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Strengthening through governance

ukactive's new business plan is designed to help lead its members through recovery from the pandemic and to transition into the future. A focus on their internal governance is central to the plan. Ben Shepherd looks at the exciting times ahead for ukactive.

Date: 13th May 2021

Author: Ben Shepherd, Director of Business Operations, ukactive

ukactive is the membership organisation representing the fitness, leisure, and wider physical activity sector. We work with over 4,000 members and partners across the public, private and third sectors. We exist to provide expert support to our members on issues of reputational concern, to promote growth and champion the sector through campaigns, to provide business intelligence on sector trends, and to lobby Government to improve members’ operating landscape, ensuring the impact the sector can have on major societal issues is acknowledged and maximised.

Our Governance Journey
In order to be successful in our work we have partnered with organisations whose strategic aims are aligned to our own. These partnerships are now more important than ever because of the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

One such partnership is with Sport England. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the two organisations in January 2018 which set out the framework for how we could collaborate in order to have a positive impact on the physical activity levels of the nation. This was formalised into a partnership agreement in 2019.

As part of this partnership we aimed to achieve compliance with Tier 3 of the Code for Sports Governance. In order to ensure we met the requirements of this level, we undertook a review of the organisation's governance arrangements against the Code's five key principles: Organisational structure; People; Communication; Standards and Conduct, and Policies and Processes.

This undertaking identified a number of areas which needed to be addressed. These included reviewing and updating our Memorandum and Articles of Association, in order to ensure that the right structure and controls are in place. These changes were approved by our members and ratified at the recent AGM in March 2021.

The role good governance plays in the future of ukactive

The focus for ukactive is to lead our members through a period of continued uncertainty and transition created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Within our 2021/22 Business Plan we have identified targeted interventions that will aid the survival and recovery of members over the next 12 months, following the year of damage and disruption caused by successive closures and restricted operating environments.

The Business Plan also includes a greater focus on our internal governance, and how this can have a positive impact on the success of the organisation through maximising the effectiveness of our Board, Committees and Councils, while still ensuring that we maintain accreditation on the Code for Sports Governance.

In order to achieve the required outcomes identified in the Business Plan it became apparent that the organisation needed to review its structure to ensure that the right levels of resource are allocated to the key areas. The completion of the restructure and the increased emphasis on the importance of good governance has meant that a brand new role of Governance Manager was created within ukactive and we are delighted to welcome Niels Cleeren to the position.

Niels is now responsible for supporting the Executive team in driving the internal rhythm of the business by ensuring that structure and process are followed across all areas of the organisation. In keeping with our commitment to improve and strengthen for the future, he will also lead on the review of our Board, Committees and Councils to ensure that they are operating efficiently and are maximising the skills of the talented people involved.

The creation of the Governance Manager role demonstrates the importance which ukactive attaches to good governance practices and an appreciation of the contribution they make to the effective running of our organisation. 

Ben Shepherd is Director of Business Operations and Company Secretary at ukactive. He has overall responsibility for the organisation's governance arrangements, alongside accountability for its business operation functions (Finance, HR, IT, Legal and Facilities)

This blog was updated on 16 August 2021.