Getting to grips with governance

As part of Governance and Workforce Month, James Allen, Director of Policy, Governance and External Affairs, surveys the governance landscape of the sector ahead of the upcoming launch of the new UK Code for Sports Governance.

With governance issues in sport making more headlines recently, I thought I’d run the rule over some upcoming events that will shape the sector’s approach to governance and developing its workforce for years to come.  

Governance is a key issue we’ve looked at under our Fit for the Future programme and, as we build up to our 2016 Leadership Convention in Manchester this November, we await the imminent release of the hugely significant new UK Code for Sports Governance. The Code will not only set out a number of new requirements on our sector but also, we hope, be an important element towards a change in the culture, behaviour and quality of governance in our sector.

The Alliance has a long track record of working with our members and the wider sector across the UK to raise the bar in sports governance. We have our own Voluntary Code of Good Governance with well over 100 signatories and worked in partnership with the sport sector in Wales to develop the Governance and Leadership Framework for Wales. Through this work, we know that there is both a need and a real appetite for change when it comes to improving governance standards.

Too often, however, governance remains seen as a burdensome exercise, with the focus on ticking boxes and compliance. Of course, getting things right, meeting fundamental and legal requirements and ensuring that appropriate procedures and policies are in place is very important.

For me, the more exciting element of governance is about the way we think, our cultures and the approach we take to making core decisions. Governance should not be seen as something that gets in the way of our core purpose, not as an ‘instead of’ but as a key enabler to making the best quality, best informed and most sustainable decisions for our organisations and for our members and participants.

Throughout the Alliance’s Governance and Workforce month and throughout the Fit for the Future programme, this is not going to be an exercise in pointing out endless problems and challenges. This is about practical solutions and how best we can enact change. For example, this is not a month for philosophical debate about whether we need skilled, diverse and representative Boards who take integrity, sustainability and inclusiveness seriously, as clearly we do. This month is about how we get there, and how we can do it quickly and effectively and in a manner that all organisations regardless of size can subscribe to.

We are also expecting new strategies from Sport England on both volunteering and a new approach to the sector’s paid workforce. This combined with our own exciting news about Join In makes this a timely moment to reflect on how we can collectively deliver a highly skilled, motivated and modern workforce and governance culture for the sector, something that I think we all want.

The above developments are all being driven by a change in the strategic landscape of the sector – with new and very different strategies from both Government and Sport England being released in the last 12 months. The greater focus on outcomes and impact measurement, tackling inactivity and the need for the demonstration of a contribution to overarching themes including mental and physical health and the economy will all need new skills and, in some cases, new people in the sector. A greater focus on outreach and working with currently underrepresented groups will require people in the sector who are skilled and experienced in these areas.

None of this will be easy, but a greater focus on finding answers to our workforce and governance challenges will help us to make real progress.

Find out more about Governance and Workforce Month here.