A people business: the first Runningsports conference

Runningsports, the skills and support network for sports volunteers, held its first full-scale gathering in May. The Leisure Review was on hand to support the cause

Runningsports keynote speakers
It's a people business: the Runningsports conference keynote speakers

Hard on the heels of Sportscoach UK’s April conference (see TLR passim), Runningsports held their first annual jamboree on 2 May, going one better than its sibling by opting for the ultimate in soccer stadia and locating at Wembley. Runningsports, like scUK, is funded by Sport England but its focus is the development of volunteers other than coaches – which might confuse the unwary.

The delegates, who were mainly Runningsports tutors and ‘partners’ such as local authorities and county sports partnerships, had gathered to learn of new products and networks designed to improve the lot of the huge number of unpaid administrators at the sharp end of the sport system. Representing this system we found Jennie Price, chief executive of under-pressure Sport England, who shared keynote duties with Mike Locke of Volunteering England and John Steele of UK Sport. In contrast to her recent Coventry outing, Price made the audience believe in both herself and Sport England’s mission to support and develop sport’s volunteers. “In order to create a world-leading system we need excellent clubs, coaching, volunteers, officials, facilities and NGBs,” she explained. “Almost all are reliant on volunteers in order to develop, including the volunteers themselves.”

She went on to make a powerful point about giving the best quality support to volunteers when she asked how many chief executive officers from national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) were in the audience. The answer was ‘none’ with only one senior officer from that entire sector in the room. To have such an important group of the brethren in terms of volunteer support and development missing begged the question: “What can we deduce from their absence?” Having taken this obvious side-swipe at the constituency tipped to benefit most from the recent review of Sport England’s role, Price concluded by sharing that her agency is still consulting on their volunteer strategy but that she is “very committed to supporting quality volunteer management” and, of course, Runningsports.

Volunteering England’s Mike Locke encouraged the audience to look to the IVR (Volunteer Impact Assessment Toolkit) Report 2008 which reveals that 77% of sports organisations want more volunteers and 50% have trouble keeping the ones they have. If this proved not to be a great surprise to the organisations in the audience Locke’s assertion that this trend is not reflected in the wider voluntary sector was. What is sport doing badly that the rest of the third sector do well and why are we not learning from best practice to stop the haemorrhage?

A conference dinner saw the delegates come together to support the people who support sports volunteers and among the individuals and organisations being honoured was our own ‘Hot Tub’ correspondent, Kay Adkins, who won her first trophy at Wembley for services to Runningsports. The last word went to Phil Collier, business development director at Coachwise and manager of Runningsports, who neatly rounded things off with the message that ‘running sport was a people business’, which also happened to be the title of the conference. Clever.


Runningsports can be found online at www.runningsports.org

The Leisure Review, June 2008



“How many chief executive officers from national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) were in the audience. The answer was ‘none’ with only one senior officer from that entire sector in the room.”
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