Governance in Sport


Over the last few years, I have been more involved in the governance side of sport organisations.

While governance is not the most exciting area in the world of sport, it is absolutely vital for a club, federation or sports organisation to get it right!

So, what is governance and what does it cover?

For me, governance is concerned with operating and managing an organisation in the right manner.

It is about principles that guide you to do the right thing in the right way while protecting the sports organisation’s reputation (and for that matter any business or organisation).

Governance in sport covers the following:

– The board – the role of the board, agreed delegated authority between the staff/organisation/committees and the board,  annual AGMs and monthly meetings, recruitment of competence based board members, management of conflict of interests, ensuring a constitution and article of associations are in place, agreeing a relevant code of conduct for staff and board members and much more

– Policies and procedures – a range of policies adopted by the organisation. Refer to a checklist of policies to have in place below

– Financial management – written financial procedures in place, annual accounts, budgets and monthly accounts produced.

– Complying with all legal requirements

– Strategic planning- creating, implementing and monitoring a roadmap with SMART objectives (vision, mission, goals, objectives and action plans). Associated with the strategic plan is to ensure the right resource is assigned to action each part of the plan.

– Identifying and managing risks


National sports federations, organisations and clubs can be hit or miss when it comes to excelling at governance. They either do it very well, do only bits of it well or are extremely poor at it.

Yet if a sports organisation is not strong on governance, it can be fatal for the reputation and management of the federation/clubs/sports entity.

For this reason, I have decided to write a number of blogs on the subject of governance with a focus on sports federations, clubs and/or sports organisations.

The blogs on governance will be as follows:

  1. A general introduction to the subject which will provide some helpful tips, a process to adopt (this blog!) and the key policies a sports organisation, club or federation should adopt
  2. The second blog will focus on the role of the board and its members
  3. The third blog will deal with financial management
  4. The final blog will cover strategic planning


Process to follow

During my various sports consultancy trips to a wide range of sports federations, clubs and sports organisations, I have applied the following process when it comes to governance:

  1. Review the current governance activity in the sports organisation (What written policies in place? What financial management procedures and reports are in place? Is there a written strategic plan developed? Is there a risk register which is reviewed by the board on a regular basis? Has the board agreed delegated authority in place?  Is conflict of interest managed at each board meeting? Is there strong communications between the board and staff?).
  2. Research – meet internal and external stakeholders of the sports organisation. The purpose is to identify the key issues and challenges in terms of governance within the sports organisation.
  3. Create an action plan based on the findings gathered from the review and research stages in terms of areas to improve and implement.
  4. Implement the governance action plan.  This may include creating the various policies, putting in place the communication channels.
  5. Provide the necessary training for the board and staff regarding what is governance, the importance of it, their role as regard improving governance, as well as specific areas such as the role of a board member, conflict of interest training etc.
  6. Strengthen communication and the relationship between the board and the sports organisation/stakeholders/staff members.
  7. Scan the business and sports environment in order to keep an eye on new policies or procedures to adopt.
  8. Continually review existing policies and procedures to ensure they are fit for purpose.
  9. Finally monitor the governance action plan on a regular basis.


Governance Tips:

  1. Conduct an audit of your governance, policies and procedures – are they fit for purpose?
  2. Ensure you provide training for your board on key areas of governance
  3. Ensure you have the main policies in place. For a suggested list, see below
  4. Ensure your sports organisation has a clear and relevant sports strategy in place
  5. Ensure your board meetings happen on a regular basis with a structured agenda including the following governance topics: monthly income and expenditure v budget, update on the strategic plan, risk register, conflict of interest.
  6. Ensure the board has the right structures in place such as organisational chart, sub committees etc
  7. Discuss the governance approach with other sports clubs and federations. In addition, meet with your government sports department to ensure you have all the relevant policies and procedures in place
  8. Recruit a competency-based board



  • Recruitment
  • Grievance
  • Retirement
  • Discipline
  • Code of conduct
  • Data Protection
  • Risk Register
  • Training and staff development plan
  • Organisational chart
  • Match fixing
  • Staff handbook
  • Fraud and corruption
  • Holiday and sick entitlement
  • Financial budget
  • Financial procedures
  • JD’s with KPI’s
  • Committee role and responsibilities
  • Decision making authority
  • Volunteering policy
  • Event Management plan
  • Whistle blowing policy (Raising Concerns)
  • Health and Safety Policy
  • Mobile Phone Policy
  • Child Protection Policy – with appropriate staff and volunteers being registered with Access NI
  • Data Protection Policy
  • Information Asset Policy
  • Internet Policy
  • Document Retention Policy
  • Conflict of Interest Register/Policy
  • Travel Policy
  • Staff Induction Policy
  • Staff Appraisal System
  • Statutory requirements i.e. Equal Opportunities, Fair Employment, Disability Discrimination, Age Discrimination


About Geoff Wilson

Geoff runs his own Sports Consultancy, working with clients such as FIFA, UEFA, AFC and FIBA across the world. He is also on the board of Tourism Northern Ireland. You can follow Geoff on twitter @geoffwnjwilson connect on Linkedin at

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