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.

Wharton welcomes David Holmes

Wharton Consulting is delighted to add David Holmes, formerly Director of Sport for the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and Chief Executive of British Dressage, to its roster of consultants. David joins Wharton with immediate effect from Italy, where he has most recently held the post of Director of Sport for the Italian Equestrian Federation – serving as Team Leader / Chef d’Equipe for the Italian team in major international competition, and developing a range of strategies and systems for the development of horse sport on a cross-disciplinary basis, riders, coaches and officials.

During his time with the FEI David was responsible for liaising with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees, the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, and the national federations of equestrian sport; creating a strategic / operational planning process; and devising a Championships Strategy for the delivery and support of the FEI’s major events. Prior to that, in his role with British Dressage, he was responsible for all matters relating to strategic planning, governance and management, including the development of the medal-winning Olympic and Paralympic programmes, as well as being a key figure in the development of the British Equestrian Federation.

Working as a consultant since April 2013, David continues to organise major games and championships on behalf of the FEI, as well as undertaking governance and strategic planning work on behalf of governing bodies of sport and a major international charitable foundation. Wharton Principal Neil Tunnicliffe said: “David is a top-quality addition to our team who more than fulfils our requirement that our consultants should have ‘been there and done it’ on the front line of national and international sports bodies. As well as strengthening our offering in the areas of governance solutions and strategic planning, David brings invaluable experience within the international arena at the highest levels of sport – as well as knowing all there is to know about horse sport. We’re delighted to have him on board, and look forward to working alongside him as he develops his portfolio.”

Para Coach2RIO

Wharton’s Sarah Rowell was in Sheffield this week as part of the delivery team on the UK Sport Para Coach2RIO initiative.  The overall aim of the Para Coach2RIO programme is to deliver quality learning opportunities and professional development for coaches working with Paralympic World Class Programme funded athletes; both to Rio 2016 and beyond.  Sarah will be working as part of the delivery team on two of the core projects  under the ParaCoach 2RIO banner, the Themed Workshop Series and the Coaching Hub, both of which will run over the next two years , supporting those coaches who will help TeamGB as it aims for the challenge of 121 medals in Rio 2016.


British Ski and Snowboard Olympic Selection Independent Review

Following on from the successful 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, where the BSS team hit their UK Sport target of one Olympic medal, the BSS Board have asked Sarah Rowell to carry out an independent review of the process that resulted in selection of athletes by the BOA/TeamGB with a view to understanding what worked well, what didn’t work so well, what lessons can be learned and where improvements can be made as the sport seeks to build on their performances for PyeongChang South Korea in 2018 .


RFU begins new competitions era

Following a vote of the RFU Council on 4 June to accept the recommendations of the Adult Competitions Review by a significant majority, Wharton Consulting has been engaged to continue our work on the review by pursuing the implementation of two key recommendations.

The first of these is the drafting of a Sevens strategy for the game, bringing together the different strands which are currently active at senior England level, at club and recreational level, and within universities, colleges and schools, across both men’s and women’s rugby. The objective is to create a unified and cohesive RFU-wide approach, defining the pathway into the England squad while at the same time giving purpose and shape to other sectors of competition.

The second is in partnership with the Students Rugby Football Union, to explore the feasibility of developing a new competition structure which offers the best student teams the intensity that they desire, as a valid alternative to university clubs aspiring to inclusion within the RFU leagues.

Neil Tunnicliffe has been working with the RFU in support of the Adult Competition Review since autumn 2011, leading the research programme which underpins its recommendations and authoring the review report on behalf of a Steering Group comprising representatives of the RFU Council, executive and club game, as well as independents from Sport England and England Hockey.


Congratulations, Sally!

We’re thrilled to bits that Sally Bolton, our former Wharton colleague, has been awarded the OBE in yesterday’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Sally, who worked with us between 2002 and 2007, has spent the last seven years with the Rugby Football League, during which time she held positions as the RFL Events Director, RFL Director of Projects and Planning and, most recently, RLWC2013 General Manager before leaving last month to take up a new position as Managing Director of the Organising Committee for the World Athletics Championships in London 2017.

Her award is recognition of her role in managing and presenting the most successful Rugby League World Cup in the sport’s history – and we couldn’t be more proud of her!

Ice hockey review launched

Ice Hockey UK (IHUK) have appointed Wharton Consulting to undertake a structure and governance review of ice hockey in the UK, covering all of the national ice hockey governing bodies; English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), Scottish Ice Hockey-UK (SIH-UK), Ice Hockey Northern Ireland (IHNI) and the UK Elite League (EIHL).

The purpose of the review is to demonstrate good governance and structure both for the sport’s participants and for stakeholder organisations such as the International Ice Hockey Federation, British Olympic Association, UK Sport and the home nation Sports Councils and UK Anti-Doping, in order to help develop and achieve objectives and open up better potential for funding for the sport in the future.

IHUK interim chairman, Jim Anderson, said: “All of the organisations have come together to approve this review of the sport’s structure. This review will be all-encompassing throughout ice hockey in the UK and will be open and transparent. This will also be a legacy for the sport once completed and implemented.”

Wharton Consulting personnel have 53 years’ experience of working in sports development, management and governance and have worked extensively in Rugby Union and Rugby League. They have also been prominent in the emergence of the new franchise-based league structure within the domestic Netball Superleague.

Neil Tunnicliffe, Principal of Wharton Consulting, said: “We’re delighted to have been selected by IHUK to support what is obviously a hugely important piece of work for the future of ice hockey within the UK and also internationally. We’re looking forward very much to returning to a sport where we have worked previously, having conducted reviews on behalf of UK Sport in 2007 and more recently for the BOA in 2012. We very much hope that our experience of working with professional team sports, and with governance structures which span UK and home nation levels, professional and amateur spheres, will be of benefit to ice hockey as it contemplates change in order to better fulfil its objectives at domestic and international levels.”

IIHF and UK-based official, Joy Johnston, said: “I am delighted to see that our governing bodies are working together to review the structure of ice hockey in the UK overall. Having been to many international tournaments, I can see it is vital for our different organisations to work together. If we want ice hockey in GB to grow, develop and have a chance of international success, then we need to ensure we are structured in the best way possible.

“In my day job I work for UK Sport and advise national governing bodies on governance. We promote and require good governance from all of our funded sports because we believe it helps lead to success on the field on play. I hope this can be the case for ice hockey so that it can give to others the opportunities and experiences that I have been lucky enough to have.”

Find us on social media

The latest Wharton Consulting news and comment can now be found via social media. Look us up on Facebook at – or follow Neil Tunnicliffe and Sarah Rowell on Twitter via @NeilTunny and @SazRowell.

Wharton to address UK Sport / EIS Talent Team

Neil Tunnicliffe has been invited to address the UK Sport / EIS Talent Team at the beginning of May on the subject of competition structures, and the principles which Wharton Consulting has applied within the review projects that it has conducted in recent times; also to share some of the findings that typically emerge from such projects. The invitation comes at a time when the Talent Team is working with individual sports with a view to improving their talent pathways – including and especially through competitive vehicles.

Neil said: “Competition reviews have become something of a niche product for Wharton Consulting, and this is an area that we think we understand pretty well. Over the last decade we have assisted major team sports in reviewing their competition structures: England Netball, in a project which helped to develop from scratch the now highly successful Netball Superleague; and the Rugby Football Union, for whom we have recently completed a wide-ranging review of all their adult competitions. More recently, in Olympic and Paralympic sports, we have worked with Archery GB, British Swimming, British Triathlon, Welsh Athletics, and now GB Canoeing, with a view to refining competition structures to increase retention, enhance profile, and smooth the way for talented athletes to the top of the sport.”

Prior to establishing Wharton Consulting, Neil’s work with the Rugby Football League saw him play a significant role in the establishment of the Super League, as well as the Academy Under-19 competition, the Student Rugby League and the Rugby League Conference – a grassroots competition for clubs outside of the Rugby League heartland, which is now a nationwide league featuring 115 teams.