Discover Governance: A company secretary perspective

Last month, we hosted a webinar on how you can use your law or business degree to start your career in governance. If you missed the webinar, you can watch it again, here.

The webinar demonstrated how a law or business degree provides you with the foundation you need to be a company secretary or governance professional and how it can equip you with the skills you need to start a career that spans multiple sectors. Whether you are a sixth form student, university student or a recent graduate – or you support those who are – we can introduce you to a career path that is rewarding and impactful. Our series of blogs will answer your questions, in particular, from university students or recent graduates looking to find out more about a career in governance or the role of the company secretary.

This blog will answer the questions put forward to a graduate of the Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme, who works as a company secretary in the sports sector.

Has the Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme assisted in your career progression?

Very much so. I qualified while working in a governance role in local government and so the Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme allowed me to move into a formal company secretarial role. Without it, I think it would have been harder to make the transition.

Would you say there is a lot of opportunity within governance in sport, or is this still emerging? How does one move into this sector?

There is a considerably greater focus on governance in sport in recent years, mostly as a result of high-profile governance failings. Sports that receive public funding from either UK Sport or Sport England now have to satisfy a Code of Sports Governance to qualify for the funding. This focus has required sports organisations to tackle governance issues and, I believe, will increase dedicated governance professionals moving into the sports sector.

I joined The FA from a financial services company, so my experience tells me that there isn’t a specific pathway to follow to move into sports as the skills and experience from other sectors are transferable.

What are the main challenges of a company secretary or governance professional during COVID-19, and how might this affect the role in the future?

The FA has a complicated governance structure, and the onset of the pandemic required many decisions to be made about football being suspended. The main challenge was to ensure that we immediately transferred to using electronic platforms and that those in decision-making roles had the right information on time and the opportunity to debate important issues for the running of the game in challenging times.

What does good governance look like for an organisation?

I think it’s about getting the basics right. Having the right mix of skills, experience and diversity on the board, a cohesive culture of the board scrutinising and challenging the executive and ensuring that its focus remains on delivery of the agreed strategic priorities.

How easy is stakeholder management across a sports organisation?

Sports governing bodies like The FA have generally evolved from the same starting point – a group of participants in the sport getting together to provide a service to the sport, such as writing the rules or organising competitions. The principle of stakeholder involvement in the decision-making process is therefore established very early on. This is a challenge because stakeholders tend not to have a consensus on the goals to be achieved and can be mistrusting of the intentions of other stakeholders. Stakeholder management then is necessary to align as far as possible the objectives of the various stakeholders and is often a product of compromise.

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