Driving diversity in sport leadership with Sport England and UK Sport

Diversity is the foundation of excellence in sport. And this is true from the pitch to the track to the boardroom.

At Perrett Laver, we believe that only with diversity at a senior level can organisations truly understand the perspective of excluded communities and dismantle barriers to success and participation at a grassroots level.

That is why we have worked with Sport England and UK Sport since 2018 to create the Diversity in Sport Leadership programme, designed to prepare leaders from the private sector for governance roles in some of the country’s leading sporting organisations.

This programme works to identify and develop a network of senior, experienced candidates from a range of backgrounds, including women, people from black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds, disabled people and LGBT+ people.

We are proud to have supported 38 appointments to sports boards, with 65 per cent of these leaders coming from black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds.

A total of 73 per cent of which have been female, with eight per cent having been people with a declared disability.

Sport England and UK Sport have supported the programme with £450,000 ($620,000/€525,000), while a pilot has been set up to improve diversity at regional and local level.

We have also been supported in the delivery of the project by a consortium of expert partners, including RimJhim Consulting, Birkbeck University of London, Sport and Recreation Alliance, Women on Boards, Activity Alliance and Stonewall.

Jennifer Thomas is one leader who has been through the programme which allowed her to take up a board position with England Netball. She said, ““Sport has played such an important role in my professional and personal development, and I reached a point in my career when I wanted to give something back.

The Diversity in Sport Leadership programme has given me the opportunity do that. It has allowed me to transfer my professional experience into a governance role and begin to drive the change I want to see in sport.

The board team at England Netball really encourages a hands-on approach and there have been opportunities to work on some amazing projects. I have offered myself as a sounding board for diversity and inclusion, and hopefully given some insight that will help drive diversity throughout the organisation.

I would highly recommend that any private sector leaders with an interest in sport pursue Sport England, UK Sport and Perrett Laver’s Diversity in Sport Leadership programme.”

Tim Lawler, Chief Executive of SportsAid, whose organisation has benefited from recruiting leaders through the programme, said: “At SportsAid, we have long believed that diversity equals excellence. Only with a diverse range of people at every level can organisations truly reach their full potential.

The sporting world is now going through an important period of education and action on diversity and inclusion, and initiatives like the Diversity in Sport Leadership programme from Sport England and Perret Laver are an essential part of that.

The programme has allowed us to bring in exceptional leaders from the private sector who have helped us challenge our processes and create structures and systems that are inclusive to all. Sport England, UK Sport and Perrett Laver’s programme has already broken down so many barriers to entry in sport, and we would encourage any leaders and organisations to engage with the programme to continue driving positive change.”

We are proud to have extended our partnership with Sport England and UK Sport and we look forward to driving positive change into the future.