Briefly describe your current role.
I’m currently the interim Assistant Head of Coach Education at Sports Coach UK. I work alongside the governing bodies of various sports to ensure that their coaching qualifications are fit for purpose and are meeting the quality assurance mark known as UKCC Endorsement
My role in high performance coaching means that I come into contact with a number of national governing bodies from across the UK’s main sports. My day-to-day clients include the RFL, ECB, British Judo Association and the British Canoe Union.
Why do organisations/associations need a Sporting Director?
More and more governing bodies are under pressure to produce performances at the highest level, to win trophies and medals. Alongside this pressure, they now have to justify their funding, demonstrate a return of investment, and prove their benefits to society. Sporting bodies and clubs are now judged on things like participation numbers and their reach and engagement with disenfranchised communities. All of these targets and results are directly related to a sport’s level of funding. To achieve those results, you need somebody with a skill set and the competencies of a Sporting Director. As funding gets tighter and you need to have a stronger return on investment, I believe that the role of a Sporting Director will become even more crucial moving forward.
Now that the lines between Sport and Business are blurred, how important is the role of a Sporting Director?
You have to balance the performance of your sport or team with being a functioning business, it is very important that governing bodies and individual clubs find that balance, sporting organisations do need to be run professionally and within the constraints of a business, but also you are representing a sport. Sport is a key part of society, the benefits are far wider than results on pitch and meeting economic targets, you need to have an impact on wider society, which makes the current environment even more challenging and the role of a Sporting Director even more important.
Not many businesses have TV channels dedicated to discussing their performances. Most sporting governing bodies and clubs will have every aspect of their performances highlighted on the likes of Sky Sports News and talkSPORT
Even within sport itself, the landscape has changed. 15 years ago, you wouldn’t have had an announcement about Sport England or grass-roots funding in the headlines. Now, it’s all over sports media and in national press. Sport has a much higher profile now and the Sporting Director role takes that into account, it’s more than just pounds and pence, sport has such a big part in our culture that clubs naturally now have a very big profile.
Why is it important for current or future Sporting Directors to seek qualifications such as the MsD?
Whatever field you’re in, I always push the benefits of qualifications and as a general rule, qualifications make sure that everybody in the industry has and understands the core competences of their role. Alongside knowing the basics, you need to have the high level knowledge in order to make key decisions. My philosophy is, if a relevant qualification exists, try and get it! Qualifications raise the standard of the industry and ensure a high professional benchmark.
What does it take to be an effective Sporting Director?
A Sporting Director needs to be multi-disciplined. They need to understand the economics, finance, governance issues and the social benefits. A good Sporting Director has to be able to create strong relationships with a wide range of people, these relationships have to be across the various disciplines that a Sporting Director encounters. Be it external or internal relationships, an effective Sporting Director will be able to manage those beneath them and be accountable to the decision makers above them.
How much impact can a Sporting Director have, both on and off the pitch?
This is a really interesting point, a successful team would be a perfect partnership between Sporting Director and head coach. It has to be a partnership to have an impact, which isn’t always the case. The best way to ensure an impact is to appoint them as a pair; a Sporting Director shouldn’t be thrust upon a head coach. If done right, the impact of a Sporting Director can be seen on and off the pitch.
Andy Grant is Assistant Head of Coach Education at Sports Coach UK