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Industry heavyweights in contention for new ukactive Board seats

By Jak Phillips    30 Apr 2015
The Gym Group CEO and founder John Treharne is vying to become the Commercial Fitness & Activity representative

ukactive has announced the high-profile shortlist of candidates aiming to join the new ukactive Board of Directors, to be helmed by recently-appointed chair Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Leading figures from a number of leisure giants - including Virgin Active, The Gym Group and GLL - comprise the shortlist, with ukactive members able to vote for their preferences in the ongoing election. Votes for the new Board members can be cast via the ukactive website. The deadline for voting is Friday 8 May.

The new Board has been built following a 12-month consultation with ukactive members and partners designed to ensure a governance structure that is fit for purpose and in line with best practice recommended by key agencies such as Sport England.

In addition to an appointed chair, the Board will be comprised of an appointed treasurer and up to five appointed non-executive directors drawing in experience from the sector and broader areas of specialism such as government policy making, healthcare and private sector delivery.

The elected positions, covering commercial fitness, local authority activity and wider activity promotion, will provide a direct voice for ukactive members in this governance structure.

“The formation of a new Board of Directors for ukactive provides a clear platform to lead the physical activity sector at this exciting time when the role that physical activity has to play in improving the health and wellbeing of the nation it has never been clearer," said ukactive executive director Steven Ward.

"We have received some fantastic applications for the elected positions on the Board from the leading names in the sector. I am very confident we will soon have in place a Board which can drive ukactive and the sector forward for years to come and support me in my own new role.”

Candidates

Seat 1 - Commercial Fitness & Activity

Matt Merrick, European COO, Virgin Active - Merrick joined Virgin Active in 2004 as the group’s financial controller when the business operated 14 UK clubs. He has held several roles since then including UK finance director, UK managing director and now European COO. He is responsible for operations, commercial product, customer services, facilities and investment across Virgin Active’s 150-strong European club portfolio.

Merrick said: “Within Virgin Active, I have directly overseen business functions including finance, legal, property, IT, procurement, operations, product, customer services, sales, marketing and facilities, and a focus on innovation to get more young people active in particular. This breadth and depth of experience and leadership supports the broader governance agenda of the ukactive Board which I believe is key in meeting the needs of all its members invested in the vision”.

Paul Ramsay, operations director, 3d Leisure – Ramsay started in the industry as a gym instructor working his way up through numerous positions, before being promoted to his current role in 2002. Heading up a contract management organisation has enabled him to operate clubs in a wide range of sectors including education, corporate, hotels, standalone and care homes.

Ramsay said: “I am fully in support of ukactive’s vision to get more people, more active, more often. I believe that we can only start to improve the health of the nation once we start to offer programming instead of facilities. We need to train our staff (the whole industry) to enable them to educate and coach users into making a lifestyle change rather than selling them a length of time access to a facility”.

John Treharne, CEO, The Gym Group - Treharne is the founder of The Gym Group, the longest established national operator of budget gyms. A former accountant and England squash player, Treharne’s fitness industry experience spans more than 25 years. Under John’s leadership, The Gym Group is one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK, featuring in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 for three consecutive years.

Treharne said: “As CEO, I have demonstrated outstanding leadership skills and this is reflected by The Gym Group’s Best Companies and Investors in People accreditation. I have fostered innovation throughout the business and have successfully exploited new technology to maintain a competitive edge”.

Seat 2 - Local Authority Activity

Sandra Dodd, CEO, Places for People Leisure – Sandra has 20 years’ experience in the leisure management sector having joined Places for People Leisure (formerly DC Leisure) in 1995. She is a chartered management accountant and has been a main board director since 2002, previously holding the position of finance director for 12 years. Sandra was appointed CEO in January 2015 to lead the company in the next phase of its development.

Dodd said: “My considerable experience of working in the local authority leisure management contracting market, will allow me to assist ukactive to further its reach and spheres of influence to truly deliver its vision in making our nation healthier and more physically active.”

Neil King, managing director, 1Life Management Solutions – Neil has 25 years’ industry experience in the public and private sectors in both the UK and mainland Europe. He was recently commercial director for SLM and was instrumental in the creation and development of the Everyone Active brand. Neil is currently managing director of 1Life, which is in the process of bringing a new fun, vibrant, aspirational brand to market and re-positioning the company for future success. He has previously served on the Board of ukactive and has experience of key development areas such as the skills and health and wellbeing agendas.

King said: “I understand that a business has to be built on the solid financial footings, but that it is also essential to deliver other equally important outcomes including community engagement, social inclusion and health and wellbeing - this is how we will deliver ukactive’s vision of ‘more people, more active, more often’. It is also important to embrace opportunities outside the sector, building relationships with other key stakeholders and working in partnership with a range of public bodies and UK industries. I am passionate and experienced in skills, learning and development and want to ensure that we leave a legacy where young people have clear career pathways to progress in the industry.”

Mark Sesnan, managing director, GLL – Mark has been the managing director of GLL since its formation in 1993 and a key player in steering the growth and direction of the local authority leisure market. GLL will have nearly 50 million visits to its facilities this year. Mark is a CIMSPA Fellow, a Fellow of the RSA and is the secretary and a founder member of Sporta.

Sesnan said: “I understand the challenges we face as well as those facing the nation. Ultimately my goal would be to support and help guide ukactive in its new cross cutting agendas, and I think I have the track record and experience to do this”.

The third elected seat represents “broader physical activity.” Dr Ewan Hamnett will run unopposed for this seat, due to the ukactive Nominations Committee agreeing there was no other suitable application for this seat. Dr Hamnett is a recently retired GP with 26 years of practice in Birmingham, who currently chairs the Birmingham City Council Active Wellbeing Committee.

Hamnett said: “I firmly believe we need to improve education for health professionals and the public about the life-enhancing benefits of activity. Broadening the menu of activity and ensuring a safe and attractive infrastructure are key to ensuring a healthier population”.

ukactive’s membership network of around 3,500 members will all be given the opportunity to vote across these seats and have each been contacted with the process for casting their votes.

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