“At the heart of this is culture…good people doing good things.” – Corporate Governance in Sport

International Sports Convention, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 20th March 2024

Corporate Governance in Sport-Opportunity, Challenges and Problems

Mark Loosemore, Partner Hugh James

Jon Dutton, Chief Executive, British Cycling

James Owens, Head of Sport System, Governance, People & Ethics, Sport Wales

Sarah Powell, Chief Executive, British Gymnastics

Drew Barrand, Chief Executive, British Swimming

Mark Loosemore outlined key principles of good governance in sport, emphasising the importance of ‘framework’ and ‘culture’. “One is no good without the other,” he said.

The aim of good governance is “to foster and protect the interests of the key stakeholders,” he added.

There are challenges around making reforms. Loosemore explained that it is hard to break down established vested interests. Among other issues, he felt that there is too much emphasis on the structure or framework, and not enough emphasis on the culture.

“We need to focus on culture and wellbeing.”

Jon Dutton said that the growth of cycling had brought issues: “We have grown up from a volunteer-led organisation.”

He said there were important issues to deal with such as safeguarding, transgender athletes and athlete wellbeing.

James Owens said that as expectations get higher, so the pressure grows on the organisations, and that introduces the problem of whether there is the capability and capacity to manage all of that. “In Wales some governing bodies are large like the WRU, but we have some governing bodies with no turnover at all.”

Sarah Powell acknowledged the well known problems that gymnastics has had, but stressed that change is happening. “We have a huge reform programme in place across gymnastics,” she said. She asked for patience, “It takes time to make that change.”

It is all about: “How do we put the welfare of athletes first?”

Swimming has also had safeguarding problems. Drew Barrand agreed, “As a sport we’ve had challenges.”  He felt that the coverage around sport concentrated too much on the negativity around the debate, and it was taking attention away from the ‘good bit’. “The balance is wrong,” he said.

Looking ahead, Powell wants consistency across sports and wants to establish one system for safeguarding and welfare in the UK.

Loosemore felt that the recent Government announcement about an Independent Regulator for football was misplaced, and there were more important areas to concentrate on.

Powell added, “Words like ‘regulator’ are seen as solutions, and they’re not.

At the heart of this is culture…good people doing good things.” She continued: “We have to get back to our communities. We have to empower our communities.”