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Governance in profile - Karen Watkinson

In the first of a series profiling governance leads in sports organisations, Karen Watkinson from the Angling Trust answers our questions.

Date: 13th Apr 2022

Author: Karen Watkinson, the Angling Trust

Role: Company Secretary/Governance Manager
Organisation: The Angling Trust
3 years in current role



What does ‘governance’ mean to you?

Governance provides a framework within which to work. It is a way to bring consistency and fairness. I believe governance, when applied correctly, is an enabler, not an impediment, and should be viewed in this light - positively.


What was your route into your role/the sector?

After gaining my MBA I moved out of the commercial sector into the public sector, initially supporting a local authority through a Comprehensive Performance Assessment. I then secured a governance role in the National Health Service and progressed through a number of governance-focused roles in the NHS.


What drew you to a career in sports governance?

I hadn’t really considered a role in sports governance, but when I was approached about the opportunity and did my research, I discovered that the Code for Sports Governance was very familiar to me, having worked previously with the NHS Code of Governance. I felt that I could use my skills and experience to make a difference. I had never been fishing before joining the Angling Trust (the photo shows my one and only catch!) but I knew that much of what I had learned previously would be transferrable.


What has been your career highlight?

For me, it was an invitation to a reception at the House of Commons in recognition of work conducted in association with the Good Governance Institute.


Can you provide an example of a governance success in your organisation?

Ensuring continued compliance with all of our Code and regulatory requirements - it's success in an ongoing sense. But alongside that, understanding that compliance is only part of governance - an essential part, of course - and that looking to go beyond that is what will continue to drive improvement.


What changes have you seen in attitudes to sports governance?

I hope that I have managed to educate colleagues into seeing that governance is there to help them do their job and to deliver their objectives – not as a barrier that is put in their way! I think this is a message that always needs to be communicated. 


What support have you received that has really helped you in your career?

I had an excellent mentor in my early days in the NHS. Access to training is key to ensuring that your knowledge is up-to-date and I think the SGA resources are excellent. Plus, I have been fortunate in having line managers who respect my knowledge and experience. It is satisfying to know that your advice is trusted and that you're listened to.


What are the biggest governance challenges facing the sports sector right now? How are you and your organisation preparing for those?

Diversity and inclusion. We are using research to understand our base levels and to measure the development and implementation of our strategy and vision. As with many other sports, ours has a predominant demographic and we are realistic that it may take time to cascade the message. This starts with the organisation itself, then our membership and through our reach into the wider angling community.

Organisations and governance leads will need to be on the front foot around issues such as ensuring inclusivity for transgender participants, making sure they have appropriate and sensitive policies in place alongside others that support D&I in sport. These are key upcoming developments (actually, they're already here) and governance leads need to be prepared for them. For some organisations this will be new and challenging, but will be worth it.


What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in governance or sports governance?

Give it a go!  If you like a varied role, which gives you an insight into almost all areas of an organisation and you like to multi-task, this could be a career for you.


Karen Watkinson is Company Secretary/Governance Manager at the Angling Trust and a member of the SGA Advisory Group.