Leigh Hine: Could non-executive Boards be the key to a successful 2012 legacy?

Monday, 14 January 2013
Leigh HineSport England and UK Sport's recent investment in their national governing bodies has again raised the bar for both performance and participation activity over the next four years.

With UK Sport investing £347 million ($558 million/€417 million) in elite summer sport and £496 million ($797 million/€596 million) going to the 46 sports funded by Sport England, even in these tough economic times there is a commitment to build on the legacy of London 2012.

Investment, as many know, is only part of the puzzle for a successful sport, but the one that gets continually overlooked is the role and value that can be offered by non-executive boards and how they support the organisation and its senior management.

In many industries a role on the Board is something that is valued, fought for, something that is seen as adding value. With this in mind, how many sports can say hand on heart that their board is fit for this particular purpose?

A quick straw poll on a Friday afternoon with eight National Governing Body (NGB) chief executive's would suggest not. Only two of the eight I spoke to believed their Board offered genuine value to their sport, and none of the eight believed their chair was a "personal mentor" to them in running the sport.

cge 1Commonwealth Games England's Board includes the marketing director of Arsenal, the former communications and marketing director from UK Athletics, the founder of the Carphone Warehouse and a partner from PwC

This is worrying for not only the sector, but it also raises questions about the support, guidance and development opportunities that senior administrators in the sector are getting.

Having recruited a number of senior management positions in sport, I have seen firsthand the advances that can be made with the right people in the right places.

One such example was the non-executive Board for Commonwealth Games England (CGE). Having gone through a transparent and competency based recruitment process for non-paid Board roles, the new Board included the marketing director of Arsenal, the communications and marketing director from UK Athletics, the founder of the Carphone Warehouse and a partner from PwC.

The new board were able to offer a genuine advice and guidance about the direction of the organisation, utilising experiences from other sports and the business world to chart a successful path forward. The appointed candidates from sports bodies ensured that CGE stayed true to its core participants, creating an excellent blend of experience.

In the case of CGE, the majority of those appointed were not people who replied to the advertisements. Passive job seekers or people outside the core NGB world rarely look at job sites, but would welcome the chance to use their skills in a different arena. Opportunities that can add value to passionate, committed and well-funded organisations where they can learn as much from the sport as the sport can from them are exactly what they are after.

This is a year full of promise for British sport. For organisations looking to add to their board or appoint a new chief executive, look outside the sport. Look outside your network...the results may just surprise you.

Leigh Hine is an associate director, and leads the elite performance and participation division at PSD Group. Recruiting senior management (non-executive board, chief executive), performance (performance director, head coach, head of sports science) and other management in sport, Leigh advises national governing bodies, international federations, professional sports teams and international Governments on talent acquisition and strategic recruitment in sport.
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