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Minutes of the Sport Wales Board meeting held on 27 November 2020 (virtual conference)

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

Staff attendance: Sarah Powell (CEO), Paul Randle, Graham Williams, Brian Davies, Liam Hull,

Owen Hathway, Owen Lewis (Item 4.1), Jane Foulkes (Item 5.3), Craig Nowell (Item 5.5), Amanda

Thompson (minutes).   Observers: Paul Kindred (Welsh Government)


1.  Introduction/apologies for absence


The Chair introduced the meeting. Apologies for absence were received from Judi Rhys, Alison

Thorne and Steffan Roberts (Welsh Government).


•      The Chair would attend the UK Sports Cabinet meeting on 30 November. The HCSCs would present a unified position on the impact of Covid19 on sport, physical activity and health.

•      The Business Continuity staff group reported that to date there had been no reports of Covid19 infection among Sport Wales staff. Safe use of the National Centres continued to be managed well and would enable activities to return quickly at the appropriate time.


2.  Declarations of interest


•      Ian Bancroft for paper SW(20)55 in his capacity as CEO of Wrexham County Borough Council.

He had not been present at the Board’s session on 20 November to discuss the Sport North

Wales Business Case, nor had he attended the CSAP Project Board meeting on 23 November.

•      Nicola Mead-Batten for paper SW(20)62 in her capacity as an advisor to the Welsh Language



3.  Minutes, Action Log, Decision Tracker and Matters Arising


The minutes of the previous meeting held on 16 September 2020 were accepted as a true and accurate record. The Action Log was noted. There were no matters arising.


4.  Strategy & Recovery Planning


4.1      Business Plan 2020/21 Q3 report - SW(20)51


The report highlighted the work around enabling staff to thrive (and support given since Covid19 struck), how the approach to planning had evolved and improved throughout the year and the work done around the return to sport. There was concern about the widening gap regarding inequalities.


Discussion points:

•      To mitigate negative press Sport Wales should promote more good news stories about all the activities that had been able to continue, and creative ways to ensure people could be active.

•      Should the Welsh Government consider extending exemption from the restrictions for indoor

and outdoor sport for disadvantaged groups? Disability sport was given as an example.

•      The National Sports Group would help to clarity the position for participation in sport. What could work well within the parameters was best coming from the sport themselves.

•      A roadmap of a full return to sport at full capacity with spectators would be useful. Flexibility

would be crucial in order to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

•      Insight from the Freelancers fund should be used to inform our knowledge of the sports

sector’s commercial arm and how it should be supported.


•      The Welsh Government considered Sport Wales to be its main partner, playing a pivotal role in bringing together clear communication and guidance for Ministers and officials’ use.

•      Sport Wales had recently provided an overview and bid for additional resources to expand the role in improving mental health through sport and physical activity.


ACTION: An aide memoire which mapped out the different funding schemes would help Members see how the risk of duplication or over-lapping was mitigated.


4.2      Digitalisation in Sport - SW(20)52


Already identified as a business priority for 2020/21 the enforced period of remote working had highlighted the importance of digitalisation. Significant progress in shifting the culture to value digital technology had been made and staff were growing in confidence to use new platforms. A digital maturity assessment and SWOT analysis would help support this work moving forward. Board members were presented with options relating to scope of work and feedback was sought on these;

•      Option 1: Maintain the status quo, continue to identify areas of risk, overspend and inefficiency and seek to resolve utilising the new core principles

•      Option 2: Using the agreed principles to ensure change is sector-driven and internal need the key area of focus would be to develop Sport Wales ecosystems excluding National Centres.

•      Option 3: A full-service design for internal and external facing functions of the business, delivering true people-centric change and digitally enhanced services whilst embedding a culture of learning and improvement for Sport Wales including the National Centres.

•      Option 4: Focus on Sport Wales and wider sector, as per option 3 but working with key partners to develop a full-service design for internal and external functions of the business.


An early indication of the type of investment that would be needed was highlighted. The Welsh Government supported digitalisation but there was no guarantee of any additional investment towards this work, therefore existing budgets may need to be reconfigured. The digitalisation team recommended option 3, although more work was to be done to set out the costs, benefits and engagement of staff.


Discussion points:

•      Investment must go into what gives Sport Wales the best return.

•      Better to have an overall approach rather than one departmentalised, as at present.

•      The language of option 3 should also be applied to option 2 to enable a balanced comparison.

•      A breakdown of costs, especially in order to compare options 2 and 3, was requested.

•      Would sharing the same solutions with partners help to futureproof them?

•      Will digitalisation mean system/data changes only or will this also achieve cultural change?

•      A note of caution, referencing the failure to deliver NHS digitalisation.

•      Seeing digitalisation as part of a bigger picture that linked with Welsh Government policies.


ACTION:        Further work to be undertaken to set out the cost benefit of options 2 and 3.


5.  Board Sub-Groups and Standing Committees


5.1      Critical Governance Group (CGG)


The Executive thanked Members who had joined the five meetings held to date at short notice. Papers and minutes were accessible to all Board Members. CGG had approved:


•      SW(20)48 – approval of negotiating additional support from the Welsh Government, green- lighting the Be Active Wales Fund, noting capital projections, staged recruitment and pension.

•      SW(20)49 – approval of draft plans for the Sport & Leisure Recovery Package (SLRP)

•      SW(20)50 – approval of updated plans for SLRP and next steps.

It was noted that the Freelancer Fund (part of SLRP) went live on 26 November.


The Chair, Vice Chair and Executive proposed that CGG be continued for as long as it was relevant as an agile group and this was agreed. A proposal was made that a report highlighting decisions should be presented at meetings. Further thought would be given to how best to report back.


5.2      Strategy Resilience Group (SRG)


SRG last met on 18 August. A reminder was given of the research that was underway and the priorities for advocacy. The guiding principles were tackling inequality and targeting under- represented groups. SRG would report back to the Board in due course.


5.3      Community Sport & Activity Programme (CSAP) - SW(20)54


The Sport North Wales Partnership (SNWP)’s business case was scrutinised by the Sport Wales Board on 20 November and the CSAP Project Board meeting on 23 November. There was confidence in SNWP’s progress and commitment to taking the project forward. Areas had been mutually identified that would benefit from additional support from Sport Wales.  The learning from the journey so far would be applied to the roll out of CSAP across the rest of Wales.


ACTION: The business case and next steps for SNWP were approved.


5.4      Diversity Group (DG)


The first meeting was held on 5 November. The Race & Racism project, a collaboration between the five Sports Councils, was collecting data and conducting lived experience interviews. DG also discussed how to improve diversity within Sport Wales’ recruitment process, the training needs of the Board (EDI, transgender and unconscious bias) and the need for a high-level diversity advocate. The Executive would seek ambassadors to help build people’s trust and confidence to come forward and talk about their experiences and suggestions for breaking down barriers. The next meeting would be held on 5 February.


5.5      Facilities Review Group (FRG) - SW(20)55


FRG reviewed detailed revenue projections for both National Centres and progress towards re- opening. The financial review looked at projected income and expenditure to the year-end, capital requirements and the long-term forecast. The Welsh Government had frozen further capital spending this year; whether that might change next year was not known but not ruled out.


FRG recommended that it was now appropriate to tender for consultancy services to formalise the process to seek an external management partner or joint venture. It was proposed to recruit the consultancy through Sell2Wales in the new year, issuing the contract by 26 February.


Through due diligence prospective partners would become aware of Plas Menai’s need for capital investment. Sport Wales may have to seek a partner who could bring cash to the deal. A new partner could not be expected to pick up the current liabilities and would need to be confident of Plas Menai as a viable asset.


The communications plan had been drafted ready for review at FRG’s next meeting on 1 December.

Messaging would focus on Plas Menai having a positive future as a sustainable facility.

The tendering process for consultancy services was planned for January but Members preferred a start in December with additional support for the Communications team if necessary.


There was discussion around the timings and risk of reputational damage and political reaction in

the run up to the election in May 2021. The Board may decide to pause on any actions until after the election. The Board would also want to know whether capital investment might be forthcoming

during 2021 from the Welsh Government and/or through the Carbon Trust’s schemes.


ACTION:      Board Members endorsed the paper’s recommendations but with the proviso that the tendering process for consultancy services be managed carefully. Members asked for sight of the finished communications plan.


5.6      Audit & Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC)


ARAC last met on 1 October and reviewed internal audit reports for grant funding schemes (moderate assurance) and partner engagement (advisory report). One medium and two low level recommendations had been actioned. Sport Wales was congratulated for the speed at which new funding schemes had been devised and implemented in response to the Covid19 pandemic, and for the level of its partner engagement.


Members noted that the statutory accounts for 2019/20 had been formally signed off and duly filed.


5.7      Remuneration Committee SW(20)53


The Remuneration Committee met on 9 November. It agreed on the cost of living award at 2.5% and approved the award being given to the CEO equally. Board Members approved the recommended changes to the terms of reference.


6.  Young Ambassador Steering Group


It had not been possible for a YA Steering Group representative to attend this meeting. The report received was noted. The Vice Chair had attended the YA National Conference in November.


7.  Finance, Risk & Assurance


7.1      Finance Report April-November 2020 – SW(20)56


The report was noted.


7.2      Financial Forecast Update – SW(20)57


The furlough scheme had been extended by the UK Government to March 2021. Sport Wales had received c£352k to the end of October and estimated a possible further c£170k to March. The continuance of furlough would not necessarily involve the same members of staff. Legal advice had been taken regarding elegibility so it would be an auditable claim.


The Executive had been considering measures for Plas Menai as further restrictions had affected re- opening plans. The Welsh Government had confirmed that support would be available to off-set the National Centres’ losses. Both the pension deficit payments and the pay award at £2.5% had been


added to the budget. There was flexibility in drawing down Lottery monies if necessary to steady the year-end cashflow position.


Looking further ahead, the impact of Covid19 meant a gap of c£500k was projected for 2021/22. The Executive were looking at ways to mitigate this loss. The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced a public pay freeze for salaries over £24.5k. Sport Wales would be in discussion with the Welsh Government in due course as pay bargaining was a devolved matter, but if a cost of living award was not factored into the Barnett consequential then giving one would be a challenge for all public sector organisations in Wales.


A vaccination roll out over the coming months would hopefully enable a quicker return to normality. However, a return to 100% was still expected to take two to three years.


7.3      Risk Appetite – SW(20)58


Sport Wales was committed to ensuring that no unnecessary or unacceptable risks were taken which might expose the organisation or any of its stakeholders to potential harm or jeopardise the overall achievement of the Strategic Plan. It was recognised that an overly adverse attitude towards risk could lead to a failure to maximise opportunities or an inability to act decisively in the face of changes in the external environment which could be a threat to the achievement of longer-term goals. Whilst Sport Wales adopted a bespoke approach to risk appetite for strategic risks, guidance

in the form of mapping appropriate risk appetite against risk and reward was provided to aid the

decision-making process.


In cases where Sport Wales was prepared to accept risks to further its strategic objectives, it was expected that every appropriate mitigating action would be taken. For higher level grades of risks, greater levels of accountability must be in place. Examples of adaptions to the previous approach were CSAP, the new Investment Model and the funding schemes set up in response to Covid19.


Risk was discussed at directorate level and collated through the Risk Management & Assurance Group (RMAG) which recommended what should be escalated to the overall Corporate Risk Register. That process was overseen by the Audit & Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC). Board Members approved the recommended scale of risk appetite.


8.  Chair & Executive Report – SW(20)59


The report was noted and two further points added:


•      Eluned Morgan MS’s portfolio now included mental health. Sport Wales had submitted a bid for resources in relation to tackling mental health issues through sport and physical activity. It linked to Sport Wales’ existing objectives for young people, health and education. No additional staffing resource was needed to deliver it.

•      The £300m announced by DCMS was for England only and aimed to ensure the survival of

sports without spectator income over the October to March period. It was primarily based on loans; £50m was grant aid. Sport England would manage the scheme. No consultation had been carried out with HCSCs in advance. Full details were not yet available. Further investigation would be given to the implications for Wales, especially regarding cross-border competitions, events and sport franchises.



9.  Consent Agenda


9.1      Pension position update – SW(20)60


The Board’s attention was drawn to the cost risks associated with pension provisions provided via the LGPS scheme In addition to the increased costs of providing future service benefits, Sport Wales also made an annual contribution towards its share of the past service deficit calculated by the scheme actuaries. In 2019/20 this deficit payment was £941k and was paid in February 2020. Following the recent valuation, and while recognising the significant increase in future service contributions, the LGPS scheme actuaries reprofiled the past service deficit payments effectively ensuring a cash neutral 2020/21 position (future service + past service payments). Over the next two years the true additional costs become apparent as past service deficit payments would increase again. Full details were given within the report.


Discussions had been held with the LGPS scheme administrators to identify any steps that could reasonably be taken to reduce overall pension costs. It was confirmed that a Crown Guarantee would have a significant positive impact on future service contribution rates and potential the past service deficit. Sport Wales awaited the Welsh Government’s consideration of this request.


9.2      Investment Model update – SW(20)61


The CEO had written to the Deputy Minister to confirm the model and approach, the changes to funding and the transition proposal to help protect partners in the current circumstances. The Executive had kept officials aware of progress and any potential issues.


Early in November staff met with all partners to discuss funding and the new investment approach. For data-driven partner investments an indication was given of the amount increasing or decreasing. In the main, the meetings were mostly positive, and partners were pleased with indicative budgets for 2021/22 plus the opportunity to benefit from the recovery package. As anticipated, partners who may receive less funding from 2023 were seeking further clarification on the model. Staff would work with these partners to answer queries and look at their longer-term needs. Partners on the same or increased level of funding were receiving support to ensure they could maximise the impact of the level of investment and meet the required level of capability necessary to receive it.


A formal appeals process was being developed in conjunction with Loosemores Solicitors and a comparative view of the processes used by the other HCSCs had been taken. A wider complaints process linked with the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales would also be considered. It was anticipated that the relevant updated policies would be ready for approval by the Board in February.


9.3      Welsh Language report – SW(20)62


The Sport Wales Welsh Language Standards Annual Report 2019/20 was published on 30 September

2020. The key highlights from the report included:

➢    Continued partnership and funding of URDD & Gemau Cymru (£446k invested in 2019/20).

➢    Increased focus on the Welsh Language through communications with customers and stakeholders, including an English and Welsh toggle functionality on Sport Wales’ website.

➢    Improved bilingual signage across both National Centres, Welsh text before English text.

➢    Employment of two fluent Welsh speakers for SWNC’s Customer Service team.

➢    Through the Community Chest & Development Grant schemes 226 successful applicants indicated that the project would increase their use of Welsh with 36 organisations stating that

they were not providing sporting activity through the medium of Welsh prior to the project.

➢    Enabling staff to learn Welsh during working hours.


➢    Sport Wales did not receive any formal complaints regarding use of the Welsh during 2019.


The Board and Executive were keen to identify more opportunities to use Welsh across the organisation and create a culture where Welsh could thrive. It was suggested that Sport Wales map all linguistic skills within the organisation, though this should not dilute the commitment to prioritise equal use of the Welsh language.


9.4      Board Governance Annual Review – SW(20)63


The Vice Chair collated Board Members’ responses regarding governance arrangements and specific changes made as a result of the Covid19 situation. The results overall were pleasing with the majority being of a positive nature. Some development opportunities and needs were identified, and an action plan would be put together and brought back to the Board in February.


9.5      Policy Insight update – SW(20)64


•      ComRes Survey 2.0 was undertaken during October in follow up to the survey in May. The overall level of adult physical activity had returned to a level similar to the period before Covid19 struck. However, the pandemic had widened inequalities in participation by people from disadvantaged circumstances. Some people still lacked confidence in returning to sport settings, especially those indoors, but there was a high level of comfort once they participated. The public information and communication around sport and physical activity was most valued when it originated from NHS, local and national government sources. The full ComRes report had been shared with Welsh Government and other stakeholders.


•      Board Members attended a presentation and discussion on education policy led by Professor Mick Walters on 8 November. A paper capturing the outputs from the actions would be brought to the Board’s meeting in February.


•      The British Council Wales had launched its ‘Towards a Sport Diplomacy Strategy’ report. This included specific recommendations for Sport Wales, though with the existing level of

resource, capacity and expertise it would be difficult for Sport Wales to fulfil the expectations.

However, there was a potential role for Sport Wales to facilitate future discussion around this area of work and there was potential crossover with some of the previously identified advocacy areas of focus, most notably the ‘Welsh way’ (advocating for the ethical athlete environment and development across the athlete pathway).


10. Any other business


A date in December for an online social gathering for Board and the Leadership team would be circulated. The Engagement Group were putting together ideas for online festivities for staff during the week of 14-18 December.


11.Date of next meetings: 25 February, 20 May, 7 July, 17 September and 25 November 2021