The UK is failing to fully capitalise on the opportunities and benefits of hosting major cultural and sporting events because of “a lack of overall vision and direction from the government,” it was argued today.
A report from the DCMS committee cites the forthcoming Unboxed: Creativity in the UK festival as a prime example of a major event where aims are “vague and ripe for misinterpretation”.
The £120 million investment in the festival – an eight-month long celebration of creativity following the exit from the EU – is “an irresponsible use of public money,” officials argue.
This follows an admission from the government that it does not know what the event is for, with the committee warning that it is “far from clear” it will deliver a return on investment.
The report also highlights the case of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
It concludes that while the event presents a great opportunity for the people of the West Midlands, there has not been sufficient priority given to legacy funding and long-term evaluation.
The committee calls on the government to be clear about what it is trying to achieve through major events and how they fit with wider policy priorities, and then to embed that vision through long-term planning and resourcing.
The report also calls for guaranteed funding for UK City of Culture hosts and warns that the government must establish an independent regulator for English football, as recommended by the fan-led review of football governance, before the campaign to host Euro 2028 begins.
DCMS committee chair, Julian Knight, said: “Despite the UK having a strong reputation on the world stage as a leading host of sporting and cultural events, there is no golden thread linking them all together.
“Unless the government urgently addresses this lack of strategy and vision, it will continue to risk squandering the benefits such occasions can bring, while wasting the hard-earned money of taxpayers.”
He added: “The Unboxed festival acts as a prime illustration of an event with aims that have been vague from the start.
“That it took three years to come up with a rather nebulous name, which will mean little to the few that are even aware of its existence, does not bode well for its chances of delivering a true lasting legacy.
“How this questionable example of planning is playing out should act as wake-up call for the government.
“Such a muddled approach is a sure-fire recipe for failure, and we have no confidence that it can meet its ambitious targets for engagement or deliver a return on the substantial investment from the public coffers.”
The DCMS committee recommended the government work with industry to develop and publish a strategy for hosting the full scope of major events within the next two years.