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Changes made to strengthen Code for Sports Governance

Ensuring bodies in receipt of substantial public funding from either us or UK Sport have a detailed and ambitious diversity and inclusion action plan is a focus of the revised Code.

2nd July 2021

Changes to strengthen the Code for Sports Governance have been confirmed after an extensive consultation involving hundreds of organisations.

The revised approach is primarily focused on ensuring bodies in receipt of substantial public funding from us or UK Sport have a detailed and ambitious diversity and inclusion action plan to increase diversity on their boards and senior leadership teams, as well as across their wider organisations.

The requirement to set plans, and publish them, focusing on organisations as a whole, will encourage transparency about where organisations are making progress and where they’re falling behind.

A group of hockey players talking on the field after a game.

Launched in 2016 by us and UK Sport to drive improvement across all areas of governance, the Code has been applied to over 4,000 organisations who receive government or National Lottery funding from either organisation.

It’s had a significant impact since its introduction, helping to improve the standard of governance across national sports while accelerating the diversity of boards.

Since its introduction, representation on boards across sport from women, people from Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds and those with a declared disability has increased notably.


Female representation on the boards of partners complying with the Code has risen.

The original Code had a clear requirement for funded bodies to drive greater diversity on their boards, helping female representation on the boards of partners complying with the Code rise to 44%.

Numbers have also risen in relation to representation from people from Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds, and from those with a declared disability, increasing respectively to 13%* (from 4% in 2015)  and 13% (from 3% in 2015), reflecting the progress and desire of the sector to make change. 
While there’s been progress, the review highlighted the need for organisations working in sport and physical activity to do more and go further in considering how they can best reflect society as a whole, across a wider range protected characteristics as well as regional and socio-economic factors.  
The evolution of the Code therefore puts a stronger emphasis on ensuring organisations have greater ambitions to drive up further diversity and inclusion across all aspects of their work.   
Following the conclusion of the review, we and UK Sport can now confirm a number of changes:

Diversity and inclusion action plan

Each relevant partner, including national governing bodies, will be required to agree a diversity and inclusion action plan (DIAP) with us and UK Sport.

The plans are expected to be ambitious and robust and set out clearly how partners will work to improve diversity and inclusion across their whole organisation – not just at board level.

The annual publication of DIAPs will deliver greater transparency about progress, allowing the public celebration of success but also highlighting where there are gaps and where some organisations fall behind.

Organisations will be supported to set benchmarks if relevant in specific areas and will be expected to publish their first plans by the end of summer 2022, with meaningful progress made within two years.

We and UK Sport will secure additional support to help develop and monitor DIAPs. If a sustained lack of commitment or progress is not evident, this will be deemed non-compliant and withdrawal of funding will be actively considered.

Welfare and safety in sport

To help strengthen welfare and safety in sport, organisations will be required to appoint a Director to take a lead in this area.

This requirement follows other major work on this issue, including investing to support organisations with their own safeguarding work, and the expansion of the Safeguarding Case Management Service to help more organisations access expert support.

Good governance standards

Organisations will now be asked to implement and promote good governance standards, including with respect to diversity and inclusion, throughout their wider operations.

A good example of where this has already happened is The Football Association’s Code of Governance for County Football Associations, a regional Code which sets a high precedent and aims to upskill those running the grassroots game.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has also introduced a Governance Framework for its county game.

Impact on stakeholders, the environment and wider society

The Code will require boards to factor impact on stakeholders, the environment and wider society into their decisions and the actions implemented by their organisation.

This might be in relation to transport or procurement policies, or how facilities are developed, for example.

We and UK Sport will provide relevant investment and resource support with partners to help them meet the goals set out within each Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, including introducing targeted support to assist with monitoring and delivering progress and extending the partnership with Perrett Laver by a further year.   
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. 

So far it’s supported 37 appointments made to sports boards, 65% of which have been from Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds, 73% of which have been female, and 8% of which have been people with a declared disability.   
Supported by £450,000 of funding from us and UK Sport, new elements to this partnership confirmed today include:  

  • A pilot for improving diversity at regional/local level, mirroring the national programme that’s been so successful.  Several national governing bodies are part of the pilot, which will also support the new ‘cascading’ requirement in the Code
  • Funding to support diverse recruitment at board-level – enabling partners not only to benefit from the network Perrett Laver has developed, but also to secure some support from Perrett Laver for specific recruitments.

To date, funded organisations have welcomed this initiative as a powerful way of ensuring they’re able to access potential candidates who might previously not have been on their radar. 

Candidates who have successfully come through this process include Jennifer Thomas (Non-Executive Director, England Netball), Tunji Akintokun (Non-Executive Director, England Athletics), Sanjay Bhandari (Board Trustee, GreaterSport) and Kirsten Furber (Independent Non-Executive Director, British Wheelchair Basketball).

Today marks a milestone in the evolution of our sector, the way it is run and how we ensure fairness and inclusion for all.  

 We are incredibly proud of the impact the Code for Sports Governance has had since 2016, and the way it has been adopted as a vehicle for meaningful and positive change. 

The changes announced today build on this momentum. We are confident that the new requirements - and the focus in particular on the impact of ambitious Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans - will be welcomed and embraced.

It is a further step towards greater diversity of background, experience and understanding of sport and activity environments having a seat at the table at the very top of sporting organisations.

Tim Hollingsworth

Sport England chief executive

UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday said: "The review undertaken into the Code for Sports Governance is an important part of UK Sport’s and Sport England’s commitment to ensuring the organisations we invest in are well governed.

"A huge driver for us is in supporting thriving organisations that reflect the diversity of the country we represent.  

“The review is a clear demonstration of the amount of positive change that can be made to drive good governance in sport, and that diversity of thought around board tables leads to better run organisations.

"The review has presented some clear next steps and we look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders to keep pushing up the standards of how high-performance sport is led and managed and to ensure our high-performance community is truly inclusive.”

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "I firmly believe that sport should lead the way in good governance, diversity and inclusion.

"The launch of the Code for Sports Governance in 2016 marked a step change in governance standards across the sector. These changes announced today are the next phase in making sport stronger for the future."

Support for the Code

Key figures from partner organisations within the sport and physical activity sector have given their support to our revised Code:

  • Barry Horne, chief executive at Activity Alliance

    "Activity Alliance welcomes the strong commitment to diversity and the proactive inclusion of disabled people in all aspects of sports governance and delivery.

    "The Code clearly requires sports organisations to build on the good progress being made on gender diversity. There is still much more work to do to ensure a clear commitment to equality for everyone, especially for disabled people.

    "Bodies will now need to produce, and deliver on, meaningful plans to bring disabled people and other under-represented groups into the heart of their decision-making.

    "The days when organisations can assume they know how to deliver to diverse communities without involving them are over. We will work with Sport England and partners to achieve this genuinely inclusive vision and ensure there is greater fairness for disabled people in sport and activity."

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  • Ben Hilton, CEO of the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust

    "The Code has so far been hugely important in encouraging transparency and delivering genuine progress around areas like diversity and inclusion.

    "We welcome today's changes and believe they will make a further positive impact and an enormous contribution to ensure that anyone who is involved in sport and sport for development, can do so in a safe, well run and inclusive environment."

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  • Steve Nelson, CEO of Wesport Active Partnership

    "Having the Code has already brought significant changes in the governance of sports organisations.

    "The review announced today builds on this – organisations in our sector will need to continue to improve their governance to reflect the communities they are serving and inspire diverse and inclusive sport at every level and in all types of rolls."

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  • Tim Lawler, CEO of SportsAid

    "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, UK Sport and Perrett 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.

    "The Perrett Laver 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."

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  • Sarah Treseder, CEO of the Royal Yachting Association

    "The RYA welcomes the tailored approach taken by Sport England and UK Sport to strengthen and develop the Code for Sports Governance.

    "This feels like a mature, nuanced and positive way to address some fundamental issues, which are already at the heart of our strategy.

    "This will build on our public commitment to make boating a more inclusive and diverse activity, by ensuring the right changes are embedded in our governance structures, policies and procedures.

    "Importantly it will also help to ensure we are held to account in a meaningful way on the impact of our work. We look forward to working in partnership to implement the new Code."

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  • Edleen John, director of international relations, corporate affairs and co-partner for equality, diversity and inclusion at The FA

    "We were proud to be the first national governing body in English sport to introduce a regional code of governance, which includes provisions for gender and ethnic diversity, as well as youth representation.

    "Our current equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, In Pursuit of Progress, sets clear and ambitious targets to drive meaningful change within our organisation and across the game, focusing on initiatives to promote equality and increase the diversity of those playing, officiating, coaching, leading and governing English football.

    "Using our influence to deliver a game free from discrimination is one of our key strategic objectives over the next three years as we strive to ensure our game truly embraces diversity and is inclusive at all levels.

    "We welcome the changes to the Code for Sports Governance, which will ensure greater transparency within sporting organisations across the country and will mean they are better placed to truly accelerate and prioritise diversity and inclusion."

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  • Tom Harrison, chief executive officer of the England and Wales Cricket Board

    "Good governance and a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our ambitions to make cricket a game for everyone. We therefore welcome Sport England’s announcement of their renewed Code for Sports Governance and the new requirements it brings

    "The original Code was a major catalyst for change across the sports industry including cricket, however we have a great deal more to do and the new Code announced today will help us continue to work with the whole game towards the highest standards of governance and inclusion."

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  • Scott Lloyd, chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association

    "The LTA is committed to reflecting the diversity of the communities we represent through all areas of tennis in Britain, including through our governance. We recently launched a new inclusion strategy to lead the way in driving change and help ensure inclusion is at the heart of our sport.

    "We are determined to ensure we have the highest governance standards throughout our sport, including ongoing collaboration with our county associations to establish a County Governance Framework. 

    "The changes to the Code for Sports Governance are welcome, and we look forward to working with Sport England and UK Sport to continue to drive up standards in tennis."

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  • Jo Coates, chief executive of UK Athletics

    "We welcome the findings and clear actions generated by the review of the Code of Sports Governance. The continuing commitment to diversity and inclusion across sport is a progressive and positive initiative that UK Athletics is delighted to support.

    "Sporting organisations should set a clear example, across all aspects of their activity, of the benefits of a truly diverse and inclusive society. I believe athletics has been at the forefront of pursuing such an approach in recent years, but there is always more that can be done.  

    "We are dedicated to continuing our work to champion diversity in areas such as gender, ethnicity and disability for the benefit of everybody within the high-performance community.

    "We will work closely with UK Sport and the Home Country Athletics Federations to ensure this genuinely inclusive vision becomes a reality.

    "We look forward to a time when there are no barriers to participation in sport at the highest level in the UK."

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* 7.89% BAME and 4.87% ‘other’. Included as an option choice as part of the Diversity in Sport Governance Survey, ‘other’ could include people from a ‘White’ background who did not identify with a specific option choice (e.g. White British).

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