New report challenges the independence of sport

London, 8 May 2019 – ICSA: The Governance Institute has today published a report, which addresses the claims to autonomy and self-regulation which sports bodies have traditionally made for themselves. The Future of Sports Governance: Beyond Autonomy considers how these claims have been affected by the sector’s growth, its changing role and the various pressures under which sports organisations operate. Focusing on the UK and primarily on publicly-funded bodies, it assesses recent governance challenges and looks ahead to some of the issues yet to be tackled.

Speaking at the launch of the report at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School this afternoon, Simon Osborne, chief executive of ICSA said: “The sporting and governance landscapes have changed considerably since many governing bodies were established, which is why we felt that the third in a series of thought leadership papers looking at governance in the UK should be dedicated to sport. The different roles which the sport sector and individual organisations now carry out have expanded exponentially, with some sports now having a part to play in public policy, education and health. Similarly, with sport now involved in such things as initiatives to tackle crime or to promote economic stimulation, big questions need to be asked about whether or not sport is equipped for this new role and if these new responsibilities mean that we are losing sight of what sport is actually for.”

The report looks at some of the key challenges facing national governing bodies ─ those bodies in charge of domestic governance and regulation of general matters within their sport ─, such as

  • diversity in its leadership
  • diversification of income
  • problems around behaviour/culture in some organisations
  • the need to retain audiences/participation and increase this through new initiatives.

Craig Beeston, author of the report, added: “Sport’s traditional claim to autonomy needs to be re-evaluated as accountability now often exists in a network rather than simply between a governing body and its clubs or its members. The growing number of external stakeholders has changed this dynamic. The introduction of the mandatory Code for Sports Governance, for example, means that, for UK publicly-funded organisations at least, it can be argued that accountability is to a significant degree directed externally rather than being contained within an organisation. Transformative revenue streams, challenging performance targets and unprecedented media coverage for some, though not all, sports also pose fundamental questions about the purpose of sport and where it is going. Importantly, serious consideration needs to be given to whether the boards and leadership teams of sports organisations are adequately equipped to navigate the challenges ahead, and whether sufficient attention is being paid to aligning governance practices with the future that is before us”.

- Ends -

For further information, please contact Maria Brookes, Media Relations Manager:  
+44 (0)20 7612 7072
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Notes to Editors:

  1. ICSA: The Governance Institute is the professional body for governance. We have members in all sectors and are required by our Royal Charter to lead ‘effective governance and efficient administration of commerce, industry and public affairs’. With over 125 years’ experience, we work with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards of governance and provide qualifications, training and guidance.
  2. The full report can be viewed at 

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