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Changes made to strengthen Code for Sports Governance

Ensuring bodies in receipt of substantial public funding from either us or UK Sport have a detailed and ambitious diversity and inclusion action plan is a focus of the revised Code

Changes to strengthen the Code for Sports Governance have been confirmed after an extensive consultation involving hundreds of organisations.

The revised approach is primarily focused on ensuring bodies in receipt of substantial public funding from us or UK Sport have a detailed and ambitious diversity and inclusion action plan to increase diversity on their boards and senior leadership teams, as well as across their wider organisations.

The requirement to set plans, and publish them, focusing on organisations as a whole, will encourage transparency about where organisations are making progress and where they’re falling behind.

Launched in 2016 by us and UK Sport to drive improvement across all areas of governance, the Code has been applied to over 4,000 organisations who receive government or National Lottery funding from either organisation.

It’s had a significant impact since its introduction, helping to improve the standard of governance across national sports while accelerating the diversity of boards.

Since its introduction, representation on boards across sport from women, people from Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds and those with a declared disability has increased notably.

The original Code had a clear requirement for funded bodies to drive greater diversity on their boards, helping female representation on the boards of partners complying with the Code rise to 44%.

Numbers have also risen in relation to representation from people from Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds, and from those with a declared disability, increasing respectively to 13%* (from 4% in 2015)  and 13% (from 3% in 2015), reflecting the progress and desire of the sector to make change. 

While there’s been progress, the review highlighted the need for organisations working in sport and physical activity to do more and go further in considering how they can best reflect society as a whole, across a wider range protected characteristics as well as regional and socio-economic factors.  

The evolution of the Code therefore puts a stronger emphasis on ensuring organisations have greater ambitions to drive up further diversity and inclusion across all aspects of their work.   

Following the conclusion of the review, we and UK Sport can now confirm a number of changes:

Diversity and inclusion action plan

Each relevant partner, including national governing bodies, will be required to agree a diversity and inclusion action plan (DIAP) with us and UK Sport.

The plans are expected to be ambitious and robust and set out clearly how partners will work to improve diversity and inclusion across their whole organisation – not just at board level.

The annual publication of DIAPs will deliver greater transparency about progress, allowing the public celebration of success but also highlighting where there are gaps and where some organisations fall behind.

Organisations will be supported to set benchmarks if relevant in specific areas and will be expected to publish their first plans by the end of summer 2022, with meaningful progress made within two years.

We and UK Sport will secure additional support to help develop and monitor DIAPs. If a sustained lack of commitment or progress is not evident, this will be deemed non-compliant and withdrawal of funding will be actively considered.

Welfare and safety in sport

To help strengthen welfare and safety in sport, organisations will be required to appoint a Director to take a lead in this area.

This requirement follows other major work on this issue, including investing to support organisations with their own safeguarding work, and the expansion of the Safeguarding Case Management Service to help more organisations access expert support.

Good governance standards

Organisations will now be asked to implement and promote good governance standards, including with respect to diversity and inclusion, throughout their wider operations.

A good example of where this has already happened is The Football Association’s Code of Governance for County Football Associations, a regional Code which sets a high precedent and aims to upskill those running the grassroots game.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has also introduced a Governance Framework for its county game.

Impact on stakeholders, the environment and wider society

The Code will require boards to factor impact on stakeholders, the environment and wider society into their decisions and the actions implemented by their organisation.

This might be in relation to transport or procurement policies, or how facilities are developed, for example.

We and UK Sport will provide relevant investment and resource support with partners to help them meet the goals set out within each Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, including introducing targeted support to assist with monitoring and delivering progress and extending the partnership with Perrett Laver by a further year.

This programme works to identify and develop a network of senior, experienced candidates from a range of backgrounds, including women, people from Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds, disabled people and LGBT+ people. 

So far it’s supported 37 appointments made to sports boards, 65% of which have been from Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds, 73% of which have been female, and 8% of which have been people with a declared disability.   

Supported by £450,000 of funding from us and UK Sport, new elements to this partnership confirmed today include:  

  • A pilot for improving diversity at regional/local level, mirroring the national programme that’s been so successful.  Several national governing bodies are part of the pilot, which will also support the new ‘cascading’ requirement in the Code
  • Funding to support diverse recruitment at board-level – enabling partners not only to benefit from the network Perrett Laver has developed, but also to secure some support from Perrett Laver for specific recruitments.

To date, funded organisations have welcomed this initiative as a powerful way of ensuring they’re able to access potential candidates who might previously not have been on their radar. 

Candidates who have successfully come through this process include Jennifer Thomas (Non-Executive Director, England Netball), Tunji Akintokun (Non-Executive Director, England Athletics), Sanjay Bhandari (Board Trustee, GreaterSport) and Kirsten Furber (Independent Non-Executive Director, British Wheelchair Basketball).

Read the stories of some of those who've been on the programme

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