Report from the Directly-Elected Board Members 2016-17
Tim Soutar and Neil Costello were elected by member clubs to the England Athletics Board as Non-executive Directors in March 2014. Here is their brief review of activity for the last year and considerations for future work.
In our first review in 2015 we reported that the Board had a renewed commitment to listening to members and making the needs of the sport an absolute priority. We have continued to encourage this approach, which is now reflected in the new strategic plan. There is still considerable work to be done in delivering the strategy but the focus of the Board is fully on supporting members in meeting the range of challenges that confront us.
As well as our general Board activities, we have been involved significantly in preparing the new strategy, in reviewing and further improving the governance of EA and in the appointment of new Board members. We have also continued to work in sub-groups focusing on competition strategy and structures, performance, coach education and membership issues..
The new strategy has had to take into account the changed financial world. Public funding available for sport continues to reduce in the face of greater social demands and is increasingly accompanied by conditions which, in part, reflect this wider public agenda. For the time being, EA remains reliant, if it is to deliver activities we all support, on public funds allocated by Sport England. While EA has developed a good relationship with Sport England, and came out of the 2016 funding round as well as we could have expected, the substantial decrease in this income presented us with a number of challenges. Many of you will have seen the changes that have had to be introduced in order to deliver services with fewer staff.
But we, along with the rest of the Board, have been determined to ensure that the funding position of EA remains healthy and that we shall still be able to deliver our strategic priorities. EA must continue to broaden its resource base and reduce reliance on public funding. This is likely to remain a concern over at least the medium term.
EA continues to operate in a complex environment. In addition to UKA, with whom we continue to encourage a more effective relationship, EA works alongside a large number of other bodies which oversee significant parts of our sport, such as County and Area Associations, the ECCA, the ERRA, track and field leagues, parkrun and private race organisers, the other home countries and, of course, member clubs. It is in the best interests of the sport for these organisations to work more closely and constructively together in addressing the issues we all face. We shall accordingly continue to work with the rest of the EA Board to this end as EA is well-placed to co-ordinate this work, including the following issues (which are themselves not un-related): the retention of young athletes from (at least) the under 17 age group upwards; the recruitment, retention and best use of officials, in particular, as part of a drive for supporting volunteers throughout the sport; further improvements to the education and mentoring opportunities for our coaches; the threat to the continued availability of a lot of our facilities; and, the need to develop a true performance pathway, beginning with a range of participation options at all levels and all disciplines in the sport, and a renewed consideration of more attractive forms of competition.
In all of this it is important to ensure that communication and consultation methods and structures work effectively and efficiently. In this regard, we intend to contribute substantially to current discussions around improving the role and contribution of Regional Councils and the National Council given our position within the overall representative structure as elected Board members.
As always, we are keen to ensure that we reflect the needs and interests of all members and of the wider sport. We attend lots of events (national and more local) and are always happy to chat, or, please feel free to send us your comments and suggestions that can be directed to us via the contact us page for elected board members by clicking here.