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Talking point: Six industry heavyweights give their take on the Code for Sports Governance

Tom Walker asked six industry heavyweights for their take on the new Code for Sports Governance

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management Mar Apr 2017 issue 130
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
British Athletics is one of the few sporting bodies whose board already meets the gender balance requirements
British Athletics is one of the few sporting bodies whose board already meets the gender balance requirements

Rod Carr,

Former chair,

UK Sport

Rod Carr
Rod Carr

This code is not being launched into a vacuum. In recent years, the UK’s sports sector has shown measurable and substantial improvement in its governance. Many organisations have shown a desire and commitment to control their own governance and to ensure it’s fit for purpose.

There is still much to do, though. Diversity in sports sector boardrooms is still an issue and requires sustainable change. We know for certain that better skilled and better balanced boards will make better decisions.

We introduce this code, then, confident that the sports sector is well-equipped, and well positioned to use it as a tool to further nurture the growing culture of good governance that we already see on a daily basis. This code is an opportunity for public investors to work hand-in-hand with the sector to continue this journey.

Some organisations are further ahead than others, and many organisations will be stretched beyond where they are now. We are committed to giving them the support they need to make our sector’s governance standards among the best in the world.

We are confident that, regardless of the recent history-making successes at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we can be even stronger as a system with better representation and more openness.

Arun Kang,

CEO,

Sporting Equals

Arun Kang
Arun Kang

This code is long overdue. The sports sector has needed something like a code to push it in the right direction – in terms of diversity on boards – for quite a while.

With the current economic climate, the sector could do with diversifying its talent recruitment by using new, untapped resources – especially BAME communities. The sector has been drilling in the same areas that it always has and those fields are now running dry. It needs to go drilling somewhere else. I think the code will support it in this.

As for the lack of a quota for representation, the sports sector hasn’t exhausted all the other options available yet and going directly for a target setting approach wouldn’t, in my view, be the right way to do it. What we want are individuals coming into the sport sector on merit. We need more people to come into the system organically, rather than plant people in, who may or may not be right for the positions.

It is important, however, to give NGBs and other sports organisations the help they need in making sure the incoming talent is nurtured. There’s no point having a talent pipeline and board-ready individuals from BAME backgrounds coming into leadership positions if the NGBs aren’t ready.

The problem for me isn’t recruiting BAME talent – I know it’s out there – it will be about keeping them in sport. There’s a lot of competition for leadership talent out there from other sectors, such as health.

Annamarie Phelps,

Chair,

British Rowing

Annamarie Phelps
Annamarie Phelps

We are very supportive of the new code and the need for a ‘gold standard’ in domestic sports governance. The sporting landscape has changed considerably over recent years, so it is only right and proper that we have a governance code in place that reflects this.

At British Rowing, we are experiencing this change first hand. Two years ago we embarked on a process of constitutional reforms aimed at modernising our governance structure, which has resulted in considerable change to our business. Throughout this process we have had ongoing support and dialogue with UK Sport and Sport England, so we are in a strong position to respond to the new governance code.

There’s plenty of momentum behind rowing at the moment; following a hugely successful summer in Rio by our Olympic and Paralympic rowers. We’re in a good position to capitalise on this but we must continue we continue to adapt to maintain this momentum to Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

We will be going through the detail of the code to better understand the implications for British Rowing at board and council, as well as for clubs across the country and how we can take it forward, while keeping aligned to the work already underway. We’ll continue to keep the rowing community involved and informed as we work to grow a healthy sport.

British Rowing will receive £32.1m in UK Sport funding for the next Olympic cycle / Adam Davy / press association
British Rowing will receive £32.1m in UK Sport funding for the next Olympic cycle/ Adam Davy / press association

Emma Boggis,

CEO,

Sports and Recreation Alliance

Emma Boggis
Emma Boggis

We welcome the publication of A Code for Sports Governance as it – and the detailed guidance within it – outline a number of important areas that will further enhance the governance, culture and decision making within our sector.

The five principles of structure; people; communication; standards and conduct; and policies and processes cover the crucial elements of a well-run organisation.

The code sets out a positive and ambitious direction of travel for our sector, and while some of the requirements will be challenging to some, we look forward to working with our members, the wider sector and with UK Sport and Sport England to further deliver the highly skilled and transparent culture of decision making that our sector and the public deserve. The approach set out in tiers is particularly positive, and should go a long way to ensuring that the requirements are relevant, proportionate and achievable.

Good governance is essential to organisations achieving their full potential and we hope that others will join us in viewing the Code as a significant opportunity to raise our collective game.

The Code acknowledges the strong progress made in recent years, and this is a trend that we want to continue.

The Alliance will also be taking this opportunity to ensure that our own Voluntary Code for Good Governance remains relevant and helpful to our sector, particularly to the large number of sport and recreation organisations who are not in receipt of public funds.

Mark Lawrie,

Deputy CEO,

Street Games

Mark Lawrie
Mark Lawrie

The introduction of A Code for Sports Governance is a positive step for everyone involved in the industry to ensure that sporting excellence on the field is matched by excellence behind the scenes. It signifies a need for some areas to up their game.

The code recognises that many sporting organisations have good or developing governance systems in place, but there is always more that can be done to ensure governance in sport matches the excellent practice that exists in other industries. Having the right skills and experience in the governance of sports organisations is vital to them being well-run and making good, sensible decisions.

At StreetGames, we’ve worked hard over the past four years to recruit board members with the right skills and diversity of background to help us make better informed and more well-rounded decisions. Our board has a 50-50 gender split, but we are aware we can always do more to strive for greater diversity and to better reflect the young people we are representing across the UK.

Charities like ourselves also work with commercial partners outside of the sports world. For us, these partners provide vital funds to help disadvantaged young people get active. We know from working with Coca Cola GB that they want to partner with organisations that have strong governance.

The code provides an opportunity for predominantly publicly-funded sports organisations to demonstrate their professionalism and seek out new sources of funding in line with the ambition in both the government and Sport England strategies.

The Street Games board is striving for more diversity, to better reflect the young people it represents / Barrington Coombs / press association
The Street Games board is striving for more diversity, to better reflect the young people it represents/ Barrington Coombs / press association

Ruth Holdaway,

CEO,

Women in Sport

Ruth Holdaway
Ruth Holdaway

The code represents a significant step towards improving and sustaining standards for gender balance in the sector.

We particularly welcome the commitment to make gender balance at leadership level non-negotiable when it comes to funding sport for the future. Applying it in a proportionate way will empower as many funded organisations as possible to embrace the new code with confidence. The message is loud and clear: if sport wants to be publicly funded, it must reflect the public it serves.

Increasing diversity in decision making is vital for a successful, sustainable and high performing sport sector. It is also one of the ways in which the sector can get to grips with addressing the gap of 1.6 million people that exists between women and men playing sport in England each week, and which sees many women missing out on the physical, health and social benefits of sport.

We want all organisations to benefit from greater gender balance in their leadership, regardless of size or income, and fairly representing the public that funds them.

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