A range of codes and other governance frameworks are available to aid you in governing your organisation and your sport. Some are voluntary, offering recommendations which cover good governance practice. However, for organisations supported by Sport England or UK Sport the Code for Sports Governance sets out requirements which need to be complied with in order to obtain public funding, which is often the lifeblood needed to operate and sustain many in the sector.

It is not just funded organisations which are looking to adopt the Code as their guiding document, nor those who are hopeful of gaining future funding. Many clubs, associations and other bodies have come to recognise the benefits of voluntarily implementing this robust but proportionate governance code to help them place their activities and strategic development on sound foundations.  

As with all codes, the key to the success of your organisation from a governance perspective will not be just knowing the document and its principles, but using its recommended practices and the tools provided on this website to identify the areas where your organisation requires improvement to become ‘fit for purpose’ and move beyond mere compliance.

A Code for Sports Governance

was launched in October 2016 and became mandatory for those who seek Government and National Lottery funding from April 2017. In 2020 it was announced that a review of the Code would be undertaken, incorporating sector research and a public consultation. Changes to the Code's requirements were announced in July 2021 and the full Code and accompanying commentary were published in December 2021.

The Code sets out the levels of transparency, accountability and financial integrity that will be required to obtain public funding.

The Code is designed around five key principles.

Principle 1 - Structure

'Organisations shall have a clear and appropriate governance structure, led by a Board which is collectively responsible for the long-term success of the organisation and exclusively vested with the power to lead it. The Board shall be properly constituted and shall operate effectively.'

SGA says

A sound structural framework lays the foundation for sustainable governance. Responsibility for decision making and strategic planning are key duties of the board, and the governance architecture of the organisation should be clearly established, identifying where authority and competence reside and setting terms of reference and channels of accountability for delegated matters. Appropriate structures will vary in detail between organisations, but many of the core practice recommendations will apply across a range of bodies.

Regardless of the structure adopted, the authority – and legal responsibility – for leading the organisation lies with the board. It is the board which directs the organisation and which determines what authority it delegates and to whom, based on the provisions set out in the governing document and applicable legislation.


For more on this principle, check out our tool below, which highlights the questions sports organisations should be asking themselves if they are hoping to meet the Tier 3 requirements of the Code.


Principle 2 - People

'Organisations shall recruit and engage people with diversity of background, thought, independence, skills and experience to take effective decisions that further the organisation’s goals and best serve their communities, stakeholders and wider UK society.'

SGA says

It can be argued that the most important factor in an organisation’s governance is the people that lead and work within it. A decision-making body composed of skilled and experienced individuals who bring a broad range of perspectives and different ways of thinking and approaching problems will contribute to more effective leadership, making the organisation more adaptable in meeting the challenges it faces. A more diverse board will also reflect and be more able to engage with the community which the organisation serves and will demonstrate that the organisation is one to which that community can relate. This can confer legitimacy on the organisation and promote confidence and inclusivity among all those involved in the sport.

The revised Code contains new obligations for funded organisations around diversity, requiring those in receipt of significant funding to produce a detailed, ambitious and published plan to increase the level of diversity and inclusion not only on their boards, but also on their senior leadership teams and across their wider organisational structures. 

When considering who the best people are to lead an organisation, it is important to have regard to the long-term strategic plan. Identifying where the organisation wants to go and what it wants to achieve should lead to an assessment of what skills are required on the board to realise those goals. This should prompt an honest appraisal of whether the current composition meets those needs and can be used to inform future recruitment processes.

There is a growing awareness that policies and processes form only part of an effective governance apparatus. It is just as important that the behaviour, values and culture which inform all of an organisation’s activities are embedded throughout the structure. Organisational culture is dealt with in Principle 4 of the Code (Standards and Conduct). However, people are key to this: it is they who implement policy and engage with participants, supporters, coaches, volunteers, the public and a whole range of other stakeholders. Having the right people in place at all levels will ensure that what an organisation does and what it professes to stand for are in alignment.


For more on this principle, check out our tool below, which highlights the questions sports organisations should be asking themselves if they are hoping to meet the Tier 3 requirements of the Code.

People Plans

An integral part of Principle 2 is a well-formulated People Plan which will help you to understand and develop the diversity, skills, behaviours and culture within your organisation. This should cover both employees and those who act in a voluntary capacity.

Sport England and UK Sport have issued guidance to help organisations to:

  • develop a People Plan
  • review and discuss their People Plan at least annually
  • share the findings of the discussion with their members and people

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