407.The workforce includes staff, coaches and volunteers. This is the backbone of the sport and recreation sector and vital to the delivery of the objectives of the national plan. Every individual in the workforce plays a critical role in keeping the nation active, whether that is supporting amateur clubs, coaching the next generation or supporting our elite athletes obtain medal success. The national plan must facilitate and support the development of the workforce. This Chapter looks at challenges facing the sport and recreation workforce including issues around training and career progression, and we examine the case for a national register for coaches. The Chapter also considers the lack of diversity in the grassroots workforce and in senior leadership roles.
408.In this Chapter, ‘workforce’ encompasses both volunteers and paid staff and coaches. ‘Coaches’ means those who are paid for the coaching they deliver. ‘Volunteers’ means those who are unpaid and provide their time to facilitating sport and recreation opportunities, including unpaid coaches and those who support the administration of sport and recreation organisations.
409.The sport and recreation workforce is made up of volunteers, coaches, and the wider professional workforce. According to Sport England, around 266,000 people are directly employed in sports occupations in England. Wider sports related activity supports around 400,000 full-time equivalent jobs, around 2 per cent of all employment in England. Across the UK, Olympic and Paralympic sport supports over 1.2 million jobs. According to the CIMSPA, 58 per cent of the sport sector workforce are self-employed, 32 per cent are direct employees of a business or organisation, and 7 per cent have full-time or part-time employment as well as working on a self-employed basis.
410.Sport England has set out plans to support the workforce in recent years. Following the publication of its Towards and Active Nation strategy in 2016, Sport England published several subsequent strategies relating to the workforce, coaching and volunteering. These are summarised in Box 6.
411.The 2021 Uniting the Movement strategy states: “We need to take on the challenges of now, such as the lack of diversity, falling volunteer numbers, skills shortages” and it sets out various areas that Sport England intends to focus on in the coming years.
Sport England published its Coaching in an Active Nation: The Coaching Plan for England 2017–21 in 2016. It provided a broader definition of coaching: “Improving a person’s experience of sport and physical activity by providing specialised support and guidance aligned to their individual needs and aspirations.” It set five strategic approaches for the implementation of the Coaching Plan:
A further Sport England plan, Volunteering in an Active Nation, published in 2016 set out commitments including:
Sport England published its Working in an Active Nation: the professional workforce strategy for England in 2018. It sought to support the workforce to become more customer focused and recognised as professional. In addition to the steps taken by CIMSPA, it also set out other relevant actions to improve access to training in the sector including:
412.The sport and recreation sector has a reputation for being low paid and undervalued. Kirsty Cumming, CEO of Community Leisure UK, told us that the community leisure workforce is “traditionally a more low-paid sector” and that career opportunities are “not always valued in the same way” as other sectors. Tara Dillion, CEO of CIMSPA, told us that the sport and recreation workforce should be more highly valued given the impact that they have on improving the population’s health. Rusty Earnshaw, Director of the Magic Academy, a coach development organisation, told us that it is the paid workforce at the grassroots that always seem to be hit hardest when NGBs make funding cuts.
413.Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA, was critical of the Government’s approach to apprenticeships in the sector. She told us that as a largely part-time self-employed sector, it can be difficult for individuals to access apprenticeships or funding and that this situation is exacerbated by “a severe lack of understanding” by the Department for Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to do anything about it. She also said that the proportion of people entering the workforce through apprenticeships has declined in recent years.
414.She suggested that flexi-apprenticeships, which allow organisations to take on apprentices and hire them out to one or more host employers, would help the sport and recreation sector. Heather Douglas, Head of Policy and Impact at UK Coaching, suggested that flexible apprenticeships could increase the attractiveness of the sector to young people.
415.Tara Dillon also told us that the sector does not hold its own T-Level qualification despite a significant level of interest shown by the sector during the Government consultation on T-levels.
416.The sport and recreation workforce receives inadequate recognition. The contribution of the workforce in supporting a more active and healthy nation is fundamental to the success of the national plan. We urge the Department for Education to work with CIMSPA to review the state of apprenticeships and national qualifications which can support careers in the sector. The Government should publish its findings by the spring of 2023.
417.Coaching and volunteering are closely linked. Although we recognise that some coaches are paid and some are volunteers, they often need to, or can choose to, undergo training and qualifications regardless of whether they pursue coaching as a paid endeavour or remain as volunteers. The dedication of coaches and volunteers should be commended, and their enthusiasm and willingness to build a more active nation must be supported through adequate recognition and development opportunities.
418.Heather Douglas told us that the path to gaining coaching qualifications used to be “traditional, formulaic and quite time-pressured, taking a number of weekends out of your busy life” and could very expensive if you wanted to progress. However, Tara Dillon told us that “the sector has moved mountains in the last two or three years to dismantle the old-fashioned, rigid, fairly monolithic route into becoming a qualified coach” to make it accessible to volunteers and people who are part-time. Heather Douglas supported moving away from levels of coaching qualification. She noted that for volunteer coaches, having the correct behaviours and the correct attitude is what is important.
419.Rebecca Donnelly, CEO of Fight 4 Change, told us that coaches do more than just teach sport and are often a “mentor and counsellor” to those they engage with and this means that they often need to undergo various training courses to be equipped for their role. She added that for small organisations like Fight4Change, this involves spending a lot of time “deciphering” and assessing the abundance of coaching courses available to find ones that are accredited and relevant.
420.Dr Lindsay Findlay-King, Dr Geoff Nichols and Dr Fiona Reid, committee members of the UK Sport Volunteering Research Network, told us that volunteer roles have become more demanding because of regulations. Tara Dillon agreed that there is “some evidence that there is too much red tape and bureaucracy now associated with volunteering.” Utilita Energy noted the shortage of volunteers in grassroots football leads to a “single person point of failure” in which training and games do not go ahead when a single, key volunteer is unavailable. England Athletics and UK Athletics noted that more support could be provided to volunteers by NGBs or Active Partnerships.
421.Dr Findlay-King, Dr Nichols and Dr Reid noted that the demands on volunteers coupled with a general reliance in many clubs on a core group of volunteers makes them harder to replace. Tara Dillon told us that “the numbers in volunteering are declining” and that we need to understand why this is the case.
422.Henry Hazlewood, Head of Programmes at the Lord’s Taverners, told us that he would like to see more schemes that drive young people to “take the step into becoming coaches”, including volunteers. He suggested that volunteers could be incentivised through formal recognition such as a qualification which may lead to employment in the sector. Tara Dillon said that she would “love to see bursary schemes available to all sports” to support volunteers who would like recognition for their coaching skills to undertake a professional qualification.
423.We urge Sport England to consider how funding it disseminates to NGBs and other bodies can be utilised to provide training and qualifications for the workforce to support their development, recognise their skills, and to equip them to deliver high-quality sport and recreation offers.
424.We urge the Minister for Sport, Health and Wellbeing to appoint a ‘sport volunteers champion’ who works with the Minister and the sector to identify and help remove barriers, burdens and disincentives that volunteers face at the grassroots.
425.Anyone can call themselves a coach even if they do not have formal qualifications. This situation makes it difficult for organisations to hire with confidence and raises significant safeguarding concerns. During our inquiry, we heard calls for a national register for coaches which would serve the dual purposes of providing quality assurance and a safeguarding mechanism to prevent abusers from being hired as coaches.
426.The concept of a register for coaches is not new. The CPSU told us that a national register for coaches “has been discussed for many years” and that some NGBs already keep a list of coaches covering their sport. The CPSU suggested that a national register could address the “significant gap and inconsistencies between sports”. The NSPCC said that a register could “ensure consistent regulation of coaches across sports organisations”.
427.Professor Hartill, Director of the Centre for Child Protection & Safeguarding in Sport at Edge Hill University, said that a national register of coaches could have “a potential deterrent effect” on those seeking opportunities to abuse in the sector. Gary Cliffe, Ambassador for the Offside Trust, strongly endorsed the concept of a national register for coaches which he believed could improve information-sharing in the sector and improve the likelihood that an abusive coach could be stopped.
428.Kimberley Walsh, Safeguarding Adults in Sport Manager at the Ann Craft Trust, said that a national register for coaches “would certainly help to prevent abusive coaches moving across sports and to different locations.” Nick Pink, CEO of Hockey England, told us that there have been safeguarding incidents involving individuals who had positions of responsibility across several sports over time, with those sports unaware of the individual’s history. He suggested that better sharing of information and reporting across the sector could flag those individuals to stop them obtaining chances to abuse participants in other sports. Adrian Christy similarly noted that there is no system in place that allows the sector to flag an individual who is known to have presented a safeguarding risk in other sports.
429.Professor Hartill said that a national register of coaches could provide “more assurances to parents” by coaches being able to demonstrate that they are registered. Tara Dillon noted that research conducted by CIMSPA found that 81 per cent of the parents “assumed that we [the sector] were regulated and coaches were on a licence scheme.”
430.Tara Dillon said that a national register could also facilitate portability and visibility of coaches and that many coaches would welcome a national register as a way of confirming their safeguarding credentials. Heather Douglas suggested that a form of register for coaches has the potential for “celebration of quality” whereby coaches can demonstrate their experience, professional qualifications and potentially have reviews or references on the system.
431.Witnesses raised various issues that require consideration should a national register be implemented. Heather Douglas queried whether a national register for coaches would be self-regulated whereby coaches join the register and submit their evidence for sport and recreation organisations to assess, or whether the register would be monitored by an independent body. Gary Cliffe and Professor Hartill suggested it should be a multi-agency approach in managing a register.
432.The CPSU stated that there would need to be “a professional regulatory body” responsible for hearing concerns and making judgements about criteria, and monitoring and updating this register. The CPSU also stated that a national register must not lead to any additional financial burden on coaches or volunteers in addition to those that they already face, including training, DBS checks and other costs. Avoiding the imposition of additional costs or bureaucracy is vital to avoid disincentivising prospective coaches and volunteers and to ensure that coaching and volunteering opportunities are accessible to people from all backgrounds.
433.Kimberley Walsh cautioned that a national register for coaches would not account for people in roles, including those in unpaid coaches and volunteers in non-coaching roles, who can also pose a risk and warned that it may lead to complacency in other areas of safeguarding. She emphasised that other existing processes must remain in place such as DBS checks to ensure robust safeguarding.
434.Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England, told us that a “common framework for accreditation of coaches is a very active discussion” with CIMSPA and NGBs are “actively involving themselves” in those discussions. Sport England told us that there is “a broad appetite for improvements” for a single registration process for coaches and other frontline workforce, but there are “concerns around how these might be implemented.” Sport England noted that the next step, starting in 2022, will be to co-design and consult on a process and to begin testing and piloting possible interventions.
435.We welcome the news that discussions on a national register are underway. We appreciate the complexity of achieving a rigorous system which must avoid imposing cumbersome bureaucracy and costs on the workforce, especially volunteers.
436.Sport England and UK Sport should continue to work closely with CIMSPA, UK Coaching and other relevant bodies to develop a national register of coaches to both enhance portability of qualifications and improve safeguarding, and commit to a date for its launch.
437.This section looks at diversity among coaches and volunteers and in senior leadership roles. Barriers to improving diversity include recruitment processes, organisational culture, and access to support networks.
438.There is a lack of diversity among both paid and unpaid coaches at grassroots and elite level. According to Sport England, only 5 per cent of people who receive a coaching qualification each year are from an ethnic minority background. Under 2 per cent of coaches with a disability have obtained a coaching qualification. 31 per cent of the sporting population are women and only 17 per cent of qualified coaches are female. Figure 12 illustrates findings from UK Coaching’s Coaching in the UK, 2019 survey.
439.Heather Douglas told us that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to coach or volunteer because of issues of access to coach development opportunities and time pressures. She also cautioned that some statistics on diversity may not be giving the full picture. For example, she told us that 18 per cent of coaches come from ethnically diverse communities, which may sound positive, but they are predominantly men and from higher socio-economic backgrounds. The Sport for Development Coalition told us only 13 per cent of sport volunteers had a disability or long-term health condition despite representing 21 per cent of the population.
440.Sported, a grassroots sport charity for young people, recommended that sports councils and NGBs should review representation and pathways for individuals, including for potential bias in funding streams, continually question suitability for target audiences, and generate more multi-media content and case studies to highlight best practice.
441.For elite coaches, Heather Douglas noted that some coaches from underrepresented backgrounds “are telling us that there is some veiled discrimination in the pathway”. Stephanie Hilborne, CEO of Women in Sport, highlighted barriers for female coaches including childcare, time pressures, historic exclusion, and a work culture that may be intimidating. Research by UK Sport highlights the barriers for women progressing in high performance coaching, including a lack of professionalism around human resources policies and the wider culture of sport which respects female coaches less than their male counterparts.
442.Speaking primarily about football, Women in Football noted that there is a lack of data collection regarding the diversity of the sport and recreation workforce, and although organisations may hold their own data they will not necessarily publish it. It recommended that the Government work with the football sector to collect and publish football workforce data. BASES and the Veterans Athletic Club recommended that NGBs should implement more transparent and rigorous audits of diversity across their participants, workforce and leadership, and produce diversity action plans based on its findings.
443.Completing a regular staff and volunteers survey was established as a requirement by the 2016 Code for Sports Governance for tier 3 organisations, which are those bodies who receive funding over a period of years for continued activity and the amount is greater than £1 million. The surveys should be used to learn about employees’ experiences of working in the organisation, and gather insight to inform their approach to recruiting, managing and supporting employees.
444.The revised Code for Sports Governance, expected to be published in December 2021, will require NGBs and other relevant Sport England and UK Sport funded bodies to agree a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) with Sport England and UK Sport. These DIAPs are intended to provide greater transparency on progress on diversity and allow NGBs and other funded bodies to set relevant benchmarks. Sport England and UK Sport intend to provide additional support to help develop and monitor DIAPs. If progress is not evident, a body may be deemed non-compliant and could face a withdrawal of funding support.
445.However, Tara Dillon emphasised the limitations of workforce surveys, noting that “75 per cent of coaching and physical activity takes place outside a traditional sport setting” which means that the reach of those surveys “would not go far enough”. She told us that improving diversity cannot only be about “ticking boxes and hitting percentages”.
446.The Sporting Future strategy set out that Sport England and UK Sport would “work together to tackle the lack of diversity in senior positions across the sport sector”. The 2016 Code for Sports Governance set out requirements to improve diversity of board membership for tier 3 organisations. Examples of these are set out in Box 7.
447.Sport England and UK Sport published a report on diversity in sport in 2019 which showed that among NGBs, Active Partnerships and funded bodies:
448.Barry Horne, CEO of the Activity Alliance, noted that decision-makers draw on their own experiences and that a lack of diversity can lead to distorted priorities. Martha Kelner, former Sport Correspondent at Sky News, said that diversity of people is about adding diversity of thought and bringing in people “who are brave enough and have the knowledge to make change”.
449.In terms of progress, Tara Dillon told us the sector is “woefully short of a diverse workforce.” Andy Reed, Co-Founder and Director of the Sports Think Tank, told us that the sector needed to “work a lot harder” and “go faster” to improve diversity. However, Sanjay Bhandari, Chair of Kick It Out, saw some “green shoots” including a growing awareness and acceptance of the benefits of being a more diverse and inclusive organisation.
450.Anna Kessel, Women’s Sports Editor at The Telegraph, shared the findings of an investigation by The Telegraph Sport in 2020 which found that a quarter of taxpayer-funded governing bodies were not meeting gender targets, including the RFU and England Hockey. She also told us:
“Three years on from those [diversity] targets being set, there have been no sanctions for those governing bodies to meet those targets. When you start to drill down into ethnicity, for example, just 3 per cent of board members at taxpayer-funded bodies are black, and 64 per cent of funded NGBs have no black or Asian board members at all. When we looked specifically at black women, just five black women out of 415 board places overall had positions on taxpayer-funded sports governing bodies”.
451.Stephanie Hilborne said that even at higher levels women tend to be in roles that are based around HR and finance rather than roles that set the direction and culture of the business. Bournemouth University noted that female board members tend to be independent non-executive directors “who may have no background in sport” which does not address “the normative priority granted to men’s sport by those sitting on boards”.
452.Baroness Campbell of Loughborough, Director of Women’s Football at the FA, emphasised the importance of those in senior leadership roles to inspire those at more junior levels to progress and to create barrier-free pathways. Martin McElhatton, CEO of WheelPower, told us that getting more disabled people into senior leadership and board roles means providing opportunities for young disabled people and building confidence levels so that eventually there is a bigger pool of qualified and confident people to take on these roles.
453.Sahiba Majeed, Development Manager of the Muslim Sports Foundation, told us that more support is needed for those at the grassroots to help them on their journey into positions of power. Samir Sawhney of Laureus Sport for Good said that football organisations make the “mistake time and time again” of recruiting ex-professional players onto their boards and ignoring grassroots coaches or volunteers who could genuinely bring about a “sea-change”.
454.Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, welcomed the progress in gender parity and saw scope to make similar progress in improving the diversity of ethnic minorities. Arun Kang, CEO of Sporting Equals, highlighted the success of gender targets and called for these to be applied to underrepresented demographics including ethnic minorities and disabled people.
455.The APPG on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights recommended that the Code for Sports Governance should go beyond gender quotas on boards and consider other underrepresented groups. This was also suggested by other witnesses including England Athletics and UK Athletics. Mark Winder, CEO of Goalball UK, suggested that diversity targets for boards should include those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and disabled people.
456.However, Sanjay Bhandari cautioned against an over-emphasis on board representation, noting that parachuting in diversity on boards can create “doughnut organisations” where representation is high at the grassroots and on the board but there is no pathway to senior leadership and executive roles from the grassroots.
457.Workforce diversity surveys should be mandatory for tier 2 organisations, as well as tier 3 organisations as set out in the Code for Sports Governance. Data for each organisation should be made publicly available on a regular basis so that organisations are accountable. Larger NGBs and other bodies funded by Sport England and UK Sport should support their grassroots clubs in surveying its workforce, both paid and volunteers, to better understand those who help facilitate grassroots sport and recreation opportunities.
458.Whilst we welcome new requirements announced for the revised Code for Sports Governance, including Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans, Sport England and UK Sport should be more ambitious and set targets to improve board diversity for other underrepresented groups including ethnic minorities and disabled people. Failure to make progress with the targets should be met with financial sanctions.
563 Sport England, Diversity in Sport Governance: Annual Survey 2018/19, p 15: [accessed 17 November 2021]
564 CIMPSA, ‘Covid-19: Sector Impact – Phase One Report’ (April 2020): [accessed 17 November 2021]
565 Sport England, , p 37
566 Sport England, Coaching in an Active Nation: The Coaching Plan for England 2017–21 (December 2016), p 7 and 21: [accessed 18 November 2021]
567 Sport England, Volunteering in an Active Nation: Strategy 2017–21 (December 2016), p 4: [accessed 18 November 2021]
568 Sport England, Working in an Active Nation: The Professional Workforce strategy for England (September 2018), p 5: [accessed 18 November 2021]
569 (Kirsty Cumming)
570 (Tara Dillon)
571 (Russell Earnshaw)
572 (Tara Dillon)
574 (Tara Dillon), see also Education and Skills Funding Agency, ‘Flexi-job apprenticeship offer’: [accessed 18 November 2021].
575 (Heather Douglas)
576 (Tara Dillon)
577 (Heather Douglas)
578 (Tara Dillon)
579 (Heather Douglas)
580 (Rebecca Donnelly)
581 Written evidence from Dr Lindsay Findlay-King, Dr Geoff Nichols and Dr Fiona Reid ()
582 (Tara Dillon)
583 Written evidence from Utilita Energy ()
584 Written evidence from England Athletics and UK Athletics ()
585 Written evidence from Dr Lindsay Findlay-King, Dr Geoff Nichols and Dr Fiona Reid ()
586 (Tara Dillon)
588 (Tara Dillon)
589 (Professor Mike Hartill)
590 Written evidence from the NSPCC CPSU ()
592 Written evidence from the NSPCC ()
593 (Professor Mike Hartill)
594 (Gary Cliffe)
595 (Kimberley Walsh)
596 See Appendix 4, note on the roundtable discussion with CEOs of NGBs and experts
597 (Professor Mike Hartill)
598 (Tara Dillon)
600 (Heather Douglas)
602 (Gary Cliffe and Professor Mike Hartill)
603 Written evidence from the NSPCC CPSU ()
604 (Kimberley Walsh)
606 (Tim Hollingsworth)
607 Supplementary written evidence from Sport England ()
608 Sport England, Coaching in an Active Nation: The Coaching Plan for England 2017–21 (December 2016), p 17: [accessed 18 November 2021]
609 (Heather Douglas)
610 (Heather Douglas)
611 Written evidence from the Sport for Development Coalition ()
612 Written evidence from Sported () see also Sported, Tackling racism at the grassroots (October 2020): [accessed 18 November 2021].
613 (Heather Douglas)
614 (Stephanie Hilborne)
615 Cabinet Office, , p 68
616 Written evidence from Women in Football ()
617 Written evidence from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) () and the Veterans Athletic Club ()
618 Sport England, Workforce Engagement Survey Guidance Document (June 2019): [accessed 18 November 2021]
619 Sport England, ‘Changes made to strengthen Code for Sports Governance’: [accessed 18 November 2021]
620 (Tara Dillon)
621 Cabinet Office, , p 67
622 Sport England and UK Sport, Diversity in Sport Governance: Annual Survey 2018/19: [accessed 18 November 2021]
623 (Barry Horne)
624 (Martha Kelner)
625 (Tara Dillon)
626 (Andy Reed)
627 (Sanjay Bhandari)
628 (Anna Kessel)
629 (Stephanie Hilborne)
630 Written evidence from Bournemouth University ()
631 (Baroness Campbell of Loughborough)
632 (Martin McElhatton)
633 (Sahiba Majeed)
635 (Lisa Wainwright)
636 (Arun Kang)
637 Written evidence from All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sport, Modern Slavey and Human Rights ()
638 Written evidence from England Athletics and UK Athletics ()
639 See Appendix 4, note on the roundtable discussion with CEOs of NGBs and experts
640 (Sanjay Bhandari)