Circuit of Wales and Sport Wales

The clock is ticking on two deadlines relating to the Circuit of Wales and Sport Wales.

A fortnight ago, the Economy Secretary Ken Skates gave the circuit backers a deadline to provide more information on financial support from the private sector. They have to report back this week.

This is the first of three big calls he has to sign-off on in 2017, the others are the M4 relief road and the next Wales and Borders rail franchise.

This will surely be the final attempt by the Circuit of Wales to get a taxpayer-funded guarantee in the event of the project going bust.

The first, which involved 100% of the overall cost, failed in April after what appeared to be a spectacular breakdown in communication.

Edwina Hart

The then Economy Minister Edwina Hart thought she was guaranteeing £35m of the cost, only to be told late in the day that the actual amount was ten times that.

Unsurprisingly, it did not get signed off. In fact, one of the last things she said before retiring, was to question the entire commercial viability of the project.

The second attempt also failed when her successor Ken Skates was presented with another proposal in the summer in which the taxpayer had to guarantee 83% of the cost. New minister but the same answer.

The circuit backers were told to go away and only come back when the private sector was prepared to underwrite half of the cost.

One of the striking features of this story over the years has been the unflappability of the Circuit of Wales Chief Executive Michael Carrick.


On the day of the second Welsh Government rejection, I expressed my commiseration when I bumped into him in the Senedd, only to be told confidently that he had just emerged from his best meeting yet with civil servants.

His sheer persistence may yet pay dividends if he can meet the deadline this week, and show that more private sector funding has been committed.

Sport Wales is another interesting call. This is the body tasked with getting more of us to play sport and be physically active. The Welsh Government gives it around £20m a year to do that.

To say it has not been a happy ship is putting it mildly. A no-nonsense new chairman called Paul Thomas was put in post less than a year ago.

He is a business academic who used to double up as a trouble-shooter. When I used to present the Radio Wales business programme Wales at Work, we used to send him into companies to try to turn round any problems they were facing.


He could be abrasive, prompting equally abrasive responses from the staff, which occasionally would make great radio.

He appears to have done the same at Sport Wales because when he went for a hospital appointment in November, the board passed a vote of no-confidence in him.

When the Welsh Government got wind of this, the activities of the entire board were suspended while an eight week review was carried out.

This is another deadline about to come to an end.

The Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans has a number of options: she could sack the chairman (which would be difficult as it was a Welsh Government appointment), she could sack the entire board (which would be an extreme measure) or she could force them all back together again, possibly with some mediation, and tell them to bury their differences.


Behind the obvious personnel clash is a more fundamental question about the future of Sport Wales.

Paul Thomas said in an internal review, leaked to BBC Wales, that the organisation needed a greater focus on getting people of all ages more engaged in physical activity, as well as winning medals at major championships.

There will undoubtedly be people who strongly disagree but all his detractors went to ground after the board was suspended.

I would expect some of them to be flushed out over the next fortnight as some light is shed on the internal workings of Sport Wales.