Historic moment for sports governance in the UK

Published 31 March 2017

As new world-leading standards of governance for publicly-funded sport bodies come into force tomorrow (1 April 2017), UK Sport and Sport England have announced that 57 funded bodies are firmly on course to be compliant with the Code for Sports Governance by 31st October, representing the single biggest collective step forward in sports governance history and transforming the British sport sector into the best led and governed in the world.

Sport England and UK Sport published the Code for Sports Governance in October 2016, setting out the standards of governance that will be required from those who ask for Government and National Lottery funding. In the five months since the launch of the code, UK Sport and Sport England have undertaken a substantial amount of work, together with their funded organisations, to prepare the sport sector to deliver this package of major governance reforms.

The code demands the highest standards of governance from any organisation requesting public investment, including:

  • Constitutional arrangements that make boards the ultimate decision-makers;
  • Increased skills and diversity in decision making, with a target of at least 30 per cent gender diversity on boards and a commitment to greater diversity more generally;
  • Greater transparency.

In the biggest shake up in terms sports governance, if sports bodies are unable to demonstrate that they are fully committed to becoming code compliant, no public funding will go to them.

57 sports bodies are in the process of finalising and agreeing action plans detailing how they will become code compliant with UK Sport and Sport England this month. This represents the 34 bodies for which Sport England takes the lead in terms of sport governance and 23 for UK Sport. Public money will only be released to them when their plans are agreed.

As of 31st March 2017 - the day before the code officially comes into force - Sport England and UK Sport’s detailed assessment of the sector shows that 70 per cent of code requirements are already being met, illustrating that the current standard of governance in the sector is good and providing an excellent base for sports to build on as they transform their governance to world-leading.

Since the launch of the sports governance code, the UK sport sector has witnessed the beginnings of transformational change as funded sports organisations have stepped up to the call for improved standards of governance set by the Sports Minister Tracey Crouch in the Government’s ‘Sporting Future’ strategy, published in December 2015.

Over 3300 (3306) individual governance requirements have been assessed across the 57 funded bodies. The outcome of this work is that each organisation will have a bespoke Governance Action Plan setting out the actions it needs to take in order to become compliant with the code.

Sport England director of sport, Phil Smith, said:

“The Code for Sports Governance is driving a revolution in the sports industry. Sports governing bodies are planning significant changes to the way they make decisions and account for their actions – changes that will create a more productive, sustainable and responsible industry. It’s essential because organisations that receive public money do so with tremendous responsibility to ensure every penny is invested wisely and transparently.

“The tremendous amount of work that has already taken place, and the overwhelmingly positive attitude to transformational change, shows just how committed the sector is to taking this opportunity.”

UK Sport chief operating officer, Simon Morton, said:

“The new code for sports governance in the UK represents the single biggest collective step forward in the history of sports governance in this country.

“With 58 code requirements to be met by sporting organisations in receipt of public investment, transformational change is happening across the sector at both elite and grassroots levels.

“An incredible amount of work has already been undertaken by those working in the NGBs, Sport England and UK Sport. The challenge has been set, and sports are stepping up and embracing change.”

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