Three key governance focuses for 2018

Governance in sport was a hot topic in 2017, not least because of the launch and implementation of Sport England and UK Sport’s A Code for Sports Governance and the re-launch of the Alliance’s Principles of Good Governance for Sport and Recreation.

Whilst we don’t expect governance to be any less important in 2018, we do think there will be some new areas of focus. The Alliance’s Governance Manager, Rob Tate, highlights the three areas he thinks will be increasingly important moving forward. 

2017 saw changes in “hard” governance, such as the rules, structures, policies and procedures that organisations put in place. Now it’s important that the “hard” governance is accompanied with effective “soft” governance. What I mean by this is the culture and behaviours within an organisation which encourage a proactive approach to governance and the correct implementation of “hard” governance. 

Which brings me to my first key focus for 2018 – culture and behaviours

Now that funded organisations have achieved compliance with A Code for Sports Governance by upgrading their “hard” governance, improving culture and behaviours is the next logical step.  

The same can be said for unfunded sport and recreation organisations who have been using governance development to improve the operation and performance of their organisation. Embedding good governance into an organisations culture and behaviour is the best way to make this change sustainable.  

The second focus is around stakeholder engagement

Stakeholders are individuals, groups or organisations that are affected by the activity of a business, charity or organisation. Engaging with stakeholders helps to make sure that everyone is informed about what the organisation is doing as well as future plans.  

Several governance, welfare and integrity failures put sport on the front pages during 2017. The volume of public funding involved has rightly drawn people’s attention to the issues at hand and put sport and recreation organisations under increasing scrutiny. Organisations hoping to maintain a good reputation must embrace accountability and transparency and engage with all stakeholders to keep them up to date and supportive of the organisation’s work. 

Transparency breeds trust, since transparent organisations show they have nothing to hide. Going beyond this, accountable organisations show they are also willing to listen to and act on feedback from stakeholders. Organisations must consult with and cater to the grassroots members and participants who represent the organisation’s core purpose. 

A final focus for 2018 is international influence.

The Government sport strategy, Sporting Future, suggested that UK national governing bodies should push for A Code for Sports Governance to be applied internationally. While being mindful of cultural differences in perceptions of what constitutes good governance, it’s certainly the case that international sport and recreation federations could benefit from governance improvements. 

2018 is a big year for international sporting events including the winter Olympics and Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games and it seems like as good a time as any to start a collaborative push for international governance reform. While we’d hope that UK Sport will drive this, organisations should consider the role they can play to allow Britain to continue leading the way in sports governance reform. 

The Alliance and The Principles of Good Governance for Sport and Recreation can provide support to members developing all areas of good governance, including those mentioned above. To find out more, contact the governance team at governance@sportandrecreation.org.uk