Improving skills and performance have always been some of the most important
challenges facing individuals taking part in sport.

However, the drive towards improving skills and performance is just as important
within Scottish governing bodies of sport and sportscotland, the national agency
for sport.

This is the principle that underpins all good corporate governance – backed
up by an increased recognition of the positive contribution good governance
can make to an organisation’s overall success.

Of course, corporate governance is not new – it’s at the core
of the way companies are directed and controlled. However, it has become increasingly
relevant in sport, where organisations and the social, economic and political
environments in which we operate are more complex than ever before.

Annual turnovers have increased significantly; governing bodies now employ
more and more professional staff. Objectives must be achieved in a legal and
ethical way.

The model for good governance in Scottish governing bodies of sport is UK
Sport's "Modern Sport" document. It sets out the following ten characteristics
a governing body should demonstrate in order to be recognised as a "modern

  • Strong accountability to all members, funders and stakeholders in
    the sport
  • Modern and efficient arrangements for the long-term governance of
    the sport, including appropriate legal structures for the organisation
  • An
    aspirational yet realistic strategic plan with appropriate annual business
  • Clear leadership of the sport, which commands the respect of
    the majority of players
  • A sport which is run with energy, enthusiasm
    and passion
  • Explicit roles and expectations to ensure the optimum contribution
    from board members, paid staff, volunteers and players
  • Transparent and
    compliant systems for managing and administering the sport
  • A commitment
    to ethical standards and fair play throughout all aspects of the sport
  • Diverse
    sources of revenue without over-dependence on any one funder
  • Partnership
    working with related organisations to deliver national priorities for sport


It is important to note that good governance is not a panacea. It is not,
by itself, insurance against an organisation – sporting or otherwise – failing
to meet its goals.

Equally, the characteristics of a “modern sport” should not be
seen as targets which are imposed on governing bodies. In fact, quite the opposite
is true. Governing bodies have embraced effective corporate governance because
it’s a need they saw. In many cases, the process of developing governance
mechanisms runs hand in hand with an organisation’s strategic planning.

“We would never want to make out that governing bodies were not well-run
in the past,” said Joy Cameron, a partnership manager with sportscotland’s
Developing Potential team. “But many were run by committed parents and
volunteers, and things have moved on significantly since then.

“In recent years, Scottish Executive and Lottery investment in sport
has increased. Child protection legislation has increased, such as Disclosure
Scotland requirements. And, as governing bodies employ more people, they need
to be aware of employment law.

“But I think it’s important to say that governing bodies themselves
were aware of the need to become more strategic. They realised that practices
and procedures needed to be put in place in order for them to achieve their

“So it’s not as if sportscotland – or UK Sport for that
matter – have been laying down the law. Governing bodies are now embracing
effective corporate governance because it’s a need they saw.

“They have become more aware of what they had to do to move forward.
It’s just good business practice.”

Of course, embracing the principles of effective governance and putting them
into practice can be two very different things. That’s where sportscotland
has an important role to play in supporting organisational development.

In addition to prescribing a comprehensive method by which governing bodies
and other large sports organisations can check their effectiveness, and take
practical steps to ensure they are a full “modern sport”, we provide
specific guidance and support.

“The support package is a really positive thing we do,” added

“For instance, through UK Sport, sportscotland have been able to employ
human resource and finance advisors to provide an expert resource for governing
bodies to make sure they are, say, adhering to employment legislation, disciplinary
procedures, or to help them with VAT requirements.

“We also help with strategic planning, and encourage governing bodies
to have tight, focused strategic plans.

“And for governing bodies seeking incorporation, we have provided financial
assistance for them to seek legal advice when it comes to such things as writing
their articles and memorandum of association.”

The important thing to remember is that governance is not a separate thing.
Good structures should underpin everything an organisation does. In sport,
they offer guidance, and help us deal with the challenges ahead – on
and off the field.

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