NED in Sport | January 11, 2017

Following the historic success at the Rio Olympic Games and new DCMS and Sport England strategies, there has never been a more interesting time to join the boards of our National Governing Bodies. Sport England is challenging Sport Governing Bodies to seriously raise their game. They must demonstrate that not only can they perform at the highest level on the international stage but also engage people to get active for the first time. A change in focus for many organisations that will prove a fascinating challenge for NGB board members. Moreover, there is a huge push for women to be more involved in leadership positions in Sport, so much so that Sport England now includes an expectation in its governance guidelines for NGBs (National Governing Bodies) that their Boards should have a minimum of 25% gender diversity by 2017.

It is therefore fitting that our first NED talk in 2017 will shine a light on the challenges and rewards, similarities and differences of ‘serving on a Sport NGB board’. This event will be held on Wednesday the 11th of January from 12:15 till 2pm at Coca Cola’s London offices (1A Wimpole Street, London W1G 0EA) courtesy of the lovely Charlotte Oades. Our two guests speakers are Gillian Wilmot , Chairman Sports Coach UK and Amanda Fone, CEO at F1 search, a sports management head hunter. You will find their Biographies below.

Speaker Biographies

Gillian Wilmot

Gillian has strong experience of leadership in both large and small organisations across the private and public sectors. She is an experienced Chairman & Non-Executive Director and was recognised for governance excellence in the 2014 Sunday Times NED Awards. She runs Board Mentoring which works with CEOs and directors of leading UK and international companies. In 2012, she was appointed to the Industrial Development Advisory Board which advises Government on large investment projects and provides independent business advice to Ministers.

In all her leadership roles, including with Board Mentoring and the International Women’s Forum UK, Gillian encourages communication, collaboration and support among women leaders. She is committed to bringing more under-represented groups into coaching, including women, minorities and those with disabilities –  building their confidence and expanding their contribution to coaching through to elite levels.

Amanda Fone

Amanda is the founder of f1 recruitment ltd, which is now eleven years old. She is a leader in finding the best career opportunities for marketing, sponsorship and communications professionals at every level. She has over 30 years’ experience in the recruitment and search industry and is a Fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals. Amanda has a long history of setting up and being involved in projects that help people at all levels and from all backgrounds to get the best out of their careers.

She champions the ESA Diploma, which f1 supports and recommends to its ambitious younger candidates. She was part of the REC steering group on Youth Unemployment that presented a White Paper to the coalition government in 2010. She is a vociferous campaigner for better sponsorship and marketing communications representation in the C suite and is active in promoting skills training and NED opportunities to help people bridge that gap. f1 underpins its commitment to social mobility, to promoting diversity and encouraging returners or career changes into the sponsorship and marcomms industries through work placements, returnships and promoting CPD at all levels.

Key insights from this session

Gillian Wilmot

What is it like to be a trustee of a sports body?

  • Sports Coach UK is the UK’s national coaching body
  • Complex environment with more than 44 bodies that get funded in various ways
  • Element of election which means people come up through ranks in sporting and makes diversity very difficult
  • Not very dynamic and don’t necessarily react very well to change – Blazer Brigade!
  • Establishments get built up which doesn’t really happen on corporate boards!

Key considerations

  • Ensure there is an appetite for change and Chairman who will do what needs to be done i.e. changing executive team
  • Get involved if you like people and type of sport
  • Sports body should be able to be self-funded and looking at ways to commercialise things

How do you get a sports role?

  • Make sure you’re on the database of SRi – No 1 for sports jobs
  • Whole host of search firms including Odgers, niche firms, ex-athletes, connections etc.
  • Most governing bodies pro bono, commercial roles generally paid
  • Familiarise yourself with governance guidelines – Sport England ensure governing bodies fit for purpose
  • Governance guidelines state NGB’s have to bring in new type of people – will help WACLers!
  • Role is not for fainthearted! Need to ask if you have stomach for it. Expect to come across old fashioned attitudes. You need to charm and steamroll your way through!

Amanda Fone

  • Sports sector still very backward!
  • Looking for more women and people from a variety of backgrounds
  • Campaign to get breadth of skills into boardroom incl. marketing and comms
  • Don’t have to have worked in sports to get a role on a sports board
  • A lot of sports organisations don’t know where to go to get women
  • Read 2016 Gender Balance in Global Sport report by Women on Boards – see attached
  • People from non-finance background can really make a difference
  • If you’re starting out perhaps consider joining a smaller NGB board. Good opportunity to demonstrate value, voice and what you can put your name against.

TIP: 4 pillars of sport – know your stuff!

 4 pillars

  1. Rightsholders
  2. Sports agencies (IMG, Chime, Saatchi etc.)
  3. Federations and governing bodies
  4. Broadcast

General Points

  • FT NED CLUB run useful one day NED course; next course 28/02/16
  • If you’re going through a search firm make sure you really tap into their knowledge of the organisation
  • Normally a panel interview consisting of 4 – 6 people and competency based
  • Appointment can happen quite quickly but can also drag out
  • If NGB appointment, may have someone from Sport England sitting in on interview
  • Individual conversation about what your CV looks like
  • MUST READ: ‘Sporting Future’ by Tracy Crouch
  • Network with search firms but approach Chairs of NGB’s the old-fashioned way!
  • Identity tenure, gaps ins skills i.e. marketing, poor website etc.
  • Go to sporting bodies events
  • Often can be only woman around the table which can be uncomfortable
  • Sports just behind corporate world. Some processes can be ‘iffy’!
  • Sport is a nice place to be. Trustees generally love their sport which pulls everyone together
  • Sports bodies are under a lot of pressure for board members to understand sponsorship/commercial skills
  • Is the Chairman and CEO any good? If so, the rest will sort itself out!
  • Play the empathy card in an interview
  • Increasingly business leaders being appointed (not elected) to lead sporting bodies
  • Men single-minded about roles and go and get them!
  • A lot of sporting bodies don’t know what a media strategy us. WACLers can add a lot of value; case of where the organisation is at that time
  • Time commitment c. 2 days a month
  • Board there to agree strategy and oversight
  • Generally, the more papers you are given, the less the execs want you to know! Dependent on Chairman to manage that
  • Useful to agree framework on where board time is spent


  • AF happy to connect WACLers to Saffrey Champness and provide link into to other sporting events
  •  If anyone looking for a NED role (marketing function) for National Ballet, contact Amanda Fone!
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