For many of us, governance is a term we’ve heard before; but unless you’ve found yourself on a Board or Club Committee – or even if you have – chances are the notion is fairly abstract to you.

So what is governance?

In the broadest sense of the word, governance refers to the policies, processes, systems, and controls that provide guidance, direction and parameters to the people responsible for running an organisation.

Put simply, governance is the system by which an organisation is controlled.

Whereas the managers of an organisation carry out its day-to-day or business-as-usual operations; governors represent the interests of the shareholders and owners of the organisation, set strategic direction and ensure management accountability.

How governance operates has a significant impact on the performance of any organisation – in business and in sport.

The key to whole-of-organisation governance is clarity of:

  • purpose – why we are here
  • alignment of effort with strategy – what, where and when we do things, and
  • accountability – how we do it.

In traditional businesses, governance vertically connects the board to the senior and line management, through the operational staff; and horizontally connects the different departments and business units to the firm.

In volunteer and community sport groups however, the people charged with governance – the club committee members – are usually the people who do the work as well. There is little-to-no separation between those who govern and those who manage.

Quite often, such groups can fail for reasons that include director or committee inexperience, conflicts of interest, a failure recognise or manage risk, inadequate or inappropriate financial controls, and generally poor internal systems and reporting practices.

So take a moment to think about how your sports club is governed?

Who sets the policies, procedures and practices at your club?

How many of these are locally determined, or inherited from a larger, parent organisation?

Who ensures these processes are followed?

And what happens if they aren’t followed?

These are the themes we will explore in the rest of this Unit.