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Pioneers in Sport

Posted: Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:21

Pioneers in Sport

Pioneers in Sport was set up two years ago with a simple, but ambitious mission: to reinvigorate the sports industry by bringing together the leaders of tomorrow to help shape the business integrity, policy & future of sport.

Too often for young professionals working in sports administration, client and business contact is with people who have been in their jobs for far too long and are resistant to dynamic, forward-thinking ideas.

This is particularly damaging during a period in which much of the industry is in a state of crisis, despite the ever-growing importance of sport in transforming society, individual lives and local communities.

Fundamental issues across sport that require innovative solutions include poor governance (FIFA, British Cycling), doping (athletics, cycling), a lack of diversity in leadership positions, and corruption (FIFA).

That is why our events, featuring respected sports leaders, aim to inform and inspire pioneers in the industry to challenge the status quo, whilst offering unrivalled opportunities to network and come together as a force driving forward positive change.

For Pioneers in Sport, providing those networking opportunities are a vital part of its mission. In uniting like-minded people, the organisation is well-positioned to foster collaboration between the next generation of leaders in the sport industry.

This is a vital step with current leaders in sport apparently slow to wake up to the very real damage being done to the industry's reputation. Currently it seems that the very same people who have been asleep at the wheel while the integrity of sport has slowly crumbled, are the ones who continue to be trusted to take effective measures to solve those problems.

Ultimately, boardrooms in sporting organisations, administrations and clubs remain far too pale, male and stale. That is why Pioneers in Sport aims to redress the lack of diversity in boardrooms by fostering an environment which the most innovative minds in the industry to develop, thrive and force the industry to become more democratic and inclusive in its structure and development.

Change in sport is not something that is always driven by those at the head of their respective fields. Sport can only continue to thrive and change lives if it adapts and is willing to accept that 20th century norms no longer apply.

Technology (e.g. drugs-testing), social media and high-quality investigative journalism mean that corruption, doping, lack of diversity can no longer be hidden from the public eye as it has done in the past. Yet despite the shifting tectonic plates, those at the highest level are too willing to continue their tired methods of operating because 'that's how things have always been done'.

Pioneers in Sport can provide a platform for the voices of innovators who are willing to think outside the box to address core problems in sport using unorthodox methods. In top-down organisations dominated by leaders drawn from an outdated pool of talent, those innovative voices are easily drowned out. Our events provide an opportunity for young leaders with a pioneering vision for sport to meet like-minded individuals.

In late 2016, Pioneers in Sport hosted an event in conjunction with EY on 'Life after Professional Sport', bringing to light the habitually overlooked issue of developing a professional career after a lifetime of devotion to a career in elite sport – usually at the expense of study or other qualifications. There are too many people that don't quite make it.

This candid discussion with a former captain of the England Women's rugby team, an ex-Olympian, an ex-professional athlete and an ex-professional rugby player (and current top level sports administrator) exposed issues that are too often neglected, and allowed people to make meaningful contacts to begin to develop solutions to a pressing problem that is not going away any time soon.

First and foremost, Pioneers in Sport will be an excellent chance for young leaders to make meaningful contacts, conduct business and connect with fellow leaders who with a vision for a more diverse, more innovative and more ethical sport industry.

However, it is not merely a forum for discussion and networking. Facilitating dialogue between some of the freshest thinkers in sport has been one of our key aims in the development of the foundation, but that cannot be enough. The aim is to transform that dialogue into coherent ideas, to use those ideas to influence the direction of leading policymakers across the industry and in the long-term, transform the demographics of sport boardrooms.

With those factors in mind, the best thing other policymakers and stakeholders can do to support Pioneers in Sport is to help cultivate those networks, contribute to the development of key industry issues and promote the importance of this movement towards a more diverse, innovative pool of leaders in sport.

In particular, Pioneers in Sport are always looking for hosts, volunteers to help run events and contributors, speakers and mentors from the sports industry with the confidence to discuss their thought-provoking ideas.

Equally, so far, the network is short on brands, sponsors and broadcasters, with most coming from a communications, legal or consultancy background – we need to expand the network to reach other key players in the sport industry and welcome interest from pioneers in those fields.

It is vital the current crop of leaders in sport listen to what the best and brightest of the next generation are telling them about the future of the industry. There is no single sport that does not need rejuvenation in some aspect and no sport that would not benefit from an injection of innovation and diversity.

It's up to those in power to engage with the people ready to affect positive change and ensure that sport remains a key force for good across the world.

George Starkey-Midha, Pioneers in Sport

Tags: Sport, Policy, Integrity, Governance, Diversity

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