On a shelf in Patrick Carter’s office at Sport England, scale models of the old Wembley’s Twin Towers are employed as bookends. There could be no more apposite symbol of the 60-year-old Labour peer’s career in sports administration, the latest chapter of which concludes at the end of this month when he steps down as chairman of Sport England after four years of sometimes painful change.
Carter first came to the attention of the wider sporting community in 2001 when he was asked to sort through the emerging shambles of the Wembley project, which had already swallowed £120m of public funds. It may not be the end of his involvement.
Carter is famously shrewd but even he underestimated the scale of the challenge at Sport England. “They used to remind me of little baby birds sitting with their beaks open expecting someone like the Chancellor to fly over and drop a worm of money into their mouth because they were deserving,” he says, reflecting on his early encounters with the men – they are nearly always men – who made up the blazerati.
“I had to make a decision when I joined. Did I want to wake up every morning and have my picture taken with a kiddy who we had given £500 to, or did I want to change it fundamentally? We have made the changes, but not without a lot of pain.”
Read the rest of Paul Kelso’s interview with the chairman of Sport England by clicking here (may require registration)