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A Code for Sports Governance

Organisations seeking public funding for sport and physical activity must meet gold standards of governance considered to be among the most advanced in the world.

The Code for Sports Governance sets out the levels of transparency, diversity and inclusion, accountability and integrity that are required from those organisations who seek – and are in receipt of – UK Government and National Lottery funding from us and/or UK Sport. 

Launched in 2016, the Code has been applied to more than 4,000 organisations across its three Tiers of funding and has provided a standard framework of governance for a wide and diverse range of national, regional and local bodies, community groups and charities providing sport and physical activity opportunities.

A group of lacrosse players shaking hands after a game.

Many of the principles set out in the Code are widely accepted as being elements of good practice in corporate governance and can be found in most models of governance, both within and outwith the sporting sector e.g. the UK Corporate Governance Code, the governance frameworks of all five domestic sports councils and the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s Voluntary Code of Good Governance.


In July 2020, against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter and over three years of implementing, assessing and supporting the governance of organisations in line with its provisions, we and UK Sport announced a review of the Code.

This was aimed at identifying areas where the Code would benefit from further development, with a substantive focus on those elements supporting diversity and inclusion. The review also provided the opportunity to compare the requirements in the Code against best practice in governance, recognising that thinking may have moved on and further improvements may be found in sport and other sectors. 

The review took a comprehensive look at every aspect of the Code – not only each individual Principle, Requirement and related commentary but also how the Code is presented, used and applied. For this, it's drawn heavily on expertise and insight from teams across UK Sport and Sport England, independent experts and a wide range of partners and stakeholders. We want to offer our sincerest thanks to all those who've shared their views with us and contributed so meaningfully to this review. 

The review was clear from the outset that any changes to the Code should be evidence-based. Two important pieces of work have supported this: the first was an externally-sourced audit of Board diversity of more than 130 funded partners; the second was an independently-led consultation conducted through an online survey and focus groups, receiving more than 200 responses.

This consultation revealed: 

  • 87% of organisations funded by UK Sport and/or Sport England found the Code helpful 
  • While some organisations faced significant challenges in implementing some of the requirements through their membership, 88% said the Code has tightened their organisation’s governance 
  • Key impact areas were found to be Board diversity (particularly with regard to increasing women on Boards) and term lengths 
  • The compliance process was felt to be rigorous and supportive. 

We also know that since its introduction, the Code's attracted significant interest internationally and several countries have now emulated it.

National governing bodies of sport also routinely engage with their international federations, with the Code providing a valuable framework for sharing knowledge and informing governance reform at an international level.


of organisations funded by us and/or UK Sport said the Code has tightened their governance

We've been heartened by the positive impact the Code's achieved, thanks to the huge work funded partners have carried out in recent years to implement it and further enhance good governance in the sector.

However, the review also highlighted several areas for improvement, including making the Code more accessible and easier to understand; providing more guidance in terms of explanations, templates and case studies; and encouraging greater flexibility and proportionality based on size and capacity. 

Critically, while progress has taken place, the review revealed the need and demand for (as well as desire from) organisations working in sport and physical activity to do far more in ensuring they – and the sector as a whole – reflect and are representative of the diversity of the society we serve.

The inclusion of topics such as environmental sustainability, welfare and safety, and the expansion of the Code from Boards to other parts of organisations, also emerged as areas for development. 


As a result of the review, while limited changes have been made to the original Code Principles and Requirements, Tier 1 has been revised and made, we hope, more accessible through a separate dedicated resource. Also, the following new Requirements have been introduced in respect of Tier 3:

Diversity and inclusion action plan

Organisations in receipt of significant funding from us and/or UK Sport, must have a detailed and ambitious plan to increase the level of diversity and inclusion not only on their Boards, but also on their senior leadership teams and across their organisation and structures (Req. 2.1).

The plan and progress they're making against it will need to be agreed with us and/or UK Sport, reviewed and updated at least annually, and made public (Req. 2.2-2.3). In addition to these specific requirements, diversity and inclusion have been reinforced as a major thread throughout the Code.

Welfare and safety in sport

Boards will be required to appoint a Welfare and Safety lead Director on their Boards in response to heightened concerns around welfare and safety in sport and physical activity, (Req. 4.7); cascade, implement and promote good governance standards – including with respect to diversity and inclusion – throughout the organisation’s wider operations, for instance their internal structures and at regional and county level (Req. 4.1); and factor the impact on stakeholders, the environment and wider society into their decisions and the actions implemented by their organisation (Req. 5.2).

People plan

The Code will also now expect organisations to consider their strategic plans for their people on at least an annual basis (Req. 3.4).

While no new requirement's been introduced in the area of Board culture, this has also emerged as an area of major importance in the consultation and one we'll be keen to explore further with stakeholders as the revised Code is implemented.

In the meantime, existing requirements and commentary have been strengthened to reinforce the need for effective and inclusive culture at Board level, so the standards and behaviours set out in the Code become more embedded within all the organisations we fund. 

Based on consultation feedback and practical experience of implementing the Code, the commentary for all requirements has been updated, with the hope this will help organisations more easily understand and implement the provisions of the Code.

We and UK Sport will work in close partnership with organisations seeking or receiving their funding by providing bespoke advice and support so governance standards – including those for diversity and inclusion – continue to be enhanced and owned by the sector.

We'll also want to better harness the invaluable expertise and feedback from funded organisations and wider stakeholders to ensure sports governance in the sector continues to evolve. 

It's through this process of ongoing implementation of the Code, as well as support, learning and development, that we hope funded organisations will be better equipped and representative to take effective decisions in the best interests of their organisations, as well as the individuals and communities taking part in sport and physical activity – thus helping the sector as a whole to grow and thrive in the future.


Unlike most other governance codes, this Code is a mandatory set of requirements for those organisations seeking public funding from Sport England and/or UK Sport, and was born of the government’s 2015 strategy Sporting Future.

We do, however, fully recognise that the Code must be flexible. The range of investments made by us and UK Sport – both in terms of amount and the type of organisations into which we invest – is huge. We want to ensure organisations are encouraged to apply for funding and therefore have sought to ensure this Code is applicable across a wide and diverse range of organisations, without wishing to burden these with unnecessary bureaucracy. 

This Code achieves flexibility by adopting a tiered approach to requirements. We and UK Sport will work closely with all partners seeking or receiving funding to ensure compliance with the Code and supporting their ongoing governance improvements.

Read the Code

  • Read 'A Code for Sports Governance' for an overview of Tiers 1 and 3, plus full commentary for Tier 3 alongside each requirement.
  • Read the separate Tier 1 document for guidance and support tools specific to that Tier.
  • Read the Diversity in Sport Governance Survey report for data related to gender, ethnicity, disability, LGBT+, sexuality and educational background of board members at organisations funded by us and/or UK Sport.

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