As we enter 2021, we can reflect on a year which challenged the sports industry like no other in recent memory, and when many of our clients and ongoing projects were adversely impacted by COVID-19 and everything involved in it. However, it didn’t stop us from celebrating the 20th anniversary of Wharton Consulting in May – a landmark of which we’re extremely proud.

Neither did the onset of the pandemic prevent Sarah from completing a review of the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), which concluded with recommendations to ensure its fitness for purpose to support young English athletes prior to their joining World Class Programmes. Sarah also worked in 2020 with Skateboard GB to support the development and roll-out of the sport’s first talent and performance pathway, including a linked coaching strategy and the establishment of talent hubs around the UK. This formed part of SBGB’s successful submission for UK Sport funding for the cycle to Paris 2024 – while similar bids from British Surfing and Goalball UK also benefited from Sarah’s input.

Meanwhile, the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games saw the re-engagement of UK Sport’s Tokyo 1st coach development programme, where Sarah has continued to be a core member of the delivery team, as well as acting as mentor to a number of leaders within the UK’s sporting system. With her term as a Director of UK Athletics coming to a natural end in April, Sarah has had more time to focus on the international side of the sport, in particular her work as a member of the World Mountain Running Council and the development of the new combined Mountain and Trail World Championships, the first edition of which will be held in Thailand in November 2021.

For his part, Neil spent most of the summer and autumn of 2020 conducting a review of England Netball’s domestic competition structure – some 15 years after completing a similar review which led inter alia to the establishment of the Netball Superleague (NSL). The 2020 iteration consulted widely (albeit remotely) with nearly 4000 EN members, adult and junior, as well as with NSL franchises, Premier League clubs, coaches, teachers, and grassroots competition organisers. These produced a raft of recommendations focusing on the structure of the competition offer, the talent pathway, flagship junior and schools’ competitions, and netball in educational settings, all of which will form part of EN’s new ten-year strategy for the development of their sport.

For Simon, the beginning of 2020 saw the completion of his project for the North-North-East Active Partnership, now Rise North East, working in collaboration with Kraft HR Consulting. Wharton Consulting’s contribution involved providing project management, constitutional documentation and governance structure input into a successful effort to bring together the former Northumberland and Tyne & Wear County Sports Partnerships into a single shared legal entity, functioning as a company limited by guarantee and registered as a charity.

Simon’s principal engagement in the latter part of 2020 has been to work with the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) on a review of their statutes, by-laws, rules, and regulations – with particular reference both to the legal domicile of the IWRF, and to best-practice governance structures and systems within international federations of Paralympic sport. This is a highly complex piece of work, not least because it runs across national jurisdictions, and remains ongoing as we prepare for another busy year ahead.

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