Emily Goddard
Alan Hubbard

The Football League is seeking a new chief executive. The odds are that when the appointment is made the new incumbent may never have laced a pair of boots on in his life, has no previous connection with football, comes from the world of industry, commerce, public relations, even politics - or from an entirely different sport.

That's the name of the headhunting game these days.

Consider some of the more recent appointments to the chief executive's chair: British Weightlifting has hired Ashley Metcalfe, who used to open the batting for Yorkshire; the British Judo Association's new man is Andrew Scoular, who previously scrummed administratively at Twickenham.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) itself replaced ex-rugby man John Steele with Ian Ritchie, who had masterminded Wimbledon on behalf of the All-England Club and when the Amateur Boxing Association of England parted company with Paul King – very much a boxing man – they brought in Mark Abberley, whose previous experience ranged from involvement in archery, handball and goalball.

And what of some of the big jobs now up for grabs?

Roger Draper is to step down from his post as chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association in SeptemberRoger Draper is to step down from his post as chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association in September

Will the Lawn Tennis Association look outside the game to replace the overpaid, under-achieving Roger Draper? Most probably, as Sport England's much - admired chief executive Jennie Price is said to be high on their wanted list. As she is on Seb Coe's for the vacant British Olympic Association (BOA) post.

Previous incumbent Andy Hunt, a somewhat square peg in the Olympic rings, came from heading a security firm. His BOA predecessor Simon Clegg, an ex-luge man, went off the run football club Ipswich Town and now chairs British Badminton.

But the most curious odd job man – in the nicest sense of the phrase is surely Nick Sellwood, who has taken over as the new chief executive of NISA (National Ice Skating Association) a few months after finishing a stint orchestrating the swimming programme – in Saudi Arabia!

From the burning sands to the ice rink is one hell of a transformation. But 53-year-old Sellwood, originally a PE teacher from Coventry (where they at least have a rink) is openly optimistic at the prospect of troubleshooting a sport which, in terms of international achievement, has all but vanished through a hole in the ice.

NickSellwoodNick Sellwood has taken over as chief executive of NISA

Even though the nearest he's been professionally to a skate has been in the local fishmongers!

Sellwood surely has one of the most unenviable tasks in British sport but he says: "When this opportunity came up a few people suggested to me that I might be able to turn this one round.

"The fact that I've had no previous experience in the sport seemed irrelevant because I have been involved with several others and there is lots of synergy between different sports at an administrative level. Much of what you know is transferable."

Sellwood, who has also done consultancy work with two Premier League football clubs, coached swimmers to Olympic level at five Games (including silver and bronze medallist Nick Gillingham) and was head of national development before his stint with all-male Saudi swimming, diving and water polo squads. Not an easy environment to work in, he will admit.

He comes in at a time when British skating is immersed in misty-eyed nostalgia, trading on the golden memories of John Curry, Robin Cousins and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

Those were times when there was more kiss than cry as Britons came off the ice to climb on to podiums and rule the rinks of the world.

The perfect six appeal of Torvill and Dean may to some still seem a load of old Bolero but their scintillating performance in Sarajevo almost three decades ago engrossed the nation with one of the biggest-ever television audiences for a sports event, just short of 24 million.

Previously the balletic brilliance of Curry and the sequined skills of Cousins had seen Britain revel in a golden ice decade.

John Curry 040613British skating is trading on the golden memories of John Curry (pictured), Robin Cousins and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

Not anymore. Currently the sport is at the bottom of the pile for funding handouts, a catch-22 situation which can leave other putative stars without the incentive they need to challenge the world's best from Eastern Europe, the Far East and North America.

Sellwood recognises this but argues: "It is no use living in the past. We must stop looking back. It is like reminiscing about England winning the World Cup back in 1966. We have to look for new opportunities, and there are some big ones out there.

"This sport has a great need to modernise, to adopt attitudes and programmes that have been prevalent in many other sports for a while.

"Funding is massively important but there is no point in hiding behind the fact that you haven't got it.

"My job is to make this a 21st century world leading governing body. That is my agenda.

"So I have to look for alternative or additional funding streams. They are around. To sit there and rely on handouts from the Government, UK Sport or whatever is unacceptable to me. We've got to drive this ourselves. If anything comes in from those sources it is an additional bonus."

But is the talent there? Figure skating results in recent years do not suggest so. "The major thing in this sport is that are lots of participants but it is getting them into a daily training environment to meet their needs.

"If we keep repeating what we have been doing we will fall further behind the rest of the world.

"There is the need for new programmes. We have to invest in our talented athletes, our coaches, sports scientists and our rinks in terms of what goes on in talent identification."

Elise Christie is on course for an Olympic medal at Sochi 2014Elise Christie is on course for an Olympic medal at Sochi 2014

Fighting talk. And Sellwood is adamant that despite some of the present deficiencies skating is not just frozen in time.

"If you look at youth sport in Britain there is a huge drop-off in participation around the age of 14. But with ice skating the rinks are full with kids wanting to skate and we do not have that drop-off to the same degree."

And he reminds us that skating is not just about figure and dance, as Britain's short track speed skaters are up there whizzing around with the world's finest.

"We have a good record and an excellent speed skating set-up where Stuart Horsepool [performance director] does an outstanding job."

Britain's Elise Christie seems on course for an Olympic medal at Sochi 2014 after winning a World Cup and taking bronze at the World Championships.

And Sellwood makes this eyebrow-raising claim. "Our speed skating programme has one of the best conversion rates of talent into medals of any sport and if we can build on that we could have another cycling on our hands."

But what of figure and dance? No Cousins, Curry or T&D legacy here so far. He admits: "We need to bring our youngsters through a lot quicker." Which surely means greater emphasis on top-level coaching.

Unlike most other Olympic sports, skating has no national coaching supremo. "This is because of the individual way the sport is constructed but it is something we are looking at.

"One thing we plan to introduce is an apprenticeship scheme for British youngsters who, who eventually would like to be coaches.

"We have to stop relying on so many overseas coaches. When they go home, their expertise goes with them."

Jenna McCorkell has secured her place at Sochi 2014Jenna McCorkell has secured her place at Sochi 2014

And so to Sochi 2014. Sellwood is realistic. "If we come out with a medal, it will be a good result. But this is a long-term strategy and we are looking for a few markers, particularly from our ice dancers Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland. They are developing well."

The duo, together with long-time ladies figure skating champion Jenna McCorkell, are Britain's only qualifiers, though not in the world's top ten. There is an outside chance of pairs David King and Stacey Kemp joining them after a final qualifying event in September.

Compared to the good old days it is rather cold comfort, though Sellwood is upbeat enough to predict. "If we get things right we could very easily overtake the rest of the world a short period of time."

Maybe. But he knows Britain needs to get its skates on because the ice remains precariously thin.

Alan Hubbard is a sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Games, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire.