Sport Code for Sports Governance - who will be your Sir Chris Hoy?

Sport Code for Sports Governance - who will be your Sir Chris Hoy?


Author: Richard Millington and Michael Patterson

Applies to: England, Wales and Scotland

As many 2017 funding round deadlines are approaching it is vital that National Governing Bodies address compliance to the Sport England and UK Sport Code for Sports Governance (the 'Code').

This weekend's news that England Table Tennis  have successfully passed the necessary resolution to comply with the Code at the second attempt serves as a stark reminder to other National Governing Bodies. Just weeks ago British Cycling needed an open call to arms from no less than Sir Chris Hoy to pass similar resolutions, highlighting the need for National Governing Bodies to address the code sooner rather than later as we approach many 2017 funding round deadlines.

The Code dictates how NGBs must organise and document their structure in order to ensure a 'gold standard' of governance principles for their sport. It applies to all organisations in the UK which receive, or intend to receive, funding from UK Sport or Sport England; however it is advisable for all NGBs recognised by or seeking recognition from the UK Sports Councils.

However, despite the Code being described by Sport England as 'the biggest step forward in sports governance history', it would appear that some NGBs are underestimating the reaction of their members to these fundamental changes.

Shoosmiths' sports lawyers Michael Patterson (solicitor) and Richard Millington (partner) have recently advised the executive board of British Powerlifting through the first phase of their NGB document audit and their experience mirrors the challenges emerging from higher profile sports.

Michael commented 'Although concepts such as independent non-executive directors, a significant level of board authority and full public disclosure of information are well accepted and established in the private sector, to many NGBs they are new concepts with which members are understandably sceptical. England Table Tennis members were concerned that people with little table tennis experience or knowledge may be left in charge of their game.

In our experience, although on the face of it these are legal and organisational challenges, as with all fundamental NGB activities, communication of the purpose behind changes and the benefits they are designed to afford the members, beyond the NGB status / funding threats, must be at the centre of the boards' thoughts.

In the case of British Powerlifting, we anticipated that certain concepts would be challenging for members and therefore gave a joint presentation with the board at the AGM specifically addressing identified 'red flag' areas such as the increased authority of the board and independent director roles/costs.'

Shoosmiths Sport National Governing Body expertise is the linking of the no.1 ranked Shoosmiths Corporate practice group and the Shoosmiths Sports team.

Shoosmiths' Sports team is unique in its industry insight achieved through many years working in-house with the likes of Nike, Man United, Red Bull, British Powerlifting and Manor F1. The team now works to bring the benefit of those experiences and connections to athletes, teams, governing bodies and sports investors globally. Please contact a member of the team if you have any sports related legal questions.


This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.