31 10 2010

One of my recent blogs which looked at the likely cut in the public (exchequer) funding to sport following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was picked up and published on a number of sites drawing some interesting comments.

Many of these comments caught me a little off guard as they centred on a school of thought which, I will be honest, had never occurred to me; sport should not be funded from the public purse at all. Interestingly, this thought came from people involved in sport not a gang of anti sporting couch potatoes!

I don’t intend to discuss whether sport should or should not be publicly funded in this blog. Instead what I would like to do, is suggest to those involved in sport but not supporting public funding of sport that they are confusing public funding of sport with Government funding of sport and to further suggest that without public funding, sport as we know it in the UK would very rapidly disappear!

Sport at its most basic level relies heavily on public funding. Imagine Sunday morning football without the local

Park football would suffer greatly without public funding

 authority making space available, marking out and looking after pitches up and down the country. Imagine taking the family for a swim without access to a publicly funded, local authority swimming pool.

From athletics tracks to general use sports halls, grass-roots sport in this country simply could not happen without funding provided by local authorities to build, manage, maintain and staff facilities. I would go as far as to suggest that without public funding of sport we would have very little meaningful sport at all in this country. And before anyone tries to distance elite sport from grass-roots sport, less sport at the bottom end will inevitably lead to a lessening of people coming through to the elite end.

To me, the important question that arises from the comments mentioned above is not whether we fund sport but how we fund sport?

The previous Government, its Quangos and many employees of Quango funded bodies have, for the last decade, banded around the word ‘sustainable’ in association with funding to the point it has almost lost all meaning. Funding was channelled towards using sport as a tool to achieve political objectives with a seemingly endless stream of initiatives coming and going; every single one of them apparently ‘sustainable’.

However, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that despite the millions ‘invested’ by Government in sport of the last few years, the nation’s biggest investor in sport remains the local authorities who are also the nation’s biggest provider of sporting facilities.

Yet, unlike many European countries, there is no statutory requirement for local authorities to provide any support for sport whether funding, facility, sports development or any other. And in the light of cuts following the CSR, the logical place for many local authorities to make savings will be by cutting those services with no statutory requirement for their provision.

Which brings me to the title for this article; ‘The Public Funding of Sport and a Legacy from 2012.’

If we are to safeguard the future of sport in this country, if we are to do it in a way that is about sport for sport’s sake not sport as political tool, if we are to do it in a way that is truly sustainable and if we are to leave a genuine lasting legacy from the hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games the Government need do only one thing – pass legislation making the provision of sporting facilities, the support of clubs with community roots and backing for the development of sport a statutory requirement of local authorities.

Such an action might not pump new money into sport but it would undoubtedly safeguard its future at grass-roots level.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010

Twitter @cowanglobal



14 10 2010

We’re pleased to announce that we are working in partnership with the Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce (DNCC) to bring you a new workshop; ‘Your Strategy – Turning Good Into Exceptional’

The workshop takes place on Friday 19th November starting at 9.30am, finishing at 4.30pm at DNCC’s Nottingham offices.

You can book you place at DNCC’s website by clicking here, where you will also find further details.

About the workshop

In tough economic times understanding how to utilise strategy to get the most from tight budgets and from under pressure staff can make a huge difference.

Better planning of resources can make all the difference between maintaining services and thereby business and having to cut them with the inevitable loss in busy that ensues.

This course will look at how good practice in strategy development and implementation can be improved in order to maintain an efficient and effective business.

Who should attend?

Any organisation, large or small, with an interest in improving the way in which their business is run and seeking to find ways in which to maintain effectiveness while seeking efficiencies.

Business owners, middle managers and directors will especially benefit. Third sector organisations, local government and others facing cuts in funding will also find the course a valuable investment in their future.

Content includes

Refresher on what strategy is, sound principles and why it is important to get it right
Methods to improve the efficiency of your strategy
Lessons from real life using examples of how companies have used the techniques and tactics discussed to improve

The Trainer

Jim Cowan runs Cowan Global Limited whose consultancy services have been engaged across the UK as well as around the world by organisations in the business, sporting, voluntary and local government sectors.

Jim also devises and organises events for good causes to date raising over £1/4 Billion for charity. Perhaps his best known idea was the Race for Life.

© Cowan Global Limited 2010

Twitter: @cowanglobal



8 10 2010

During tough economic times, organisations both public and private alike, look at where savings can be made in terms of staff, other overheads and even structure. These cuts tend to be described by terms like ‘efficiency savings’ and yet rarely is the overall efficiency of the organisation properly examined during this process.

This is because many organisations, probably even the majority, are complacent when it comes to the way they devise and deliver strategy. Unlike many other areas of business, if the strategy is deemed to be working seldom is the question ‘can we do it better?’ applied. And the mindset ‘we’ve always done it like this’ wins out over change, or even the consideration of change.

So, when we hit tougher economic times, the efficiency (and effectiveness) of the strategy is rarely examined closely. Instead savings (cuts) are applied in other areas and as the economy recovers the system of planning which was ‘good enough’ remains. ‘As good as it can be’ doesn’t get a look in.

When the money is cut, better planning can help maintain services

In my experience there is no such thing as an organisation which cannot improve the way it devises and delivers strategy. I have experienced companies who, although successful, lacked a mission, lacked vision or (frequently) confused the two. This didn’t prevent many of these companies from being successful however it did prevent them from being as successful as they could or should be.

Then there are the businesses who fail to grasp what strategy is, planning almost randomly or even not planning at all, stumbling from minor success to minor success and considering themselves to be well run.

And these are the companies that survive an economic down turn or who appear to thrive during the good times. How many fail not because the market place deserts them but because they failed to plan appropriately – not the same thing as simply planning.

Even more prevalent, almost pandemic, is the failure to understand integration of strategy and the huge efficiencies and improved effectiveness proper integration can bring to their business.

There are those that don’t integrate between levels, strategy is owned by Board and/or senior management but neither shared, understood nor brought into by middle management and those at the coal-face.

However, the vast majority of organisations that do plan, that do implement good strategy and share it across tiers, do so in what is termed a ‘horizontally integrated’ way. By this we mean that every area of the business has a plan, every aspect is covered in individual strategies. The boxes are assumed to be ticked. Sound familiar?

Horizontal integration of strategy often works well during the good times, when budgets are not so under pressure but even during the good times they are not the ideal way to maximise resources and to ensure that profit is maximised.

That requires ‘Vertical Integration’ a method of planning whereby all departments, all targets, all resources, in fact every aspect of the business are cross referenced. The impact of one success or failure in one department is considered against its impact throughout the business and planning throughout reflects this.

In the tough times switching to such planning allows the organisation to maintain services while still identifying areas where economic savings can be made. When the good times return this will then be reflected by a far more efficient and effective business maximising profit.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010

Twitter @cowanglobal