Time For Sport Wales To Find A Chair In Proper Working Order

Team Wales members at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Pic: Getty Images.

Time For Sport Wales To Find A Chair In Proper Working Order

Sport Wales – the people who dole out the cash, create the vision, try to support future champions and get us all off the sofa – are looking for a new man or woman to help lead the way. Rob Cole says the last “chair” offered little support, but plenty of pain and discomfort. This time, it has to be different. But the Welsh Government also needs to dig deeper into its coffers if it expects more to be achieved.

Here we go again! Having appointed, suspended and then sacked the last Chairperson of Sport Wales in the space of a hugely divisive 53 week period between 22 March, 2016 and 19 March, 2017, the Wales Government are now seeking a new candidate for the controversial position.

Dr Paul Thomas came, saw and tried to conquer, yet merely ended up being dismissed from his post by Rebecca Evans AM following “an irretrievable breakdown in relationships” in the board’s leadership. Vice-chair Adele Baumgardt also went out with the bathwater.

Last month the advert for the position was circulated and applicants have until 19 February to throw their CVs into the hat. Interviews will take place on 17 April with an appointment coming shortly after that.

The steadying influence of Lawrence Conway, who has acted as Interim Chair since the hiatus caused under Thomas’ brief and bitter reign – he was suspended eight months after taking up his post – has at least taken Sport Wales out of the headlines and helped them get back to business.

Paul Thomas was dismissed as chair of Sport Wales. Pic: Sport Wales.

So what has the Welsh Government learned from the hugely damaging and de-stabilising situation they created following the controversial appointment of Thomas? There are a few clues in the advert for the £35,000pa part-time job.

YOU CAN READ THE JOB ADVERT HERE https://cymru-wales.tal.net/vx/lang-en-GB/mobile-0/appcentre-3/brand-2/user-19862/xf-261d60c532f2/candidate/so/pm/1/pl/8/opp/4094/

For instance, while “developing and maintaining a close relationship with the Minister and key members of the Welsh Government” is pretty standard, it is there in black and white for all to see that a key part of the Chair’s role is to “establish and build a strong, effective and a supportive working relationship with the Chief Executive, providing support and advice while respecting executive responsibility.”

If only that had happened under the Thomas regime. Perhaps then the toxic environment he created might not have occurred and CEO Sarah Powell and her staff might not have been subjected to so much needless and unfair scrutiny.

Another key aspect of the role is “to act as an ambassador for Sport Wales; promote effective relationships between non-executive members, the executive team and staff within Sport Wales; develop, manage and maintain good relationships with interested parties both nationally and locally.” Facilitate and help, not execute and ridicule, executive staff!

Sport Wales has an annual budget of £22m.

Sport Wales has consistently made the claim that it delivered against its agreed policy with the Welsh Government under the guidance Thomas’ predecessor as chair, Laura McAllister. More medals at the top end, greater participation virtually across the board and governing bodies working smarter for their share of a paltry £22m pie.

The shift of emphasis into health and community projects, aimed at getting more and more people involved in sport, is a great idea. But 68% of the current Sport Wales budget already goes into community sport.

If the Welsh Government wants to bundle sport into its ‘Health and Well Being’ portfolio, and make Sport Wales and the governing bodies more accountable for creating a healthier nation, then they have to get serious on the amount of funding provided.

There should have been a collective hanging of heads in shame at the Senedd for the debacle that Ken Skates and Rebecca Evans created by appointing Thomas. It almost brought the sporting sector in Wales to its knees. Evolution rather than revolution might have been a better way forward, but when you put a bull in a china shop . . . .

Let’s see who applies this time. Hopefully, nobody has been put off by the typically Welsh soap opera that surrounded the last appointment.


One thought on “Time For Sport Wales To Find A Chair In Proper Working Order

  1. Very disappointing read. Only someone who doesn’t understand leadership can write an article like this. Who is the one with a PhD in Leadership here? The writer of the article or Dr Paul Thomas?
    Please keep to sport (if that is what you believe your talent lies..) instead of leadership and how to deal with organisational change.

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