Spotlight on sport governance
The published Minutes (www.uksport.gov.uk/resources/board-minutes) of UK Sport board meeting states, the “Board were also in agreement that the current UK Sport Vision, ‘Inspire the Nation’, captures the essence of UK Sport’s Purpose well.” While the recent appointment of new Chief Executive Officer Sally Munday OBE also played to the positive mood music about prospects for re-invigorated approach to leadership and corporate governance in the UK Sport boardroom with renewed prospects for increased inclusion, diversity and future medal success outside it.
Sadly, an altogether different view of the complex set of relationships that previously and possibly currently exists between the aims, governing bodies, executives and day-to-day management of UK Sport, British Cycling and Team Sky emerged during and at the Richard Freeman medical tribunal.
According to corporate governance expert Gerry Brown, and author of ‘The Independent Director’ (www.theindependentdirector.co.uk), if we rightly set aside both rights and wrongs as well as the ins and outs of the evidence or so-called authoritative hearsay, corporate governance nonetheless still appears to badly fall between the cracks whenever success beckons for sports just as it often does – to be fair - in business too.
“Though the sports bodies involved officially have either changed or renewed their best practice vows, it still appears to be the case that – to adapt the religious saying – corporate governance regularly takes a back seat when the devil drives. Indeed, it is often effectively ignored, whenever success on the field, pitch, track or marketplace beckons and/or results,” says Brown.
“Though clearly world records, medals and great results – just like soaring turnover and profits – are a wonderful emetic to help mask the process and structural corporate governance shortcomings, they only ever do so temporarily. British cycling preached the gospel of “incremental gains” through attention to detail while taking this as carte blanche to ignore the importance of such factors in the boardroom. The equally important need for accurate/adequate record keeping, transparency and straightforward communication also fell by the wayside as the complaints and medals also stacked up. Though both qualifications and success are powerful credentials it remains the case that what we now see as the realities of management practice away from the stadiums further confirms the sports truism that what gets delivered is either coached or condoned.”
“Despite questions being asked of its corporate governance, it appears UK Sport continues to lack proper independence at board level. With Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024 ahead this is a serious matter in need of greater transparency and urgency to resolve,” comments Brown.