Competing Priorities: The Value of a Modern Competition Structure

Here’s a link to some reflections on the need constantly to review and modernise competition structures in sport, based on the work that we’ve done in this area over the past 20 years.

Wharton at 20

It was 20 years ago this week, on 2 May 2000, that Wharton Consulting took on its first consultancy project – and so, even if these extraordinary times mean that we can’t have a party, we’re celebrating this very significant anniversary!

Over the subsequent 20 years we’ve worked across the sporting spectrum, and developed specialisms in high performance and talent development, sports governance, people development, and competition structures. We’ve worked with nearly 70 international federations and national governing bodies of sport, six Sports Councils, four national sports institutes, the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations, and a host of other sporting, educational and commercial institutions. We’ve written national strategies for sport which have transformed levels of performance, we’ve set up national governing bodies where none previously existed, we’ve designed and facilitated a national sports institute, and we’ve brought game-changing leagues and competitions into being.

People are incredibly important to us and our business, and this is a moment for Neil, Sarah, Simon and David to express our gratitude and appreciation to all those who have worked with us along the way. To those who have been part of and contributed to Wharton Consulting during the journey, including and especially Sally Bolton, but also John Crowther, David Holmes and Graeme Thompson. To those who have partnered with us on projects: Inside Track, KHR Consulting, Leisure Partners, Jonathan Males, Stuart Cummings, Don Parker, Carol Doran, to name just a few. To those who have commissioned us and entrusted us with projects large and small – too many to thank individually. And to those others whom we know within the sports industry and elsewhere, whom we count as friends, and who have made the journey so enjoyable. Thank you, one and all!

We’ll be highlighting some of our favourite projects from the last 20 years on our social media channels over the next few days, using the hashtag #Whartonat20. Look out for these – and, in the meantime, very many thanks once again to everyone who has been part of our adventure so far. We look forward hugely to continuing it in the months and years to come!

England Netball Competition Review 2020

England Netball has commissioned Wharton Consulting to conduct a review of its competition offer and structures for adult, junior and schools netball, and within the talent pathway. The review will take place as part of EN’s planning for its new ten-year strategy for netball, and will be conducted between April and autumn 2020. It comes 15 years after Wharton Consulting’s last review of netball competitions, which resulted in the introduction of the Netball Superleague and the establishment of a pyramid of competitions from national to regional to county and local levels. Wharton’s Neil Tunnicliffe said: “We’re delighted to be back working with England Netball again, and look forward to engaging with netballers at all levels of the game to gather their ideas and identify their preferences to support the continued growth of the sport over the next ten years.”

2019: that was the year that was …

As 2019 draws to a close, we can reflect on another fruitful and enjoyable year working across the sports sector in Great Britain and Ireland. Once again we’ve been involved in professional team sports, Olympic and Paralympic programmes, talent pathways, and with community networks, all of which have brought their own particular challenges. Some of the highlights have been:

  • Returning to the Golf Union of Ireland, to sense-check their implementation of our recommendations from 2016 for the improvement of their talent pathway
  • Supporting a restructure of the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, subsequent to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games
  • Engaging with the English Institute of Sport, and with TASS, as they prepare for the next funding cycle through to the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games
  • Continuing to mentor and support a number of head and national coaches, including as part of UK Sport’s coach development programmes in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games
  • Developing a framework through which a Great Britain women’s football team can participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, through negotiation with the home nation football associations
  • Leading the ECB’s process to establish a national network of player development centres in every county of England
  • Continuing our annual tours of duty in the RFU and ECB’s Academy networks, and in the Netball Superleague, as auditors of their clubs’ fulfilment of minimum operating standards
  • Working with the British Equestrian Federation around their selection processes, and with Archery GB on their organisational strategy
  • Providing governance support for a number of County Sports Partnerships as they restructure themselves for the future, and for British Ice Skating
  • Establishing new collaborations with Warwick Andrews and David Henwood at Inside Track, and with David Meli at All About Sport

As always, we’ve had great fun working with old friends and new. We wish all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2020!

Sarah takes the helm at UK Athletics

We’re delighted to see Sarah take up the role of Interim Chair at UK Athletics, at what is a critical time for the sport – and we wish her every success! See the media statement below for more details:

Merry Christmas!

As 2018 comes towards a close, Neil, Sarah and Simon would like to wish all our clients and friends a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2019. We’ve loved working with you this year, and look forward to continuing to do so over the next 12 months.

Summer update 2018

As another summer draws to a close, we’ve once again been kept busy by a wide variety of hugely enjoyable and fulfilling projects. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Sarah and Neil have been working on behalf of UK Sport to research the viability of a number of different models for the delivery of the Skeleton World Class Programme in the cycle to the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in 2022. This followed on from Sarah’s review of the governance and management of the Bobsleigh and Skeleton programme in the build-up to the 2018 Games, also on behalf of UK Sport. The research was well received by UK Sport, who thanked us for our “patience, expertise, acumen and professionalism throughout … all acknowledged what a thorough piece of work you have produced”
  • Also in connection with UK Sport, Sarah has continued to be part of the core delivery team working on Generation 24. This is an accelerated development programme for a cohort of selected individuals at the initial stage of their careers as coaches within elite Paralympic sport, who have been identified by their NGBs as having the potential to impact on medal-winning athletes in the 2020, 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games
  • Sarah and Neil have conducted a review of Sport Wales’s model for supporting coaching, coach education and development, in preparation for the new Vision for Sport in Wales which was launched in July. After consulting with around 30 NGBs, community sports organisations, universities and other stakeholders, and comparing theory and practices in the other home nations and overseas, we drafted recommendations for a new model of engagement and support. These have been accepted by Sport Wales and will form the basis of an action plan which will be included within their new organisational strategy
  • As in previous years we have delivered annual review processes for, respectively, the 14 England Rugby Regional Academies, on behalf of the RFU and Premiership Rugby Ltd; and of the ten Vitality Netball Superleague franchises, on behalf of England Netball. As we move into autumn, Neil will also be delivering the annual review of the 18 first-class cricket county talent pathways on behalf of the England & Wales Cricket Board
  • Sarah has been working with Basketball England on the revision and development of their Player Development Framework – while also continuing to serve as a mentor and adviser to a number of Performance Directors and senior coaches within Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports

In among all this Neil found time to visit Australia, where he visited NRL, Super Rugby and Super Netball franchises – while Sarah climbed the Eiger! All in all, a very satisfactory summer: please don’t hesitate to contact us if any of the above makes you think that our experience and expertise might be helpful to you.

Wharton Consulting and GDPR

As you’ll no doubt be aware, the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) comes into force on Friday 25 May. We at Wharton Consulting hold an amount of personal data either as a result of work that we’ve done over the past few years, or because we have professional connections which we’ve generated through our normal course of business.

We hold on to some contact details because we value our network of connections within the world of sport, and we’d like to stay in touch with these people in future. We take our responsibility regarding the safety of information very seriously, and are fully committed to protecting it and being open and transparent about what we hold.

Our usual practice, subject to our clients’ agreement, is either to delete information which is generated through consultancy contracts as and when those contracts are completed; or to hold on to information for the purposes of client aftercare, in case that information is needed to support the implementation of a project. If the latter, we will retain the information for a reasonable period of time (until it is agreed that it is no longer needed, or the minimum six years which is required by the Companies Act).

The attached Privacy Policy sets out how we collect and manage data, and your rights in respect of that data. If you wish to know what data we hold on you, your organisation and stakeholders, or you wish that information to be deleted – or if you would like to see our Data Protection Policy, for more details on our internal processes for keeping your data safe – please don’t hesitate to contact Neil Tunnicliffe via the contact details given elsewhere within this website.

Wharton GDPR Privacy Policy – final, May 2018

Commonwealth Games reflections

As the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast draw to a close, we’ve been reflecting on some of the work that we’ve done over the past few years and the performance legacy that it has generated over the last couple of weeks. In particular, we’ve been delighted to see the following:

  • Wales achieving a second consecutive Games-best medal haul – 36 with 10 golds, following on from the same overall total in Glasgow in 2014. We conducted a review of performance and excellence sport in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government in 2009. The following year we worked with Sport Wales to translate the recommendations of the review into an Elite Sport Strategy which set out the way that international performances would be driven and supported at the highest levels over the next decade. The implementation of that strategy has now produced back-to-back bests for Wales in Commonwealth Games – which we were thrilled to see
  • England winning netball gold. We first worked with England Netball in 2003 to review their performance system and make recommendations to improve it after that year’s World Netball Championships. We did similar reviews after the 2007 and 2011 WNC, and also examined the Under-21 programme after the 2009 World Youth Netball Championships – working with several of the players who won gold in 2018. At the same time we helped to overhaul the competition structure at all levels within the game, including the introduction and development of the Netball Superleague, to create a pathway and an environment in which the best players could progress from domestic to international levels – a supporting role that we’re continuing into this year. We couldn’t be prouder to see the products of this system now competing with the best in the world – and winning
  • England winning two bronze medals in hockey. We’ve conducted reviews with Great Britain Hockey after each of the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, which sought to debrief players and staff, reflect on performances, and capture learnings for the subsequent cycle. We were absolutely delighted to see the women win gold in Rio – and it was great to see both of the England teams continuing the medal-winning habit in Australia
  • England winning two bronze medals in Rugby Sevens. We were commissioned by the Rugby Football Union to research a Sevens strategy for the elite, talent development and recreational sectors in 2015 – one which was subsequently adopted by the Union to develop and support the growth of the game. Again, we were thrilled to see Simon Amor’s programme starting to produce consistent medal-winning performances at major events on the back of this strategy and its recommendations
  • Beach volleyball being staged at the Games – and England and Scotland players competing with distinction. We worked with the British Volleyball Federation in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games to get competitive Great Britain teams on court in indoor, beach and sitting volleyball – and it was wonderful to see some of the players identified and developed through that programme not only representing their countries on the Gold Coast, but challenging seriously for the podium

Success rarely happens overnight – and it’s been fantastic for us to see these and other clients past and present reap the benefits of the strategy work that they’ve done with us over the past 10-15 years. If you’d like to discuss how we might help you in a similar way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch through the contact details on our website.

February update

Another busy six months for Wharton Consulting, and 2018 continues to be no different. Since our last post, Neil has:

  • Worked with the ECB first to devise and then to deliver an annual process of review for the talent identification and development programmes in place within the 18 first-class cricket counties, providing individual reports for each county together with system-wide recommendations for the ECB
  • Conducted an independent review of the County and Satellite Academy programme being delivered by County Netball Associations on behalf of England Netball, with recommendations for the future of the programme from May 2018
  • Continued to serve as Company Secretary to the Great Britain Disability Football Association, working to support the Great Britain Blind team in its preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and to improve governance and management systems within the Association

Sarah’s workload has involved the following:

  • Continuing to support a number of UK Sport coach development initiatives focused on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond.  She is part of the core delivery team on ParaCoach 24 and is a mentor to a number of national coaches and performance directors
  • Supporting the RFU in the conduct of its review of the Women’s Championship, as a follow-on to our work around the establishment of the Tyrrells Premier 15s competition
  • On behalf of the International Netball Federation, delivering a review of international netball umpiring standards and processes to establish a benchmark for “world-class officiating” and create a target for future years against which the INF can measure performance
  • Continuing to provide technical support and expertise to the Sport England talent team and, on their behalf, identified National Governing Bodies around their athlete pathway development
  • On behalf of London Marathon Events, carrying out a review with recommendations for the future of the Elite Performance and Coaching Centre at St Mary’s, Twickenham
  • Conducting a review, with recommendations to UK Sport, on optimising the delivery of support to Wheelchair Fencing athletes via the EIS Managing Targeted Sports Programme
  • Continuing to serve as a NED at UK Athletics, and chair the organisation’s Performance Oversight Committee.  She is also heavily involved in the international development of mountain running, a joint initiative between the IAAF (where she is a member of the IAAF road running commission) and the World Mountain Running Association (where she is an elected Council member)

Simon’s governance work has seen him continue to support the National Ice Skating Association and the County Sports Partnership in Derbyshire as both organisations undergo extensive and long-term modernisation. For more information on any of these projects, or on how we might support you, please feel free to get in touch through the contact details provided on this website.