Will the Code for Sports Governance change behaviour in sport for the better?

With organisations like FIFA, IAAF, WADA, IOC and British cycling all caught up in recent governance scandals, it should be a breath of fresh air that Sport England and UK Sport has published a Code for Sports Governance with which all publicly funded sports organisations must comply from 2017.

This is tantamount to applying the UK Corporate Governance Code to UK Sports, which is no bad thing. Indeed, developing a Code that is proportionate and also comes with practical guidance on its various requirements should be welcomed at all levels. Grass roots organisations in particular will  breathe a sigh of relief at the common sense being applied, with just seven mandatory Tier 1 requirements to implement.

However, it will be the response of the larger, more established governing bodies that will determine whether this Code will really make a difference to behaviour in sport.

The media focus has been on the alignment to the 30% club and how the old school tie organisations will have to welcome more women to the Boards as well as promote diversity generally. It should be said that these are just targets, not quotas, so focus here seems premature at best. But will it make a difference? Could earlier implementation of such a policy have prevented the alleged culture of bullying and discrimination in British Cycling in the run up to the Olympics?

That depends on whether you believe that having a policy is all it takes. Unless systems and procedures are enshrined in an organisation, the gap between what you say and what you do can be significant. British Cycling’s policies were unlikely to endorse bullying and harassment, yet the allegations around team selection this summer would suggest that this was very much part of the culture.

GoodCorporation believes that it is the effective implementation of responsible management practices that determines whether or not good governance is achieved. Critical to that is the regular monitoring of practices related to good governance, effectively holding a mirror up to the Board to reflect their organisation’s culture

In the charter for sports governance, published in advance of the Code, there was explicit reference to a single assessment procedure to hold organisations to account and benchmark them against each other, there is no mention of this in the new Code.

The Code itself is a useful and much needed document and being mandatory for those receiving public funding gives it weight. However, if we are to see genuine change, the five principles of good governance should be seen as the rules of the game, what we now need to see is the arrival of the match officials to ensure those rules are being followed.


 Posted November 2016