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An exclusive interview with Rob Tate, Head of Compliance and Governance at the British Paralympic Association

Rob Tate, Head of Compliance and Governance at the British Paralympic Association

Governance Institute’s Policy and Government Relations Advisor, Charles Dane, sits down with Rob Tate, Head of Compliance and Governance at the British Paralympic Association.

Good morning Rob, let’s start with what your role is at the British Paralympic Association (BPA)?

I am the Head of Compliance and Governance at the British Paralympic Association. My role encompasses governance and board administration, making sure that we’re compliant with our legal and regulatory obligations. I also cover our equity, inclusion, and diversity work, data protection, and anything that really falls under the banner of having a rule, policy or process attached.

How do you deal with governance and compliance at the BPA?

The BPA is a charity and company limited by guarantee. We receive investment from UK Sport, the organisation that distributes elite sport investment in the UK. To secure this, we make sure that we are compliant with the Code for Sports Governance (Code), a requirement for any organisation that’s in receipt of investment from those organisations.

Our overall strategy is primarily divided along two strands, taking the best prepared team to every Paralympic Games and delivering social impact through the work that we do and the profile of our athletes. We prioritise not just being compliant with the requirements that we have, but also trying to go above and beyond that and be an example of best practice.

What have been some of the main challenges since you joined the organisation?

Well first off, we are constantly working to improve. When I joined in May 2022, we were just on the way out of the significant disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We had been in a crisis-like mode during this period where a lot of the day-to-day core governance pieces had been on the back burner.

The past year has been reviewing where we are to try to catch up a bit and make sure that we are back on a really strong governance foundation. There’s also been new governance requirements as part of the Sports Governance Code, so preparing all our evidence of our compliance to those requirements has been a big project.

On that topic, the UK Sports Governance Code, is calling for mandatory sports governance training for organisations wishing to receive public funding. What is your view on this requirement, and would you recommend this as a model for other jurisdictions?

I will start off by saying that in every jurisdiction, the correct approach to governance is going to be slightly different. What’s best for Australia is going to be slightly different to what we do. I would imagine the principles will be similar, but how they are implemented really depends on the environment they’re being applied to. From my perspective, I think the impact of the Sports Governance Code has been hugely positive.

There’s an argument that a voluntary approach could be more effective because it relies on organisations and stakeholders understanding and buying into the benefits of best practice good governance, rather than potentially doing it to “tick boxes” only because they’re being forced to. Yet, the challenge of a voluntary approach in practice is that the pace of change can be slow.

The mandatory Code forced significant progress in a relatively short period of time and established clear and consistent expectations of best practice governance that are having influence beyond those organisations mandated to apply them.

I’m not suggesting that it was a perfect process – there were definitely significant challenges for many organisations implementing the Code, and the sector’s approach to governance and compliance is continuing to evolve – but I think the current approach has been beneficial for the sector in terms of governance.

The Sports Governance Academy is a good example. It’s a relatively young intervention, but it’s providing a great set of training programmes, resources, knowledge, as well as a hub for networking between governance professionals in the sport sector. The number of people able to call themselves governance professionals in the sport sector has significantly increased from four or five years ago, and I think we’re going to continue to see more positive evolution of it over the next few years.

The BPA recently appointed a new CEO, tell me about the appointment process? Was there succession planning?

Yes we did, and looking back on it, I think the process went as planned and we’ve had a great outcome. Thanks to our succession plan, we were able to establish the recruitment process and advertise the role quickly. We chose, in this instance, to utilise the support of recruitment consultants, because we recognised the importance of the role and finding the right person. This was in November and December 2022. We received a huge number of applications from some high quality, skilled applicants. The Nominations Committee narrowed that down to a long list, and then to a short list, before undertaking multiple rounds of interviews.

The process wrapped up in January 2023 when we appointed David Clark, who was the existing Vice Chair of our Board. He’s a three-time Paralympian and had a long career in banking before moving into the charity sector working as COO at the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

One last question Rob, what’s next for you?

I’m really looking forward to next year. The 2024 Summer Paralympic Games are on in Paris, and when it comes to the Games, everyone in the organisation takes on a games-time role. Our organisation will grow from approximately 50 staff to over 150 staff for the event. It will be my first Games experience being closely involved in the BPA team, which has me very excited. Otherwise, I’m still pretty fresh here at the BPA, and we’ve got plenty on my plate to try and get through, so not going anywhere anytime soon.

Q&A with Governance Institute

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