Good governance is very much in vogue. It leads to strong management and robust
decisions. It is achieved through the operation of open, accountable and transparent
practices and procedures, and this is increasingly important to sport.

An absence of good governance can cause serious problems for a sporting body.
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association Limited found itself
appreciating the immense importance of good governance in 2002 when Steve
Davis, Stephen Hendry and Terry Griffiths tried unsuccessfully to topple it,
amid claims of poor financial management. Sporting bodies would do well to
heed the caution in this tale, and to take all steps possible to ensure governance
practices are up to scratch.

There are many different types of sporting bodies – private clubs, unincorporated
associations, limited companies, registered charities and community amateur
sports clubs. However, one thing remains constant - good governance begins
at grass roots level. It often starts with the election of those who govern
sporting bodies.

Democratic elections are important as they help give comfort to players, spectators,
sponsors and the media that an organisation is running at its optimum, and
that the best men, or women, have been selected.

In considering good governance in the context of governing body member elections,
the following questions should be considered. How are members elected? What
qualities and experience are relevant? How is the tenure of members regulated?

Best Practice Explained

Here are a few rules of thumb to help ensure that elections in sporting organisations
are as democratic as possible:

 

  • Rules determining appointment and removal of members from a governing body
    should be clear and open (ideally set out in a club's constitution)
  • Appointments
    to the governing body should be by election only
  • All positions should
    be for a fixed period (not for life)
  • New members should be openly encouraged
  • Members should be appointed on a skills
    or merit basis
  • Conflicts of interest should be avoided

Setting out a sporting organisation's
rules (including those for election to the governing body) in a formal
written format, is a very practical way
of demonstrating good governance. It shows that the sporting organisation
is opening up its procedures to its members, and perhaps even the public, therefore
increasing confidence and understanding in its processes.

The use of a formal election procedure is fundamental in preventing accusations
of 'cronyism' within a sporting organisation. Moreover, encouraging fresh talent
and new blood to the governing body will continue to ensure that the organisation
remains dynamic, open-minded and fresh.

Ensuring that the tenure of members of the governing body is fixed, even if
re-election may be permitted by the sporting organisations' rules, is essential
to avoid them becoming part of the woodwork. Members must also be accountable
for their actions on the governing body and therefore there must be adequate
protection in place to ensure that those who are not performing are not re-elected
or indeed that they are removed if they have acted wrongfully.

Conflicts of interest manifest themselves in various forms; direct or indirect
financial or economic interests or personal conflicts. It is crucial that members
who are seeking election disclose any potential or actual conflicts and indeed
continue to disclose potential or actual conflicts during their membership.
Left undisclosed, conflicts can lead to ineffective decision-making, adverse
publicity and a general undermining of the governing body itself.

In a Nut Shell

In essence, the election process should be fair and results should accurately
reflect the views votes. Nominations should be clear and transparent, and if
a candidate seeks re-election, supporting evidence of contributions to the
club in the past ought to be provided. Overarching principles of openness,
transparency and accountability should be applied to the procedure, so that
there is trust and confidence in those leading sporting organisations.

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