Objectivity: balanced, inclusive and skilled board

The board should be made up of individuals with the right balance of skills and experience to meet the needs to the organisation. Included in this is a need for independent expertise and for representation of the diversity of the sport and the communities they serve.

The rationale for involvement of independent board members has already been outlined earlier in this Code. It is set out as desirable for an organisation to appoint an independent chair where objective challenge, leadership and decision-making are crucial.

The larger organisations may benefit from this approach. It is acknowledged that smaller, developing organisations may also want to appoint a chair with knowledge of the sport, recreation or activity as this will enable them to grow.

The real questions to be asked are: if your organisation is using the role of chair appropriately and whether the objective challenge can be performed effectively by the chosen individual?

To achieve independence you need people on your board who are able to make decisions without personal prejudice or influence.





We have recently changed the composition of the British Gymnastics Board from 25 directors, representative of disciplines, regions and home countries, to a competency based board of 12 executives and nonexecutives. We welcome the development of a Code for the sport and recreation sector and we intend to adopt it as our own Code going forward.

Alan Sommerville OBE CDir MloD, Chair, British Gymnastics





Practical Considerations:

  • Putting in place appropriate recruitment practices for new board members.
  • Ensuring a balanced and inclusive interview panel and nominations panel for board appointments.
  • Ensuring board succession planning is taken into consideration.
  • Ensuring board composition adequately reflects society and is mindful of diversity.
  • Using outside experts in specific fields when necessary.
  • Setting terms of office for board members that are limited in duration to ensure the board is refreshed regularly and a balance of continuity and fresh perspective is maintained.
  • Ensuring the voice of the participant is heard or represented to the board (this can be achieved through participant representation, by portfolio responsibility or through committee structures).
  • Having a board that comprises a workable maximum of ten people for effective decision-taking.
  • Having at least two independent non-executive board members bringing knowledge and experience from outside the sport.
  • Ideally having an independent chair to bring an objective perspective
  • Ensuring that board members are chosen on the basis of their competence, ability, quality, leadership, integrity and experience.
  • Ensuring diversity is championed on the board (this can be achieved through portfolio responsibility, quota setting or mentoring programmes).
  • Ensuring the board has appropriate representation from officers but that personal opinions do not influence decisions.
  • Ensuring power sharing is practiced in decision-making processes.
  • Ensuring that challenge and discussion is encouraged in a controlled meeting and conflict is resolved appropriately.











There remains a lack of female representation at senior management levels at many of our national sports bodies. This contributes to the gender gap in sports participation and I want to see it redressed

Hugh Robertson MP, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, January 2011 DCMS blog










The composition of your board and the way your board is elected or appointed is usually dictated through your governing document. If you have a representative structure where regions elect individuals to hold a place on your board and you want to change the structure to a skills-based board you may need to get your membership to vote through the change to your governing document.

This may be a long process and in some cases you will have to demonstrate and advocate the reasons why you want to make a structural change. At times you may be asking people to effectively vote themselves out of a role or position in favour of a new structure.

You will need to present a convincing argument and obtain buy-in to make this happen. Making the change may be difficult but you should strive to achieve a board made up of individuals appointed because of their abilities, skills and experience. 





We see more clearly than ever how homogeneity at the top of organisations can lead to narrow thinking and a lack of proper challenge to chief executives. It is in everyone's interests that this changes. We have to make the best of the available talent and reach out to the widest talent pools to find it

Helen Alexander, CBI President "Room at the Top" 2011





It is recommended that a board is no bigger than ten people to ensure effective decision-making.

This will differ depending on the size of an organisation. For example, a large organisation will find a board of ten people very workable however, a smaller organisation may find a smaller board more appropriate.

The number of ‘ten’ is offered as an ideal.

Having a wide range of perspectives represented on the board is critical to achieving good governance.

The representation should not be confused as representation of geographical areas or functional representation. The representation in relation to diversity and inclusion is focussed on ensuring that difference is embraced and valued for the breadth of perspective that benefits the organisation.



It is recommended that organisations move towards appointing a skills-based board with appropriate role descriptors for each member.

Historically organisations have grown and developed with representative boards, where either regions elect an individual to represent their views on the board, or where each faction of the activity, sport or recreation elects a representative to sit on the board – such as an official’s representative or a junior competition representative.

The representative approach can lead to decisions being affected by personal interest. The appointment of each individual based on their skill-set should ensure an objective level of decision making and help the organisation professionalise in the changing external world






The key to change in this area is to clearly identify and agree the benefits that a new model of leadership and governance would bring to all parties, whether it be more streamlined decision-making for the board, greater transparency and openness in communication to the members, or better defined roles and responsibilities between staff and volunteers. Once everyone understands these outcomes, barriers to change are minimised.

Pauline Harrison, Director, Sport and Recreation Alliance








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