A guide to the UK’s new Code for Sports Governance

Gold medalist holding a UK flag behind him
Monday, 13 March 2017 By Erin Stephens

The author of this piece, Erin Stephens, is the Principal In-House Solicitor at Sport England


In May 2016, Sport England released its new strategy entitled: “Towards an Active Nation”.[1]

The new strategy marks a clear shift in focus for Sport England. No longer is it about promoting sport for sports sake and increasing participation. Now, the challenge is focused squarely on moving the “inactive” (those who undertake less than 30 minutes of activity per week) to “active” (who undertake at least 150 minutes of activity per week), with a particular focus on underrepresented groups.[2]

This represents quite a task. No other country has managed to shift the inactive to active and sustain the change.[3] Those who have had moderate success include Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands. To try to achieve this, Sport England will still be working with the national governing bodies, as the core sports market is still incredibly important. But it will also be forging relationships with a number of new organisations, including charities and other third sector bodies who have experience and expertise in reaching target audiences who are outside the reach of sport’s national governing bodies. 

The focus in the future will be on the benefits that sport and physical activity can bring to people and to society. The strategy is built around a set of five outcomes that are set out in the Government’s new sport strategy: Sporting Future - A New Strategy for an Active Nation[4] (Sporting Future) published in December 2015. They are:

  1. Physical wellbeing;

  2. Mental wellbeing;

  3. Individual development;

  4. Social and community development;

  5. Economic development. 

Sporting Future set a requirement[5] for Sport England[6] and UK Sport[7] to agree a new Governance Code for sport in the UK.

In October 2016, after consulting on key elements of governance with over 300 sport and non-sport stakeholders over the summer, Sport England and UK Sport launched a new set of gold standards of governance. These are standards that must be met by organisations seeking public funding from Sport England and UK Sport for sport and physical activity from April 2017.  

The standards are set out in a document entitled “A Code for Sports Governance” (the Code).[8]  This article examines the background to the Code and why good governance is so important, and then explains the Code’s main provisions. Specifically, it examines: 

  • Why is good governance in sport so important?

  • What difference will good governance make?

  • The journey to the Code for Sports Governance

  • Towards an Active Nation:

    • The Charter of Sports Governance

    • The Code for Sports Governance

  • What are the new requirements under the Code? 

    • Tier 1 requirements

    • Tier 2 requirements

    • Tier 3 requirements

  • Key Principles:

    • Structure

    • People

    • Communication

    • Standards and conduct

    • Policies and processes

  • What it is hoped the Code will do for the sports sector

  • Author’s comment

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About the Author

Erin Stephens

Erin Stephens

Erin, a duly qualified solicitor in England & Wales and Australia, started her career working for the NSW Attorney-General’s Department in Sydney, Australia, before relocating to London in 2006. Having worked in the sport sector for the past ten years, she has headed up the Legal Department at Sport England since 2013 which was recently shortlisted for ‘Public Sector In-House Team of the Year 2016’ by The Lawyer.

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