CEO Membership Column – January 2020

In the latest CEO update, January proved to be another busy month for British Rowing.

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Now that we have reached February, it is very evident that we are in an Olympic and Paralympic year with the intensity visibly increasing both within the organisation and across the sport sector.

Our senior squads had very good camps in Namibia and Sierra Nevada (Mens) and Aviz (Women) with the Para squad currently away in Cerla. This is always a tense time for the team as they all work hard to make sure they are in the best possible shape for selection trials and what comes afterwards. At the same time, we received both feedback from UK Sport on our first-round submission for the Paris 2024 investment cycle. The outcome was positive insofar that they recognised the comprehensive nature of our submission and provided some excellent feedback for us to consider. This will now feed into our thinking on the next phase of submissions and then the final stage after the Games.

Sport England have also been active, and hosted a ‘Shaping our Future Strategy’ webinar where Sport England CEO, Tim Hollingsworth, provided an update on his organisation’s investment thinking for the next funding cycle.  You can watch a replay of the webinar here. This is a process British Rowing is firmly engaged with as we look to ensure that we can accelerate our participation plans next year with the support and backing of Sport England.

Aligned to all of this is the work we are doing to develop a revised Vision for the organisation, working with the Sport Committee and the Regional Chairs Forum. The aim is to get to a largely unified position by the spring and following that have the chance to explain our thinking to, you, our membership. So watch this space in the forthcoming months.

Alongside this work, you will also have noticed our communication about the forthcoming British Rowing Awards and there is still time to both nominate any of your club volunteers and coaches for awards, as well as buy a seat or table for your club, which you do by clicking here.

Other areas of activity for me have included a visit to a studio to talk indoor rowing and immersive gym experiences. We were able to sit on an ergo in a room about ten metres in length, with three white walls, and at the press of a button we were transported into the middle of the Redgrave-Pinsent Lake, rowing with members of our national team based on  footage captured at Caversham before Christmas using drone technology. Given that indoor rowing offers one of the greatest opportunities for us in the coming years in terms of broadening our sport and increasing our commercial revenue, it was great to see first hand, and for the first time, what is possible in making an indoor rowing experience relevant, contemporary and in tune with other mass market sports.

I met with representatives of Badminton England and British Canoeing, and the CEO of Azolve, the provider of our ClubHub platform. While (as with all technology platforms) there are always improvements and customisation’s that can be made, ClubHub is an excellent platform for our sport and has certainly transformed how we can support our clubs. The meeting with Azolve was a very good discussion and we expect to see further functionality come through in the upcoming Azolve/ClubHub updates that will benefit our sport.

Later in January we had our Board meeting, where we covered all things governance, the British Rowing Awards, membership growth and communication, and a myriad of matters, all which can be found in the minutes once we publish them on our website.

I was also sorry to receive the resignation of Phil Hornsey, Director of Membership & Rowing Community, who is seeking to explore new ventures after over four years in this critical role. Phil’s leadership in this area has seen our membership framework and services transform beyond recognition, as well as the introduction of a new national competition framework and the launch of the ClubHub Portal for clubs and members. He leaves this part of the business in excellent shape. Phil will be finishing with British Rowing at the end of February and will now be focused on ensuring that everything is in place for his successor, more of which from me in the future.

And finally, on broader sport related matters, in late January GB Sport Media announced the appointment of Dominic Coles as the new, and first, Executive Chairman. This is a ground-breaking initiative kick-started nearly two years ago by UK Sport and the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations to look at how Olympic and Paralympic sports can maximise their value from fans, the media and commercial areas. Since conception, up to 27 NGBs – as well as the BOA and BPA – have signed up to support a new Over-The-Top (OTT) broadcast platform for British Olympic and Paralympic sports. Within the rights that we have included for rowing are our own domestic Championships and behind-the-scenes content. Exciting times for the sport sector and rowing.

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