With major concerns being raised in relation to corporate governance arrangements within the FAI and Scouting Ireland and previously in other voluntary sporting organisations, it is timely for sports Clubs generally to be reviewing their own governance arrangements in line with best practice, but, in addition, do the public at large need higher levels of assurance in relation to compliance with the law generally.
Sports Clubs fall into various legal categories.
Some are companies limited by guarantee regulated by the Companies Registration Office, with the ODCE overseeing compliance. Others are charities regulated by the Charities Regulator and ensures compliance in that sector. Most sports clubs are, however, registered clubs with the District Court, under the Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act,1904 which introduces very minimum governance requirements. For the purpose of obtaining sports grants and other State funding, sports clubs are obliged to hold tax exempt status from Revenue which imposes certain governance requirements in relation to disposal assets or surpluses in the event of wind up, but many clubs do not fall into this category.
We traditionally think of corporate governance arrangements in terms of prudent financial management and compliance with companies act obligations, but there are broader obligations in which compliance must be assured to be taken into account in sport e.g. in the areas of health and safety and the safeguarding of children.
Available at www.goverancecode.ie is a Governance Code which is a resource to assist community, voluntary and charity (CVC) organisations develop their overall capacity in terms of how they run their organisation. It a voluntary code provided free to all boards/committees/ executives of not-for-profit groups to encourage them to check themselves against best practice in the management of their affairs.
Given the dependence of Clubs on voluntary donations and State funds, is it time for NGBs in sport to be critically reviewing governance arrangements within member clubs and requiring them to have annual/ biennial compliance audits in respect of all their statutory obligations undertaken by an external body, in the interest of members and all stakeholders. The same applies to registered clubs generally and is the Registration of Clubs(Ireland) Act 1904 in need of updating?
In short, perhaps is it now time for all community, sporting and voluntary groups to have an external review undertaken of their all their governance arrangements and obligations on an annual/biennial, with external support.
By: Andrew Cullen, Corporate Governance Consultant, PAI.
Andrew Cullen is course leader on PAI’s Certificate in Public Sector Corporate Governance.
Andrew is a former Assistant Secretary in the Civil Service, where his career focused mainly on corporate governance and regulation in the transport, energy and telecommunications sectors, and strategy and investment in the public transport sector. He has extensive experience in dealing with State bodies and with the EU and international bodies, including serving for a period in Brussels with the Department of Foreign Affairs.