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UK Sport and Sport England revised Code for Sports Governance: New requirements for Tier 3 Organisations

The Code for Sports Governance was launched by Sport England and UK Sport in 2016 and has since been implemented by over 4,000 organisations in receipt of Government and/or National Lottery Funding.

Following an announcement of a review of the Code in 2020, a revised Code was released in December 2021.

The revised Code, available here, seeks to “set a progressive landscape for sport governance development”, building on the improvements made by the 2016 Code across all areas of sport governance, including decision making structures, diversity, transparency, accountability and financial integrity.

While the principles of the 2016 Code remain largely unchanged, several new requirements have been introduced, particularly for Tier 3 organisations which are in receipt of a significant amount of funding.

In this article we summarise the steps that Tier 3 organisations need to take now in order to be compliant with the new Code.

How do we know which Tier our organisation is in?

The revised Code adopts the same tiered approach to requirements. Organisations are placed by UK Sport and/or Sport England into one of three tiers, with the allocated tier dictating the level of mandatory requirements which must be followed. Ultimately, the ‘tier’ of an organisation is at the sole discretion of UK Sport and Sport England, but the Code does provide some guidance on tier allocation.

Is there an impact on Tier 1 and Tier 2 organisations?

In this article we focus on the changes for Tier 3 organisations. However, there are changes for Tier 1 and 2 organisations, with an increased focus being placed on diversity and inclusivity in the new code across all organisations, and changes to communication requirements with stakeholders.

If you are a Tier 1 or Tier 2 organisation, please get in touch with us to discuss the changes that apply to you.

What has changed for Tier 3 organisations, and how can we get ready for the changes?

The most significant change made in the revised Code is the addition of several new Requirements for Tier 3 organisations, including the following:

  • Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan: Tier 3 organisations must create a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan ( a “DIAP”), which must identify the actions required to achieve, support and maintain diversity across its Board and organisation leadership. The plan and progress made must be agreed with Sport England and/or UK Sport, reviewed annually and made public. This goes further than the 2016 Code, which did not mandate a DIAP and only promoted diversity on the Board (rather than throughout organisation leadership).
  • Welfare and Safety: the Board is required to ensure its responsibilities towards welfare are factored into decisions, and a Director must be appointed to lead in this area.
  • Good Governance: there is increased emphasis on ensuring good governance throughout an organisation’s wider operations. The Board must set out, promote and support the implementation of minimum good governance standards (including in respect of diversity and inclusion) throughout its organisation and membership and/or associated organisations.
  • Stakeholders: the Board must ensure it factors the impact on stakeholders, wider society and the environment into the decisions it makes and the actions it takes.
  • People Plan: the organisation must have a People Plan (which ensures that the skills and experience of its people are organised and deployed to greatest effect), which must be reviewed and discussed on at least an annual basis and shared openly with members and people.

The revision of the Code demonstrates a renewed determination by Sport England and UK Sport upon ensuring good governance within sporting organisations, with an increased emphasis on promoting diversity and inclusion across all levels and activities.

As (unlike most other governance codes) compliance with the Code is mandatory for organisations seeking funding for Sport England and/or UK Sport, sporting organisations of all types and sizes must ensure that they are aware of the requirements of the revised Code and begin to implement changes where necessary. A failure to do so will likely inhibit or delay the receipt of future funding.

The revised Code indicates that in the case of Tiers 2 and 3, specific timescales for implementation will be mandated by Sport England and UK Sport. Currently, the suggestion is that Tier 3 organisations will have around 12 months’ grace period in order to be fully compliant. Organisations should therefore take steps in the coming months to be prepared.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

We understand that ensuring compliance with the revised Code may seem like a daunting task for organisations.

However, our Sports law team includes governance specialists who have first-hand experience of creating and revising governance structures and policies against Code requirements and HR specialists who are able to develop People Plans. Our new governance audit tool provides you with a fixed price assessment of your organisation’s current compliance against the revised Code, and identifies areas for improvement.

To find out more, please get in touch with Matthew

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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