CEO Membership Column – December 2021

On 1 November Alastair Marks joined British Rowing as interim CEO for a five-month period. He introduces himself below

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Since joining British Rowing in early November I have been busy meeting clubs and colleagues to see what matters most to people as we move towards the new year. One thing is very clear to me – I have been struck by the immense passion and drive of the rowing community, many of whom give their spare time as volunteers in our sport. As a volunteer myself – a level one qualified football coach – and someone from a sports-mad household, I know just how much commitment it takes, so I’m delighted that we will be acknowledging many of these contributions in our annual British Rowing Awards. We’ve announced the shortlist recently and will be revealing our winners on 20 January.

I will be interim CEO until the end of March and, while I’m here, my main focus will be to kick-start the implementation of our updated strategy through to 2024 which is called ‘Rowing: Everyone’s Sport’.

Some of you may have joined the three open video calls with our Chair, Mark Davies, and myself, where we discussed key strands of this strategy and sought your views on these proposals. The topics focused on competitions, clubs and membership as well as coaching and volunteering. It has been fascinating to hear the thoughts of so many members of the rowing community – thank you for taking time to share your ideas and feedback. There are many learning points for us to take forward as we finalise our strategy and plans which we will update on the microsite as soon as they evolve. We aim to continue holding sessions like this in the future, so please keep an eye out for more news on those.

It is clear that making our sport as accessible as possible in all contexts is really important from catering for all levels of recreational to masters rowers through to opening up our clubs to schools in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country. I am lucky to have had a broad range of experiences across different sports, but one that I am particularly passionate about is my involvement in a small charity called Tennis For Free (TFF). This charity uses tennis as a vehicle to reach disadvantaged communities and engage them in sport. As with rowing, we are looking to open up tennis to communities that don’t traditionally access sport, so that they can enjoy the benefits and sheer fun of taking part and getting fitter too.

I have found my first full month here energising and full of hope for a bright future. We recently had some great news from Sport England when they confirmed another year of funding in principle, so this promises to be a fantastic start to the new year.

I also had the privilege of being with the UK Sport Tokyo review panel, together with members of our GB Rowing high-performance team, which was a phenomenal introduction to the sport, and I was incredibly proud to meet such a talented group of people. This has also resulted in our award funding being confirmed for the next four years including an increase in support for the GB Rowing Paralympic Team as we head towards Paris.

Looking ahead, there’s a huge number of opportunities to expand rowing and make it everyone’s sport. Growing membership levels and supporting our clubs after COVID-19 will be vital to our overall success.

I’m very much looking forward to visiting more clubs over the coming weeks to find out what we can do to be more useful and support our sport going forward.

In the meantime, I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy new year.

Alastair Marks
Interim CEO British Rowing

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