June headlines

Some snippets to summarise what we’ve been up to over the first five or six months of this year – during which time we have among other things:

  • Continued to work with UK Sport and Sport England on secondment, supporting respectively the planning process for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the drafting of a new sports governance framework in response to the Government’s “Sporting Future” strategy for sport
  • Completed our work with Ice Hockey UK, following the appointment of a new Independent Chair and non-executive directors, as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of governance structures and the creation of a new strategic framework
  • Staged a workshop with over 30 representatives of the Golfing Union of Ireland to share our findings and recommendations regarding their coaching structure and processes
  • Conducted the annual review of the 14 England Rugby Regional Academies on behalf of the RFU and Premiership Rugby Ltd
  • Completed the annual review of the four Branches of the Irish Rugby Football Union for their delivery of their responsibilities to develop the game at community level
  • Supported England Netball in the development and delivery of a process to retender for places within the Netball Superleague for 2017 and beyond
  • Worked with the RFU, Students RFU and BUCS to develop a National League for the leading university rugby teams, for launch in autumn 2016
  • Continue to support a number of sports, performance directors and head coaches via one-to-one mentoring as well as professional development programmes in the build up to Rio and Tokyo
  • Completed the planning for the new British Fencing elite coach development plan, and continue to work with the sport to support its implementation
  • Sarah has also been preparing to attend her first meeting as a member of the new IAAF road running commission

A Strategy for London

In continuation of his work with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Wharton’s Neil Tunnicliffe has been commissioned to support the research and formulation of a strategy for the development of Rugby Union in London.

The project has already featured a conference for 100 stakeholders in April in London’s Living Room on the ninth floor of City Hall overlooking the River Thames. The data gathered from this occasion is currently being laid alongside a range of other information on the challenges and opportunities available to the game within the capital, and will be considered by a Steering Group which includes representatives of the RFU and its constituent bodies, Sport England, the Greater London Authority and London Sport.

The end result will be a high-level strategic framework which can guide those stakeholders who are involved in the game, and those potential activists and investors from outside, as to how they should focus their decision-making and apply their resources. The project is expected to complete in summer 2016.

Great Britain Hockey Ltd – independent review

Wharton Consulting has been commissioned to conduct an independent review of the Great Britain hockey programme leading up to and including the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This is the fourth consecutive Olympic cycle that Great Britain Hockey Ltd (GBHL) has called on Wharton to review its performance, and to help shape its future towards the next Games.

The review is a statutory requirement of GBHL’s constitution, and will examine all aspects of the Olympic programme, from strategy and leadership through coaching and support services to the underlying governance and management systems. The review will be conducted over the months leading up to and after the Rio Games, and will report to the GBHL Board of Directors in November.

January update

First of all a very happy New Year to all our friends – we wish you a peaceful and prosperous 2016, a year which promises much what with Olympic and Paralympic Games, a new national sports strategy, and many other things within the sporting landscape to get excited about. A quick update on what we’ve been up to in recent weeks and months:

  • Neil has continued to work with the RFU across the university and women’s sectors. In the former, discussions have progressed towards the establishment of multidimensional partnerships between the Union and a number of institutions – while in the latter, proposals have been researched, formulated and presented to the Women’s Premiership clubs for a revamping of their competition, with a view to supporting the ambitions of the England national 15- and 7-a-side teams in future years. Both projects continue to develop towards fruition in 2016
  • Neil and Sarah have been commissioned by the Golf Union of Ireland to conduct a review of their national and provincial coaching structures, with a view to creating an aligned athlete and coach development model which leads from first beginnings in the sport through to the fulfilment of potential. The project, which is due to report around Easter, involves a range of consultation with players, coaches, volunteers and executive staff across several different platforms
  • Sarah has been seconded to work with UK Sport in support of their Tokyo 2020 planning process, with a primary brief to support currently unfunded summer sports in the development of their applications for World Class Performance Programme funding. This role fits around her other, ongoing commitments to UK:Athletics and as a mentor within the high performance coaching programme, and will extend until March
  • Simon has continued to support Ice Hockey UK in the ongoing modernisation of their governance structures, through the revision of their M&As and the recruitment of independent directors to their Board of Directors. He has also continued to work with Derbyshire Sport on the review of their governance structures, with findings and recommendations to be presented and discussed at the end of this month

All in all, a busy time for the three of us – and with new and repeat business in the pipeline for the next few months. Watch this space for a further update, and other news, as our year develops.

Wharton appointed to support Tokyo planning

Wharton Consulting is delighted to be one of four firms nationally appointed to a roster of consultants to support governing bodies of Olympic and Paralympic sports in their planning for the Tokyo 2020 Games. Compiled through a process of open tender, the roster is designed to identify consultancies with experience and expertise in strategic planning and associated developments (such as governance, change management and people development) which is appropriate to the needs of the governing bodies as they contemplate the challenges of qualifying for and winning medals in Tokyo.

The principal planning period will extend from October 2015 to March 2016, and will reopen for review and finalisation subsequent to the Rio 2016 Games to take account of learnings from the Games experience. Wharton’s Neil Tunnicliffe and Sarah Rowell will be available throughout this period to reprise the role they played in the build-up to the London 2012 Games, when together they worked across a total of 15 different sports to support the building of structures, systems, programmes and individual expertise to address the unique challenges of a home Games.

September update

Summer has been a busy period for Wharton’s consultants, with long-term projects continuing, new contracts starting, and new commissions won. Here’s an outline of what we’ve been up to:

  • Simon has won through a competitive tender process to conduct a governance review of Derbyshire Sport, one of the 45 County Sports Partnerships supported by Sport England. He has also continued to work with Ice Hockey UK to revise the company’s Articles of Association and build the overall governance framework – and has been active in his role as a trustee of Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby in the build-up to next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio
  • Neil has continued his work with the RFU, supporting the development of rugby partnerships within the university sector, and beginning a review of the women’s domestic game which is designed to improve the support provided for the England national teams. He has also been drafting a long-term strategy for synchronised swimming on behalf of the Amateur Swimming Association; reviewing Hockey Wales’s programme at senior national level; and facilitating the production of a national development strategy for Irish rugby on behalf of the IRFU
  • Sarah has been engaged with UK:Athletics’ review of the training arrangements of Mo Farah within the “Oregon Project” – which has achieved significant media coverage, including here: She has continued to support a number of Performance Directors and coaches through individual and programme (UK Sport Para Coach2Rio, ECAP) initiatives

May update

As we celebrate our 15th birthday this month, we’d like to thank all of our clients, friends and supporters, consultants and associates old and new, for sharing the ride with us. Since our last blog back in January we’ve been as busy as ever, including in the following respects:

  • After just a few short months with Wharton, David Holmes has been offered and accepted the post of Chief Executive of British Eventing. Understandably, given his track record within and passion for equestrian sport, this was too good an opportunity for David to turn down, and we wish him all the best in his new role
  • Simon returned to us at Easter from his interim stint with Sport England and, since then, has been driving our continuing work with Ice Hockey UK. This has involved planning a second strategy workshop with representatives from across the sport, as well as continuing the work to revise the company’s Articles of Association and build the overall governance framework
  • Neil has continued to be heavily engaged with the RFU, providing independent input into the annual review of Regional Academies, as well as progressing work towards the implementation of a Sevens strategy, and the development of rugby partnerships within the university sector. He has also undertaken an independent review of the UK Sports Association for People with Learning Difficulties on behalf of UK Sport, and spent some time in Dublin with the IRFU supporting their development of the Ulster Bank League
  • Sarah has successfully completed projects on behalf of British Ski and Snowboard and Welsh Rowing.  She has recently started a Coaching Review for British Fencing as well as providing performance management support to Wheelchair Fencing.  In addition she is working closely with British Athletics on their new Elite Accelerated Practitioner Development Programme; and continues to support a number of Performance Directors and coaches through individual and programme (UK Sport Para Coach2Rio, ECAP) initiatives

With new projects about to start with the Amateur Swimming Association and Hockey Wales, alongside a range of ongoing commitments, the summer looks likely to be equally busy for the foreseeable future.

January update

The New Year has seen Wharton’s consultants continue to deliver long-running projects while at the same time beginning new ones:

  • The Football Association has commissioned us to conduct a review of women referees, with a view to the formulation of a new strategy for the recruitment of women and girls into refereeing, their retention and ongoing development, and their progression to the level to which they aspire – whether within the men’s or women’s game. Consultation has begun through an online survey of the 900 currently registered women referees, one-to-one interviews with key individuals, and a “look over the fence” at what other team sports do in this regard
  • Work has continued with the Rugby Football Union on a Sevens strategy for the game at all levels in England – and we have also supported a review of the County Championship at senior and Under-20 levels through a telephone survey of club Directors of Rugby, to gather their views on the future direction of the competitions
  • Neil has completed his review of water polo and presented his findings to a meeting of the ASA Sport Governing Board and around 30 water polo representatives in Loughborough. After the 13 key recommendations were unanimously adopted, there was a surprise development in that Prince William, in his capacity as Patron of the English Schools Swimming Association and a keen water polo player, asked for a copy of the review!
  • Neil and Simon have supported Ice Hockey UK in the successful recruitment of two Independent Non-Executive Directors as the first step towards reshaping their Board. Preparations have also been made for a workshop in York in February, when representatives from all sectors of the sport will come together with nominees from stakeholder organisations such as the Sports Councils and BOA to debate the principles of a new strategic plan for the sport
  • Sarah has commenced a review of the talent and high performance pathway on behalf of Welsh Rowing, which is funded by Sport Wales to produce emerging elite rowers for the highly successful British Rowing World Class Performance Programme. She also continues to work with British Ski and Snowboard on their new eight-year strategy; with UK Sport on their ParaCoach 2 Rio programme, including detailed planning for the next two workshops in February; and as a mentor to a number of Performance Directors and coaches within the high performance system
  • David has supported the British Water Ski and Wakeboard Federation in managing the delivery of proposals for change to their governance structure, and has been asked to continue working with the new Board on additional change. David has also been working with two organising committees advising them on the co-ordination of three international equestrian competitions which will take place in Italy in April
  • We are also working with a commercial company providing technical and strategic advice as they look to expand their business into the running and cycling markets

December update

A busy last quarter of 2014 has seen Wharton consultants engaged across a variety of projects, including and especially the following:

  • Neil has been working with the Amateur Swimming Association to conduct a strategic review of water polo following UK Sport’s withdrawal of funding support for the Great Britain programmes earlier this year. Through one-to-one consultations and an online survey, Neil has gathered opinions within the sport on the way forward, and is currently putting together recommendations on a strategic plan for the next ten years (see
  • Sarah has continued to work with British Ski and Snowboard following her review of their selection policy and process for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games – this time advising the Board of Directors on the development of its vision, mission, strategy and key performance indicators for the next four years through to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games
  • David has been commissioned by British Showjumping to facilitate discussions within their Board of Directors on a new strategic direction for the sport
  • Simon has agreed to step into a breach at Sport England on a part-time, interim basis following the departure of their Head of Audit, Risk and Governance, Hilary Milne. Simon will serve in this role until spring 2015, when it is anticipated that a replacement for Hilary will be identified
  • Neil and Sarah concluded their interim review of Sport Wales’s Elite Sport Strategy, presenting findings and recommendations to the SW Board of Directors in late November. In the same month Neil presented the outcomes of the International Netball Federation’s review of international umpiring to the INF Board at its meeting in Auckland, New Zealand – albeit by Skype rather than in person!
  • Neil and Simon have continued to work with Ice Hockey UK on their governance structures and systems, with proposals for change agreed by the IHUK Board in October and implementation planning now under way. Key features of the new structure will be the appointment of independent, non-executive directors to the IHUK Board, new and more detailed Articles of Association, and a series of strategic planning events for the sport in the first half of 2015

International netball umpiring review

The International Netball Federation has commissioned Wharton Consulting to conduct on its behalf a review of netball umpiring at the international level – to assess the current situation, identify the options for future development, and compile a strategy and operational plan to deliver the recommended way forward for presentation to the INF Board of Directors in early November.

This is the first time that Wharton has worked with an international federation – although we have a longstanding relationship with England Netball which goes back to an initial review of the England international programme in 2003 and includes:

  • A review of the domestic competition structure in 2004-05
  • Consultancy support to the establishment and development of the Netball Superleague
  • Reviews of England’s performances at World Championships in 2007 and 2011, and at World Youth Championships in 2009
  • Governance modernisation work to improve the relationships between national, regional and local levels of the sport

In this review of umpiring, Wharton is delighted to be working in partnership with Official Consultancy, the agency established by the former international Rugby League referee and RFL Match Officials Director Stuart Cummings MBE. As well as continuing to support the RFL, Stuart has conducted consultancy work with the England & Wales Cricket Board and British Weight Lifting, and adds a wealth of experience and technical expertise to the INF project.