Edition number 35; dateline 1 October 2010

A vision of professional representation

In an October issue packed with facilities, management theory, technical advice and political soothsaying, to say nothing of animal husbandry, we are delighted to be able to include a detailed report of a round table debate hosted by The Leisure Review to discuss the future of professional representation within the sport, leisure and culture sector. This round table was prompted by questions regarding professional bodies raised at previous TLR summits [see TLR passim] and seemed a logical next step in our exploration of the views of senior leisure professionals on the future of their sector. It took some time to organise and not everyone who had hoped to be able to join us was able to be present but we are very grateful to those who agreed to  debate the issues

Before you launch yourself into the article I have to offer a few caveats. First, The Leisure Review must declare an interest. It would be disingenuous for us to suggest that we were disinterested observers. Both the editor and the managing editor have at some point in their careers been employed by or otherwise contractually involved with a number of the organisations round the table. For my part I spent a frightening number of years working for ILAM, while the managing editor, Mr Owen, managed to become an employee, however briefly, of ILAM, ISRM, NASD and ISPAL at various stages of their development. He only needs the new professional body to complete his collection and hope springs eternal. Between us we have been party to too many discussions, arguments and misrepresentations to be completely dispassionate about the ongoing progress towards a new professional body to represent the whole sport, leisure and culture sector. It is also worth noting in the interests of clarity that The Leisure Review only exists by virtue of the loss of an obvious and effective voice for a broadly defined leisure sector. To a certain extent it was born out of a sense of frustration with the paths chosen by the professional bodies looking to serve leisure and recreation professionals but, as we frequently find ourselves reminding people, at The Leisure Review we are very keen to see a vibrant, coherent and effective professional body working on behalf of the sport, leisure and culture sector and everyone who works within it.

The second caveat is that the report of this round table debate is not for the faint-hearted. Having got the people round the table, we let the conversation run and we have reported it in its entirety so that anyone interested in the current state of progress towards a new professional body can judge for themselves whether they are getting what they thought they were being promised. We hope that after all the time and resources spent on getting ILAM and ISRM to form one body that there are still sufficient people interested to make those efforts worthwhile. Given that so many people still seem unsure about what is happening we deliberately restricted our questions to the future of professional bodies in the sector to ensure that we were able to shed as much light as possible on the process. This is not to suggest that there are not legitimate questions and concerns about how these organisations arrived at this point – there certainly are – but we felt that it would not be in the interests of the sector or our own sanity to disinter them at this point.

If you are inclined to read on (and you might find the link to the printable PDF document at the foot of the page useful if you are) you will see that some interesting comments and views emerged during the debate. There is undoubtedly recognition of the importance of the process for the future credibility of professional representation within the sector and an acceptance that any solution has to be about collaboration rather than combat but there are also some hints that there are still challenges ahead. The focus on sport remains a concern for some and it has to be said that the suggestion that a new professional body named for sport will be committed to the representation of other areas of interest, such as parks and the arts to name but two, is not yet convincing. The question of whether the new organisation will have campaigning and lobbying on behalf of the sector within its remit seems uncertain (the organisation’s manifesto says it won’t; a member of its working group says it will – or it might). There is also the suggestion that the new organisation, whenever and however it comes into being, is likely to be pleading for patience from its members and the wider sector as it goes about establishing itself. However, they may have to accept that after at least six years of tortuous discussions, numerous referendums and no little expense it is unlikely that a great many within the sector will be able to indulge such a request; there will need to be a sense of urgency and a recognition that much of the innate support for the work of professional bodies has been eroded by the ongoing uncertainties of recent years. One person around the table commented: “I have not met anybody yet that’s said that a chartered institute is a bad idea”; but there was at least one such person sat at the table when he said it.

All these concerns may become mere historical details when a new professional body emerges and sets about its work. At The Leisure Review we certainly hope so. We remain positive about what a properly functioning professional body could achieve for the sport, leisure and culture sector. Given the current political and financial challenges we could certainly have done with one. At one point in our debate someone averred that  “the new institute will be the industry’s institute”. We fervently hope that this proves to be the case.

Jonathan Ives



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“One person around the table commented:
'I have not met anybody yet that’s said that a chartered institute is a bad idea'; but there was at least one such person sat at the table when he said it.”

Signs of progress: the industry will decide whether it is in the right direction

an independent view for the leisure industry








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