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| 3 minutes read

DLA Piper’s first Women in Sport event – governance, diversity and the future

DLA Piper held its first Women in Sport Event on the topic of Governance, Diversity and the Future. The event was hosted by Christina Sharma (Legal Director in Lit & Reg) and Claire Sng (Legal Director in IPT) who were delighted to be joined on the panel by:

  • Louise Hartley – Head of Legal at Sport England;
  • Lisa Wainwright – (MBE) CEO Sport and Recreation Alliance as well as many other roles and accolades, for example, Technical Director for  the International Volleyball federation, a member of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Governance Commission;  Ambassador for Women on Boards and  Trustee of the Samworth Brothers (Sports Opportunity Fund)
  • Catherin Beloff – Director of Legal and Governance and Company Secretary at the British Horseracing Authority and Director of the British Association for Sport and Law.

The event provided some great insights; including the following key points:

  • We heard from Louise Hartley on the Code for Sports Governance launched in 2016. The focus on reforming boards to include at least 30% of each gender has had a hugely positive impact. Louise was pleased to confirm that women now account for 40% of Board members across funded bodies. Although Louise wasn’t able to comment on the imminent changes to the Code in detail, it was clear that diversity will be a key theme running through the updated Code. Given the comparatively small representation of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, those with a disability and those openly LGBT+ on Boards (according to the Diversity in Sport Governance report prepared by Inclusive Boards as at 2018), it will be interesting to see what the new Code brings in relation to these groups. Anything it does do is likely to have a real impact.
  • We heard insights into diversity from our panellists in light of their roles and experience including Lisa Wainwright who was recently awarded an MBE for her revolutionary work around child safety in sport and her 35 years of contribution to sport. She commented on her experience in the Sport and Recreation Alliance. Like most organisations the Sport and Recreation Alliance is on a 4 year plan, but she confirmed that diversity, inclusivity and sustainability are at the heart. She especially noted the value of having an Impact Board, whereby a separate body, which is diverse, is able to advise the Board; thereby providing a way of accelerating diversity of thought where changes to a board make up may take more time. 
  • Catherine Beloff discussed the changes at the British Horse Racing Authority over her last 8 years in post. This includes a big push to recruit a diverse Board and Catherine reiterated the importance of role models being visible at every level within an organisation; people who can inspire and we can learn from.
  • It is hoped the UK will win the bid to host the IWG (International Working Group) Secretariat on Women and Sport and Conference in 2026, which Lisa Wainwright talked about. This is a great opportunity for the UK to focus on women in sport. The outcome of the bid is expected in July 2021. We are keeping everything crossed for the result.
  • Finally, the panellists finished by sharing some interesting personal experiences and commenting on what they believe is stopping women’s sports achieving an equal footing. Catherine Beloff described the main hurdles as finance, investment and broadcaster exposure.
  • Interestingly YouGov’s Women in Sport Report 2021 drew similar conclusions. The Report states that around the world, the majority of people perceive inequality in media coverage, pay, sponsorship and investment by governing bodies. When asked why people say they don’t engage in women’s sport, 30% cited a lack of marketing for women’s sport and 27% say they find it difficult to find games to watch. The report suggests that ‘Supply-side’ issues are the main factors in deterring consumers from engaging in women’s sport – including low levels of media coverage, a lack of marketing and a lack of information or knowledge around women’s sport. The report is fascinating and well worth a read.

We hope you will join us for our next event coming up in September. Details to follow...


uk, sport, diversity, women in sport