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Minutes of the Sport Wales Board meeting held on Thursday 25 February 2021 (online)

Present: Lawrence Conway (Chair), Pippa Britton (Vice Chair), Ashok Ahir, Ian Bancroft, Rajma Begum, Dafydd Trystan Davies, Delyth Evans, Nicola Mead-Batten, Hannah Murphy, Judi Rhys, Professor Leigh Robinson, Phil Tilley, Alison Thorne, Martin Veale

Staff: Sarah Powell (CEO), Paul Randle, Brian Davies, Graham Williams, Owen Hathway, Rachel Davies, Liam Hull, Owen Lewis (Item 4.3), Craig Nowell (Item 5.3). Amanda Thompson (minutes)

External Observers: Dame Katherine Grainger (Chair of UK Sport), Ellie Watkins (Young Ambassador Steering Group), Steve Woodfine & Paul Kindred (Items 1-4.4) Welsh Government.


1.    Welcome/apologies for absence


The Chair welcomed Dame Katherine Grainger to the meeting.  Ellie Watkins was also welcomed to her first meeting as the YASG representative.  This was the last meeting for Paul Randle and the Chair formally thanked him for the dedication and commitment he had given to Sport Wales.


2.    Declaration of Interests


Nicola Mead-Batten, for her role as an advisor to the Welsh Language Commissioner.

Phil Tilley, who would be joining the Board of Newport Live in March.

Rajma Begum, who was employed by WCVA, a recipient of funding from Sport Wales.

Ian Bancroft, for his role as Chief Executive of Wrexham County Borough Council.


3.    Minutes of the last meeting dated 27 November 2020


·         The minutes were approved as a true and accurate record.

·         BD confirmed that SWNC would host the Team GB Performance Analysis hub this summer.

·         Members noted the new Board Sub Groups & Standing Committees Decision Tracker which gave a live update on the topics and decisions made throughout the year.


4.    Strategy & Recovery Planning


4.1        Business Plan 2020/21 Q3 – SW(21)02


RD presented this update on the previous quarter’s activity and delivery against the business plan, and to outline future actions developed from that work.


Discussion points:

·         Policy round tables – there were differences of opinion among staff, not towards the policies themselves but around options for action. This was part of the development process.

·         60+ Active Leisure was one of the priorities identified within the HWHW plan which was subsequently changed during the year due to Covid19. Some local authorities had been able to deliver online sessions but others not as staff had been placed on furlough. UKRCS’s first evaluation report was due to be published in May. The learning from it would be used to adjust the plans for the next financial year accordingly.


ACTION:           UKRCS report to be shared with the Board once available (May/June).


4.2        Business Plan 2021/22 – SW(21)03


OH said the reflective approach used last year ensured that Sport Wales was able to respond quickly when the pandemic hit. This flexibility meant Sport Wales was clear about what was deliverable, what needed to be downgraded and what new initiatives and investments could be accelerated. The 2021/22 business plan was framed around that same approach.


Discussion points:

·         This flexible approach would bring more opportunities to work with partners who would help to narrow the inequality gap. Sport Wales was well placed to advocate this approach widely.

·         A request to have more detail about what areas of work were paused or stopping.

·         Staffing levels were nearly at full strength and the Leadership team would be closely monitoring staff capacity and resources going forward.

·         Some areas of the impact assessment would be drawn out in more detail. EDI and the youth engagement work was mentioned as examples.

·         Alternative income streams including crowd funding were due to be explored further.

·         The finalised business plan would complement the remit letter, ongoing dialogue and the quarterly monitoring meetings with government officials.

·         The business plan complemented other tracking means which measured progress and evidenced success. Staff did not want to be prescriptive about expectations.

·         Identify where the Board may give more support to staff.

·         Add reference to climate change and environmental protection measures.

·         Diversity of the Sport Wales’ workforce still requires improvement.

·         Sport Wales would be looking to improve skills and knowledge around the different approach to accountability.


Staff wellbeing had been held at the forefront of the organisation’s operation over the past year. Staff received regular communications and check-ups from their managers. Going forward, the CEO said there was still a heightened risk around staff wellbeing, but the Leadership team would continue to check on staff, reflect on resourcing and look for ways to do things differently as necessary. Wellbeing would impact on the future resilience of organisations and people were now factoring wellbeing into their employment searches and recruitment drives. The Chair and CEO would discuss organisational resilience further and share thoughts with the Board in due course. Supporting local economic recovery was discussed. Sport Wales had filed evidence on how sport contributed to the economy in Wales and would continue to track this in the post-pandemic years. What made communities grow and prosper was a complex area and future funding for sport and physical activity would be part of addressing community cohesion and wellbeing. The ability to influence the Welsh Government’s budgeting priorities was also complex and challenging.


More detail and wrap around Welsh Government policies would be the next stage. The business plan would then be shared with the Board again. Members approved the draft business plan in principle.


4.3        Performance and Success


Dame Katherine Grainger spoke about the forthcoming Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo and how the format of the games may vary from previous years. UK Sport would go ahead with a ‘soft launch’ to the next cycle though there was uncertainty around future funding. She was pleased about the new shift towards increased collective working between the five Sports Councils.  The next Commonwealth Games had the best potential to showcase the power of sport as a force for good, lifting the mood of a nation.


BD and OL gave a presentation, overviewing Sport Wales’ support packages that had been put in place since the pandemic struck and the new methods and approach the Institute were adopting under Sport Wales’ Strategy.  To date 70% of funding recipients (inclusive of private sector providers and freelancers) were keen on joining a sports pledge. This had not been fully designed yet but it would be an excellent opportunity to grow new networks and partnerships.


4.4        Creating an Active Education System – SW(21)04


Following the Board’s deep-dive session on education last November it was agreed that the two priorities to take forward were creating an ‘active education’ system and ‘reimaging the school day’. The paper detailed the recent actions taken and further commitments needed to progress the work in the next financial year:


·         Investing £100k to pump prime WPAP investment into the development of curriculum design training for teachers and £50k into new digital resources aligned to the new curriculum​.

·         Commitment to Comms & Digital team time for resource development, plus coordination and signposting of where to access support on a wider level​.

·         Commitment to Policy & Public Affairs team time for advocacy efforts around the importance of sport and physical activity in the new curriculum design and delivery, and future Estyn inspection frameworks. ​

·         Investing c£150k into a ‘pathfinder scheme’ to explore a sport and cultural reimagining of the school day.


Discussion was ongoing with government officials, Public Health Wales and Natural Resources Wales to match these resources, which would significantly impact on the scale and impact of this work.


Discussion points:

·         There was a real opportunity to progress reimaging the school day as part of the post-pandemic recovery and catch-up initiatives. Matching resources would need to be achieved within the next two to three months to facilitate a pilot scheme. This was a time-sensitive opportunity which might not exist in a year’s time.

·         This opportunity ought to include improving access to sport and physical activity for children with participation challenges.

·         The Leadership team believed Sport Wales had the capacity to follow up on both priorities simultaneously and would focus on what could realistically be influenced and delivered.

·         PHW was focused on other priorities so might not have the capacity to support this fully.

·         NRW had already committed in principle to this work and share of resources.


4.5        Board Governance update – SW(21)05


At the Board’s last meeting it was agreed that the Vice Chair and LH would present an action plan following the Board’s survey conducted in 2019.  Three key areas for action were identified: Board development, personal development and expectations for comments or questions ahead of formal meetings. The paper gave more detail on each area. The following points were noted/agreed:


Board Development actions:

·         More deep dive sessions throughout the year.

·         Add opportunities for the Board to engage with staff.

·         Re-instigate the evening session on the day before formal Board meetings.


Personal Development:

·         The Vice Chair had recently sent out the skills matrix for completion and would shortly be arranging dates for this year’s Board Member appraisals.


Expectations for comments or questions in advance of meetings:

·         Board Members unable to attend the meeting should put forward questions to the Chair in advance to raise on their behalf.

·         Questions requiring clarity of information should be directed to the author of the paper.

·         Comments need not be sent to the Chair but kept until the meeting to prevent repetition and to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to hear and take part in the discussion.


5.    Board Sub Groups and Standing Committee reports


5.1        Summary of Sub Group meetings – SW(21)06


This paper noted the topics discussed and decisions made by the groups since the last Board meeting.  When more substantive discussion was required or an approval sought a formal paper would be written. A short update was given within the report for the Critical Governance Group, the Diversity Group and the CSAP Project Board.  It was noted that in January the Critical Governance Group had approved paper SW(21)01 Sport & Leisure Recovery Package, green-lighting the Freelancer Fund Phase 2 and approving development of the Private Provider Fund.


5.2        Strategy Resilience Group (SRG) – SW(21)07


SRG’s Chair said the group had completed its work as determined by the original terms of reference. It was proposed that SRG was disbanded or reformed as a policy and public affairs advisory group.


ACTION:      Members agreed to terminate the group. A new sub-group would be endorsed after the May election.  The initial priority would be Active Education.


5.3        Facilities Review Group (FRG) – SW(21)08


The report gave an update on the operations at SWNC and Plas Menai, financial projections, detail of in-year Government support, longer-term projection and capital infrastructure update.  An additional £1.3m would be given to Sport Wales by the Welsh Government in 2021/22 towards infrastructure improvements including the heating system. The tendering process for consultants to work up the options for the future management of Plas Menai had been completed and FMG Consultants would shortly be contracted. The Board would receive the next progress update at its meeting in May.


5.4        Audit & Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC) – SW(21)09


Members approved minor changes to the Corporate Governance Manual and ARAC’s terms of reference. LH would add a note of the external independent members’ term of office (three-year term with option to extend for a second three-year term).  


6.    Young Ambassador Steering Group


The Chair welcomed Ellie Watkins who spoke about her involvement in the Young Ambassador scheme and how it had helped give her new skills and grow her confidence. She was currently undertaking an engineering apprenticeship.  Her report outlined the National Academy weekend held in December, the Welsh Leadership Interventions report and both recent and forthcoming events and training days.


7.    Finance, Risk & Assurance


7.1        Finance report 2020/21 – SW(21)10


All budgetary measures were on track to ensure monies were spent before the year-end.  The annual audit was due to start on schedule during the third week of May.


7.2        Budget 2021/22 – SW(21)11


Sport Wales would receive a standstill revenue budget from The Welsh Government plus capital grants of £5m for Place for Sport and £1.3m for investment at Plas Menai.


The budget lines reflected changes brought about by the new partner investment model. A provisional annual pay award of 2.5% had been included.  A c500k deficit on the year was predicted but the Executive was confident this would be ironed out over the year.  New areas of work which Sport Wales wanted to prioritise may require asking for additional in-year support. Lottery income had benefited from an increase in ticket sales despite a drop in the early part of the pandemic.


7.3        Partner Investments 2021/22 – SW(21)12


All partners submitted a request for funding in January 2021 and were reviewed within the Sport System Directorate and Service and Partner Development Team. Officers had assessed all submissions which were then reviewed by Heads of Service and Assistant Directors. Planning for 2021/22 was clearly challenging with so many current uncertainties. Partners were asked to plan for how they would emerge from the pandemic using their learning from the last 12 months to guide this.  Discussions focussed on the challenges to the sector and the concerns over the widening participation gap that the pandemic had created. Any risks to awarding funding to partners was discussed.  There was concern about a small number of partners not meeting the essential criteria. Officers were supporting them to achieve the necessary standard as award was conditional on the criteria being fully met by 1 April 2020. Members approved the partner investments.


8.    Chair & Executive Report – SW(21)13


Members noted the report. The Chair was giving further thought to his term of office which was due to finish in August.  The Board Members who finished their first term of office in August had been recommended for re-appointment.


9.    Consent Agenda


9.1        Welsh Language Policy for Grants – SW(21)14


One of the Welsh Language Standards (90) had the requirement to produce and publish a policy on the grants process ensuring that opportunities were presented for persons to use the Welsh language and that the Welsh language was treated no less favourably than the English language.

This policy had been approved by the Executive and would be published on the Sport Wales website following this meeting.  


Members noted that Sport Wales encouraged the use of Welsh within the organisation at every opportunity and urged its partners to do likewise.  The case study of Clwb Pel Droed Mynydd Tigers in Bethesda demonstrated the importance to community wellbeing when Welsh was used.


9.2        Capital Projects update – SW(21)15


Place for Sport was initiated in 2019/20 and a further £3m was provided to continue the scheme in 2020/21. The Board agreed to continue the same approach with four aspects:

·         Support any necessary commitments from 2019-20 scheme.

·         Continued support for the Artificial Training Pitch (ATP) Collaboration scheme.

·         Explore support for previous applications or projects that hadn’t been able to be funded. 

·         Internal requirements for both National Centres within a 10% limit.


The collaborative panel process continued for the ATP scheme applications.  A new internal officer panel with two Board Members assessed other applications.  BD thanked DTD and NMB for their assistance as the representative Board Members on the panel.


Place for Sport would continue in 2021/22 (budget increased to £5m). The Executive were giving thought to how best to take the fund forward for this and future years.


10. Any Other Business

a)    PK gave an update on the request for a Crown Guarantee for Sport Wales pension liabilities. The Welsh Government had received the same request from another WGSB and were currently taking legal advice.

b)    Deputy Ministers Dafydd Elis-Thomas MS and Jane Hutt MS had reviewed the draft Equalities plan. Sport Wales’ approach to diversity was praised.

c)    Funding for community groups that had previously been channelled through Community Fund and Development Grants was now distributed through the Be Active Wales Fund. GW asked to receive details of any groups that were struggling to access support so this could be checked by staff and inform the design of funding schemes going forward.

d)    Race in Sport – the draft development document should be available shortly.

e)    The Whyte Review of safeguarding in gymnastics was due to publish its findings soon.

f)     Transgender participation in sport.  All five Sports Councils were working collaboratively on this subject area. Members of all Boards would receive invitations to two-stage training sessions to be held during March and April.

g)    LH asked for Board Members to contact him with any personal titles that they wished to be included within the annual report.


11. Dates of Meetings


The next Board meetings would be held on 20 May, 7 July, 17 September and 25 November 2021.


The minutes were formally approved at the Board’s meeting of 20 May 2021.