What next for sport? Facing the leadership challenges in sport 2021 and beyond

Last month, Loughborough University London hosted a virtual panel event to explore the future for sport leadership in a time of numerous challenges and opportunities in the sports arena.

This invigorating event covered an array of factors for those transitioning from sport to academia and the professional world and vice versa, and also covered topical discussions around Paralympians, athletes, social change and the driving passions behind the sporting industries.

The event was hosted by Dr Andrea Guerin, Director of the Institute for Sport Business, and Jennie Wong, Project Development Manager for the Para Sport Against Stigma project.

The panel consisted of Dr Mike Peters (CEO of the International Paralympic Committee), Will Roberts (COO of the Youth Sport Trust), Vladyslava Kravchenko (Paralympian, part of establishing Malta’s Paralympic Committee, and current student at Loughborough University) and Bobby Kasanga (Founder of Hackney Wick FC).

The panellists individually explained where their passion for sport derives from and how they demonstrate it by implementing changes and creating new opportunities. The conversation also touched on broader topics inclusive recruitment processes, athlete activism and diversity. The panel addressed the wider societal issues surrounding the sporting world such as how race, gender and age is included in diversity and disability is generally not included as a diverse factor as of yet. They touched on the leading figures in sport and their involvement to publicly campaign for social activism, such as Marcus Rashford who is a young footballer in the UK leading a government campaign for free school meals during the pandemic.

The fascinating discussion covered the complexities and influences the sporting world has on society as a whole. A must watch for those with a passion for sport, activism or just a general insight to this impactful industry.

About the panel

The event consisted of four guest panellists touching on their passion and experiences within the sporting industries.

Mike Peters, the CEO of the International Paralympic Committee who spoke on his professional experiences and his ever-returning passion into the sports industry. Peters is a two-time Paralympian who captained the US seven-a-side football team at the Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004 Games. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Peters balanced his career as a soccer 7-a-side player alongside earning a catalogue of academic degrees: a bachelor’s in 1992, a master’s in 1995, a Ph.D. in 2001 and then a law degree in 2009. Deeply passionate about Para sport, diversity and inclusion, Peters has volunteered on national and international governance committees for more than 12 years. During this time, he served for six years on the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s (USOPC) Athletes Advisory Council and was an appointed member of the six-person IPC’s Legal and Ethics Committee. He also served as Lecturer at the University of Washington and as a Legal Officer for the IPC during the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Peters delved into his personal journey and examples his transition from Para sport into the professional world and the challenges this transition poses to Paralympians.

"As a Paralympic athlete, I witnessed first-hand the ability of the Paralympic Movement to change lives and communities, it is the privilege of my professional life to lead the IPC."

Vladyslava Kravchenko is a Paralympian and the current Chairperson of Malta Paralympic Athletes’ Council and the first female swimmer to represent Malta at the Paralympic Games since 1980. She represented the island at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In 2013, Kravchenko was named Malta’s para-athlete of the year and in 2017 she was awarded the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in recognition of her work to promote disability sports.

"Swimming at first was part of my rehabilitation process and helped me get stronger after a number of operations. In the water I felt free and strong again and loved it so much that I decided to take it up professionally."

Bobby Kasanga founded the Hackney Wick Football Club in 2015; Hackney’s first ever semi-professional football club in nearly a century. Not your average football club, the ethos is based on community engagement, uniting the local diverse groups as well as battling peer pressure and tackling gang influences. The club do this by offering educational workshops, sporting opportunities, mentoring and access to work opportunities, which actively engage with those already involved in gangs, or those on-the-brink of gang life. Kasanga speaks on his passion for sport and his personal journey. At a younger age Kasanga fell into a bad crowd and as result was sentenced to an eight-year imprisonment. During his incarceration, Kasanga wrote two novels (published in 2014 and 2015) and also studied for a degree in criminology and social policy. Whilst studying he identified there were underlying factors through social impacts and the surrounding influences that attributed to his previous behaviour. Primarily the lack of positive male role models, lack of opportunities and closure and abolishment of youth activities. Meeting many talented people in prison was inspirational to Kasanga and shortly after his release from prison in February 2015 he started Hackney Wick Football Club which now engages up to local 230 people every week and has hosted The Hackney Cup for Health which attracts 500 people annually.

"Football is always the thing I dreamed about doing, but I got caught up in the wrong crowd. When I was inside, I saw football was the thing that got everyone together because they all wanted to be involved”.

Will Roberts is the Chief Operating Officer of the Youths Sports Trust which enables young people to harness the power of sport, physical activity and PE to increase chances through improved wellbeing, healthier lifestyles and greater attainment. The Trust reaches around 20,000 schools across the UK and operates on a local, national and global level. Having previously led the development of the School Games National Finals since 2007, Roberts has considerable experience in the development of sporting opportunities for young people through competitive sport, coaching and volunteering, and for talented young people. Roberts is responsible for ensuring the effective and efficient delivery of the development programmes for young people. This includes the large-scale national programmes which reach hundreds of thousands of young people each year, through to the small scale highly focussed piece of development work and our range of national camps. In this role, Roberts also plays a key part in managing relationships with a number of major public and private sector partners in sport.