, which may raise some eyebrows at a time when it is in a bitter dispute over pay with its refuse collectors.

That said, Glasgow's staging of the 2014 Commonwealths was a financial success and is considered to have helped raise the city's international profile - something Birmingham, Liverpool and the government are all very keen on in a post-Brexit Britain.

In a statement, the chair of Birmingham's bid committee said: "This is a great endorsement by the UK government of Birmingham's credentials to host the Games and recognition of the city's resolve to deliver a memorable event.

"We appreciate it was a very close decision and that Liverpool pushed us all the way with a very compelling proposal. This is not the end of the journey and we look forward to working with the government as it makes its final decision to support a UK candidate city."

PA

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