The Game Changers

Sally Munday: Being an authentic leader at the very top of sport

December 20, 2022 Sue Anstiss Season 12 Episode 8
The Game Changers
Sally Munday: Being an authentic leader at the very top of sport
Show Notes Transcript

Sally Munday is CEO of UK Sport and a former CEO of England and GB Hockey. 

To mark our 100th episode we returned to talk to this extraordinary woman, considered by many to be one of the most influential individuals in British Sport. This episode was also recorded live in front of an audience at Leaders Week London.  

To find out more about Sally’s early life and the transformative work she did in over 20 years at England Hockey, do go back and listen to episode 3 in the very first series.

Sally is incredibly candid in this fascinating episode as she first shares her experience of leading UK Sport as COVID struck and what changes were needed to the organisation, the sports sector and her leadership style. 

We talk about the changing culture of UK Sport, gender balance in Team GB, Paralympics GB and elite coaching and the work of the organisation around major international events. 

Sally is very frank about what is needed to overcome the inherent misogyny that still exists in sport, and we also talk about important issues of safeguarding and athlete welfare.

Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers through the National Lottery.


Find out more about The Game Changers podcast here.

Hosted by Sue Anstiss
Produced by Sam Walker, What Goes On Media

A Fearless Women production

Sally Munday: Being an authentic leader at the very top of sport

Sue Anstiss

Hello, welcome to everybody here, this is the Game Changers podcast. For those of you that don't know, my name's Sue Anstiss. I'm the host of The Game Changers in the podcast I have the absolute privilege of talking to trail blazing women from across sport. A quick shout out to my own sponsor, Sport England, who support the Game Changers through a National Lottery Award. This is a very special episode. So not only are we recording it in front of a live audience, which we don't normally do, but also when it is released, this will be the hundredth episode of The Game Changers.

And this is also the first time I've ever come back to return and talk to a guest for a second time. and what a guest, Sally Mundy, CEO of UK Sport.  And if you'd like to know more, if you haven't listened already, to Sally's transformative work over 20 years at England Hockey, go back to series one. It was episode three, when we first spoke at Bisham Abbey all those years ago. And, and you're very kindly had me back again to talk, about your role when you were appointed as, as CEO at UK Sport. So welcome. Thank you for coming back. It wasn't so bad the last time you've come back again. 

Sally Munday

Yeah, I'm not sure how I managed to allow you to talk me into doing in front of a live audience, but yeah, here I am. 

Sue Anstiss

Fantastic. So if I can take you back to 2012, 2019 rather, when we last spoke, and you, as I say, you were CEO at England Hockey Hot on the kind of success of, the gold medal in Rio. You'd hosted a brilliant home World Cup driven, massive transformative participation increases, taken that sport to those heights.  And then obviously you then went from that role of success into a role at UK Sport that had had its own success, uh, and and huge rise over the time. So how did that feel, uh, going into the role at that time? 

Sally Munday

Well, I was, following Liz Nichol, who I think had done it an amazing job at UK Sport. And I think my overwhelming sort of emotion was just one of real excitement. I'd been at hockey a long time. I loved it. I wasn't looking for a new job when the UK sport gig came up, but there were probably only a few jobs in British sport that I would've been interested in. And, and that was one. So I sort went into that process, sort of curious, and then you sort of get offered the job and then you're like, Okay, I'm, I'm gonna be doing this job. So, overriding excitement, probably like most people going into new job are a bit a bit daunted, but really excited, excited to of the opportunity that we have at UK Sport and excited from a really personal perspective about learning a whole load of new stuff, having been in one job for such a long time previous to that. 

Sue Anstiss

Liz Nicol, series three of the Game Changers.  I won't do that throughout the whole episode, <laugh>, but you can listen to her too. And obviously just three months into your role, Covid struck, which was, you know, devastating for so many people, so many lives, but devastating for live sport and those athletes with many delayed and canceled championships. So can you give us a flavor of those early weeks, perhaps as you first sense the enormity of what was happening.

Sally Munday 

I think for probably a lot of people and myself included, like the first, the first few weeks of, of Covid was kind of, there was a sort of almost a bit of an exhilaration about it. There, there was kind of fear cause like, we've not been in this situation before, but from a work perspective there was kind of a little bit of exhilaration cause there was sort of real, real unknown. And I think that when it really hit me was, was actually when, I think it was the 23rd of March, the Olympic and the Paralympic games got postponed and I was like, Oh wow, that's, this is a big deal. You know, games have never been postponed before. And so I was looking at it through I guess probably two lenses, the first lens of, you know, running the organisation that I was running with 170 staff and transitioning like everybody was to working from home and how do you operate? 

And then the, the other clear priority was about Olympic and Paralympic sport and the major events program that we work in and what did this mean and don't want it to be. So, you very quickly go into, okay, this, this is a proper crisis. I I quite like a crisis, but I remember very distinctly talking with a group of the national governing body CEOs. There might be a couple of them in the room. We'll remember this, this conversation and it was probably a couple of months into Covid and things were, were really not good. We were working on sort of trying to get athletes back to training and so on. And,  you could really see the sort of the, the weight of the world on, on people's shoulders. And somebody said to me in this session, they said, Sally, you, you don't look way down by this. 

You look like you're enjoying this. And I said, You know what? I really am actually, because I think as leaders, like I'm not saying leading is easy, but leading when the going is good actually is okay. I think what you really want is you wanna be tested and as a leader you want to know that when the chips are down, are you good enough? Can you do, can you do your job as a leader effectively when things are really bad? So I think I was loving the challenge of, oh my God, is it gonna get any worse than this? Everything's being canceled or postponed. How do we keep Olympic and Paralympic sport alive? And I think I was, I was loving the fact that this was just an incredible leadership challenge, 

Sue Anstiss

Unique opportunity. 

Sally Munday

Very unique. 

Sue Anstiss

And I, I think in all of my dealings with the UK Sport over the years, one of the things I've have always struck me is the incredible culture of the organisation and the quality, some of your staff in here today, but the quality of the people that are within the organisation. So I don’t what you think are the cornerstones. I guess I would ask, do you also believe that to be true, but what are the cornerstones that have created that culture at UK sport? 

Sally Munday 

So one of the big attractions to me of, of the job was the quality of the people. So when you are leading a governing body that is an Olympic sport, you spend a considerable amount of your time with various colleagues at UK Sport. And of course cause we had hosted a hockey, a number of major events, we'd worked with our events team. So I already knew that the calibre of the people at UK sport, and that was definitely an attraction to me in going there. And one of the things that I really, I I think, it sounds mad to think it surprised me when I got there, but it did. I knew how good everybody was, but just the, the depth of people's passion and commitment for what they do. And their, you know, we have, we we're a relatively small organisation of 170 people. 

We have an organisation that is packed full of passionate experts in their field. And interestingly, one of my colleagues was saying to me earlier who's not been with us that long, he said one of the great things about coming to UK sport is that when you wanna know something, there is always somebody that is willing, who has amazing expertise. But, but culturally the way we exist is built on our, our values. And our values are around integrity and openness. They're around working together and it's about commitment to excellence. And actually you see that every day. You can feel it, it's tangible amongst the people. And people come and work at UK Sport because they really care about Olympic and paralympic sport and care about bringing major and mega events to this country. And they care about how those things have such a positive impact on society and you can feel that working in the organization. And 

Sue Anstiss

Did your leadership   style change coming from hockey into a new organization? Do you feel? 

Sally Munday (09:59):

Um….I, I don't think it did. people that know me will know that I kind of, I wear my heart and my sleeve a little bit. You can usually tell what I'm thinking. you can quite often tell what I'm, I'm gonna say on or have an opinion on, on things. My natural place is one of collaboration. I'm very consultative in in my style. It was one of the interesting things about Covid and the immediate period is that in that period I probably had to be more autocratic than I am normally, you know, you're in a crisis, you actually got all the time that you want to consult. So there was definitely, during that period me adjusting my style to the environment that I was in. But I think, you know, one of the things that I I sometimes forget is that I'm the CEO, so I'm just Sally and I happen to be the CEO of UK Sport, but when I'm talking to staff or other people and like people say, Oh, you know, you know, or you are important or you are powerful, I'm like, no, I'm just, Sally and I happen to have this role. Everybody's part in this business is, is is really important. I just happen to have the chief exec title and sometimes I kind of forget that what comes with that title is people can be a bit intimidated by that. And I have to remember that they don't necessarily know that I'm just Sally, 

Sue Anstiss

It's just Sally, it's just Sally on the podcast. Fabulous <laugh>. There's been quite a shift in the approach to winning medals at UK sport a move away from that very tough no compromise attitude that rocketed Britain up the medals table in Paralympic and Olympic sport to focus more on the social impact of sport and major events. So why was that decision made? 

Sally Munday 

I'm gonna answer your question in a slightly different place if I may. So I wanna, I wanna kind of bust a bit of the myth about no compromise because I feel that it has many places been misunderstood. And this comes from not actually me being the CEO of, of UK sport, although that is valid. But also my experience of having been a CEO in a governing body on the end of UK sport policy for, for 10 years. No compromise was, in large part around the fact that a lot of the sports that we work with, 50 odd sports that we work with are probably what you would describe as amateur sports. And until, National Lottery came along and the world class programs came along, most of the athletes in that sport were probably holding down jobs and training in the morning or training in the evenings. 

And what you used to hear from the athletes all the time was, it’s of constant compromise. It's constantly having to compromise. I cannot be the best athlete that I wanna be because I've got to go out and earn money. And so the no compromise bit started about trying to equip these athletes and we, we fund almost 1100 athletes to enable them to be able to train full time, to commit full-time to their sport the way professional sports athletes can. 

But the second part of no compromise was about us as a community leaving no stone unturned to enable the best possible programs and preparation to be able to be given to the athletes to enable them to achieve their ambitions, their dreams. And so I think it's important to understand that the, how ‘no compromise’ probably been portrayed is, is perhaps a little bit mis misleading. 

Um, having said that, one of the things that we're very clear on in our new strategy is that we want to keep winning, but our first ambition is about keep winning and win well, and for us, the piece about winning well is about making sure we win with integrity. It's about making sure we have a more diverse team in terms of the athletes that represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but also have a much more diverse back office team. And it's about using the platform that we get from Olympic and Paralympic success and the platform that we get from major events to have a much more positive impact on society. Winning medals is fantastic. We love it. It makes us feel good, it makes us feel proud to be British, you know, who wasn't out celebrating this summer with, with, with all of the success that there's been. And that in itself is valuable and important, but actually sport has got a massive opportunity and a Olympic Paralympic sport and the major events that we sport, it's got a massive opportunity to have a much greater impact than just that medal moment. And that's what we're seeking to do.

Sue Anstiss

And does that mean that there will be a compromise in that where we are the medals table in order to achieve that social purpose and, and change through sport? 

Sally Munday

We absolutely don't believe there needs to be, our ambition is to be consistently top five in the medals table. we think that, that's what we want in terms of we want sort of sustainable success to be consistently successful. And what we're clear on is that actually it's the success and the live events that give us the platform to have the impact on society. And I don't believe that it's, it's either or. 

Sue Anstiss

Excellent. That's good. And you are also funding new sports now away from some of those traditional sports where we saw, you know, real plethora of, of medals for years and years. can I, how's that been received and what's driven those, those changes? And will we see more of those changes moving forward? 

Sally Munday

So again, part of our strategic ambition is to, be able to support, a wider number of sports. And the reason we wanna do that is because different sports attract different people in terms of, participants and, and followership and the Olympic and Paralympic program, the rosters are constantly evolving, and new sports coming on. And we want to give, you know, people the opportunity to represent their nation in the new sports. I mean there, there's, and there's been some really exciting additions, you know, skateboarding and climbing at the last games, surfing, you know, there's, and but, but what's also really interesting is seeing some of the more traditional sports then adapting their formats. I mean, I absolutely loved the relays and the triathlon and the, and the swimming just so exciting and it's, it's brilliant to see actually the Olympic and Paralympic movement keep moving. 

Sue Anstiss

I was gonna ask you a question about government DCMs, but with all that's happening, I'm just gonna move on past that question now.  I'd like to focus a little bit, if I can, on women's sport.  Last year I think we saw Team GB say more women than men to an Olympic games the first time in history. So how much influence the sport UK sport had on, on that change and transition? 

Sally Munday

Well, the interesting thing I think about a lot of Olympic and Paralympic sports is that many of them are, are dual gender and are properly dual gender. And it's one of the things that, I really felt when I was a hockey that I really felt that it was properly a dual gender sport. I won't tell you the number of times that when you got introduced to people as the,  CEO of hockey, the number of times people said to me, Oh, women's hockey, no hockey, oh, men’s and women's hockey. Yeah.  you know, that’s probably another topic, but most of the Olympic and Paralympic sports, a lot of them are, are truly dual gender. And so our commitment to Olympic and Paralympic sport naturally fits in, in that place anyway. But of course, there are some sports who have become dual gender at different times. And I think that we've been very clear for a long time, long before I was at UK Sport about the…that sports have to look not only in terms of gender, but actually we're pushing sports much more now on other areas of diversity as well. Because we are very clear strategically, we want a team that walks out for Team GB and Paralympics GB that is a, a good representative team of the society that  we are. 

Sue Anstiss

Excellent. And if I can move on then to talk about coaching, that's fascinating to hear in terms of athletes, but I saw some stats recently that said, I think it’s only 10% of Olympic and and Paralympic coaches have been female over the past decade. I think it's a global figure. But if we are now beginning to see women competing in equal numbers to men, why those numbers still so low? Cause that is significantly different, isn't it? It's a big question…

Sally Munday

It's a big question. And there's lot of answers.  I mean, we've got some fantastic female role model coaches, Mel Marshall, who coaches Adam Peaty, Paula Dunn, in athletics, really incredible coaches having huge, huge success  and I could name plenty of others across other sports, but percentage wise it still is a lot lower than men. There's so much to unpack in it, but there's probably a couple of things that, that I would comment on. The first is around how do we equip and, enable women through removing barriers to be able to do those type of roles, which quite often head coaches jobs in Olympic and Paralympic programs can mean that you can be away from home 200 nights of the year, traveling all over the world. How do we prepare and equip them to do that? 

And there's probably been quite a high emphasis on that for, for quite a long time. Various programs that we do and other organisations do, which I think is why it's starting, starting to change. But of course it's very easy to say, to say, Well, that's all focused on the women. Actually, probably what we've got to do is focus on the people that are making the appointments, which too often are still men. And I think that we have a real responsibility to really challenge some of the stereotypes that exist in this space. So women are quite often seen in coaching roles as, oh, they're, they're caring, they're empathetic, and almost like those are weaknesses. And if a woman isn't caring and empathetic and she's quite hard-nosed, then she's considered to to be bossy. And there, there are all these stereotypes that sit around women. 

And I was in a really interesting conversation earlier this year with an organization who, were considering two different people for a role, a a man and a woman. And the description that I heard of, Oh, well she's really good, she's got really good soft skills, but I'm not sure that she can make the tough decisions. And I thought, I've just seen this woman operate, she can make the tough decisions. Not only can she make the tough decisions, but because of her soft skills, she's delivered them in such a way that actually it hasn't caused the crisis that this guy that you wanna appoint who is hardnosed and doesn't have the soft skills and will probably make exactly the same hard decisions as her but won't manage them in necessarily the same way. Now there are plenty of men that have got soft skills, but I think, I really think that we've got to change some of these stereotypes and we've gotta talk about them openly. 

But then when it comes to the appointments into these roles, we've gotta make sure that we are being really clear about what are the skills that are needed. Because yes, you need to be capable of making tough decisions. You know, our Olympic and Paralympic coaches, like every sport, have gotta look athletes in the eye and say, No, you're not selected. I know you dreamt of going to an Olympic games, but you're not going. And that is really, really tough to do when somebody has put everything in their life into doing that, but to doing it in a way that actually is caring and empathetic to the person that's receiving that information. So you yeah, I mean, you can tell, can't you by, this is the topic that I feel I feel quite passionately about. 

Sue Anstiss

What can UK sport do in that process to make those changes? “Cause obviously you’re funding, those NGBs and other organisations, but, in terms of helping shift that ecosystem to, to change the selection process, the way in which coaches work and so on?

Sally Munday

So there's obviously various programs that we are doing on the first part of what I said to support women, to help women equip. The other thing that we do is actually with, all of the sports that we fund, it's written into their grant funding agreement that on their senior appointments for performance directors and coaches, we have to be involved in the the development of what that job is. And we are normally part of the selection process. We've got, actually in our team, in our senior team, we've actually got quite a high proportion of females. So when we are using our team to go and sit on interview panels, you know, I I've been involved in a number of interview panels with sports for CEO roles over the last 12, 18 months. I have on a number of occasions been the only female there and the rest of their panel is male.  but I've also been on panels where actually the sports have done a fantastic job of bringing a really diverse panel to to, to make those decisions. And I think we just gotta keep talking about it. I think most of the sports that we work with, want to do it. I don't think it's a reluctance. I think it's just about us helping them and enabling them to do it. 

Sue Anstiss

And are things changing? Are you confident that things, I mean when we get to gender parity and 50 50, but you think things are shifting in the right place? 

Sally Munday

Well, you, you talked about the number of athletes going,  in terms of sort of leadership in organisations. We have now 44%, I think at the last count of board positions in the sports that we fund that are now are now women. We've still got, I think, quite a long way to go in, CEOs and chairs. And I think that's something that we need to keep pushing that there are a number of us that are females and you know, I have a female chair as well and Dame Katherine Grainger,  but it's something that,  I definitely think there needs to be more of. 

Sue Anstiss

And in terms of that next level down of the, you mentioned that the CEO, the chair, but then at that executive level, obviously you've done an amazing job. So the code for sports governance,  yourselves and Sport England by funding and changing those decisions around funding based on people, having better gender balance on their boards. But as we move into that level of senior managers, is that something that you track or, or can you anecdotally reflect on any changes there? 

Sally Munday

I think we're, we are an anecdotally we're, we're seeing changes, but actually a big part of our and Sport England's agenda around diversity isn't just about gender, it's a much broader picture around, um, about having more diversity around the board table and in and throughout organisations, because evidence suggests when you look at research around things like, FTSE companies that better,  balanced,  boards, better balanced organisations are more successful. And, and that is about bringing diversity of thought. It's not to tick a box, it's cause people from different backgrounds, different experiences will bring different thought and different challenge. And that ultimately in my view makes for better decisions. 

Sue Anstiss

And looking beyond the sports that you directly fund to professional sports, so football, cricket, rugby, et cetera, we do see very little gender parity on the boards and the senior managements where that's clubs, leagues, federations and so on. And it's not down to you, but how do we shift that? What are your thoughts on how we make those changes? 

Sally Munday (25:07):

We, At UK Sport, we are, we're really open to collaborating with the professional sports. And actually we work with a number of the professional sports in the major event space. So whilst we don't fund them for Olympic and Paralympic,  activity, we do work very closely with them on the bidding and hosting of major events. And I think there is a huge way to go, brilliant to see female chair of the FA, it will be interesting to see how that changes football. But there are some sports you look at and you think actually you, you really need some more gender balance and that will probably positively impact on, on decision making. But there are some really good people in professional sports. You know, we we're sat in the home of Rugby,  Sue Day who works for, the RFU absolutely, absolutely brilliant in their executive team. There, there are lo loads of good examples. There's just not enough of them. 

Sue Anstiss

And how do we change that if people aren't in…And it's fantastic. You're right. You've got those relationships. So, rugby, you know, World Cup 2025, you're part of that bidding process. But we look at the world rugby…. is Ali Donnelley here? I thought I saw Ali here… 

Sally Munday 

Yeah, she is…

Sue Anstiss

Is it more, more men called Brett than women on their executive board? So it's almost so how do we, we can talk about it and we know it needs to change, but, you know, I guess have you thoughts on what more can be done when there isn't that the power of, of the commercial, uh, funds to change hearts and minds? 

Sally Munday (26:33):

I think we've got a really good opportunity in this country in the next four years. We're hosting the international working group for Women in sport. This is a massive global, movement around the world, around women in sport. And we in the UK are hosting that for the next four years. We take the baton on from, New Zealand and the opportunity that we've got through that to, talk about why this is important and to spotlight where better diversity is having more positive impact in terms of results and outcomes. I think that's a great opportunity for us. And I think we've gotta grasp that. And anybody that hasn't heard of the international working group in women's sport, I think, you know, it's something that is really worth going and looking and getting involved with. There is a massive opportunity to join the dots between commercial organizations, professional sport and Olympic and Paralympic sport in that space. 

Sue Anstiss

Excellent. And almost leading the way and showing what can be done too. And you mentioned some, we talked about major events and some people might not realize the role that UK sport plays in bidding for and then helping to run those, major sports events in the UK. So you tell us a little bit about where that sits within your, your remit. 

Sally Munday 

So it's an important part of what we are trying to do. Our, our mission at UK Sport is to create the greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments. Some of those extraordinary moments are, are, are clearly about the games, but a lot of it for us is also about giving people the opportunity to watch live sport. So we work with, governing bodies who are bidding to host major events and it's been a massive part of our work for a long time since 2011. Uh, we have supported through the national lottery and investment over 130 events, in this country. We worked with, with rugby on the Women's World Cup bid. We worked with football on the, the women's football. We're working with the football organisations at the moment on Euro 28 bid, but also a lot of the Olympic and Paralympic sports, whether it be the hockey World Cup, this autumn, we've got Rugby League World Cup, we've got Triathlon World Series, we've got the World Gymnastics Championships. So we have a team of incredible experts at UK Sport who really understand the international landscape, understand the bidding process and the bidding landscape. And we support and work directly with the sports, both in terms of our expertise, but also in providing funding through the national lottery to support bringing those bid those bids and, and those events to this country. 

Sue Anstiss

We saw the incredible impact of the Lionessess, which you’ve alluded to this summer, and it had an impact for us all. But I wonder from a UK sport perspective, how do you track and measure what that success looks like? What are you looking for in terms of the returns on an event like that? 

Sally Munday

Well, we do, two things that are probably really relevant. One is we do a very regular public attitudes survey, which is constantly rolling to understand public attitudes. Most of that is around public attitudes towards Olympic and Paralympic sport. So we can very much see when we host events, what impact does that have on public attitudes towards Olympic and Paralympic sport. But then with every event that we support, we do, a huge impact survey around understanding what its economic impact has been, what its impact has been on the local community, et cetera, et cetera. And, what we are very clear on when we talk to sports, when they're in the early stages of thinking of hosting an event is what is the impact that they want to get out of it?  And so that we are really clear at the outset what the opportunity is in the lead up to during and, and post the event. 

Sue Anstiss

And in terms of Euros, what do you hope that impact might be, the women's Euros in terms of, women’s sport, but more broadly in societies? You, I know we are not long after, but what are your thoughts on? 

Sally Munday 

Well, it feels to me like it's really helping to change the conversation and, during the Euros itself, I, I'll, I'll give you a personal example. Close friends, quite traditional family, mom and dad, 14 year old daughter, 12 year old son, 12 year old son plays football. They like their sport in the family. Everything's about the boy and all about his football, despite the fact the 14 year old does sport, it's all whole life is is revolved around him and his football. And when the women's EUROs were starting, I, I asked him and his dad, Are you, you gonna watch it? And there was a bit kind, you know, not really bothered.  And then of course it, it started to get some profile and he was going into school and some of his mates were talking about,  Beth Mead or, you know, certain goals that had been scored. 

And so he started to talk about it. And what I saw in the course of like three or four weeks in that family was a conversation change from being, ‘nah, not really interested in this women's sport’ to ‘actually, this is really good sport.’ And that family I would describe as there's dad's slightly misogynistic, I would say <laugh>.  and it definitely has changed some of the conversation in that household. So there was an impact on sport, but there was then a wider impact on society of these things. And one of the things that I really loved, and I've had the privilege of going to the final at Wembley, I went to a few of the games, but I got to Wembley really early and I just wanted to stand on Wembley way and just see what it felt like. And the best thing for me about standing on Wembley Way was seeing the number of young boys in football shirts with women's names on the back. And that to me says quite a lot. So we've gotta use these moments. I, I think that there are massive opportunities with the other events that, that we've got coming up and we've just gotta use those platforms to keep talking about how good this sport is. Not women's sport, but this sport. It's good sport. And it was, it was bloody brilliant sport. 

Sue Anstiss

Nice little lead in there from your misogynistic, slightly friend, but national women's teams in,  sports teams in in England and in Great Britain have had extraordinary success in recent years so that's hockey, cricket, uh, netball, rugby, football, whether in, Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth goals, worlds and Europeans. But there's still a small tranche of society that considers women's sport as somehow less than men’s. So how does that make you feel, Sally <laugh>? 

Sally Munday 

You're very generous in your question, aren't you? There's still a small tranche….

Sue Anstiss

I actually had, there's a large tranche and then on the way here, I was running through my questions… should I say there's a significant tranche or there's a small tranche or I've just… 

Sally Munday 

There is a tranche isn’t there?

Sue Anstiss:

There’s those people…

 

Sally Munday

So one of the things that surprised me when I left hockey and came into this role,  was that I really felt hockey was dual gender. I, you know, I, I know I mentioned earlier about people used to ask me, you know, was it women's hockey? But they weren't people in hockey that asked me that,  was people outside of the sport. Hockey always felt truly, truly dual gender to me. And the way that we viewed it was, was very dual gender. What I have found myself quite surprised by now working across professional sports and Olympic and Paralympic sports is just how much everyday misogyny actually exists. Cause I wasn't used to it in hockey. And that actually has been quite a surprise to me. So when you ask the question about sort of things like women's sport and people not valuing it, how does it make me feel? 

It makes me feel bored.  It makes me feel frustrated and we just, we've gotta stop saying thank you to people for being interested in women's sport. We've got to stop saying thank you to the media and the broadcasters for showing it. Oh, thank you for the crumbs. Thank you for giving us a little bit of air time. Well, thank you for giving us a bit of sponsorship. These are incredible athletes who are playing incredible sport and who can't help but get wrapped up in it all. It is fantastic sport and I think that we, and I know I have a responsibility in the job that I have to just stop apologizing, stop saying thank you for the tidbits that we get. And I genuinely believe that we are on the cusp with women's sport. And I think there are a number of sports that you've mentioned, hockey, rugby, cricket, athletics, loads of sports who have been doing amazing stuff in this space for quite a long time. We've now gotta really make sure that just becomes mainstream 

Sue Anstiss

Here, here! You mentioned earlier, you've always had a very collaborative leadership style and I think it's fair to say we've seen a real shift in the collaboration across those key British sports organisations in recent years. I don’t know whether you've sense sensed that, you've seen that too, and, and if you think that that matters?

Sally Munday 

Well, given a lot of my pitch to get this job was based on that <laugh>, then yeah, I do, I do, I do think it, I do think it matters. I really felt at the time that what particularly Olympic and Paralympic sport was crying out for, but also the wider sports sector was crying out for collaboration. Now does that mean that all organisations are always gonna agree with each other? But I work incredibly hard to instill in our team at UK Sport the value and importance of collaboration. The challenge that we have is that, you know, we're a grant giver. We, we, you know, we distribute over half a billion pounds worth of money in an in, in an Olympic and Paralympic cycle, and with that comes things that mean that people have got to, to adhere to responsibilities of having public money. And sometimes that can't, doesn't always feel collaborative, but I feel that there is a real importance to collaboration, not only with the organisations we fund, but with the organizations like ourselves, the other sports councils. That's really important. Our work with the British Olympic and British Paralympic Association, the Institutes of sport. But uh, but wider than that, I just feel that their, the sum of lots of parts is so much, is so much greater. 

Sue Anstiss

Yeah. I mean it obviously makes, makes sense from that approach side. Are you, have you found it easier than you thought in terms of building that collaboration across the sports bodies from where you've been in the past in England hockey? 

Sally Munday

I didn't find it especially hard before, but I was doing it in a much more narrow way. I've certainly found open doors when I've, I've gone and pushed them, we have a, a very, very specific role at UK Sport. Our, our role is about Olympic and Paralympic sport and it's about major and mega events that, you know, we, we are, we are quite narrow in what we are doing, but of course what we are doing creates the platform that has an influence on so much else that goes, goes on in sport. So you go and wanna have the conversation with Tim Hollingsworth at Sport England, you know, I go and push on the door and he'll just whoa, open it wide. And in we step and we are doing a lot of stuff together. We did a huge piece of work with all five sports councils on tackling racism and racial inequality in sport. We're still working on that now. There is a whole load that we think we can do together that will have a greater impact on, on sport and a greater impact on, on British society. 

Sue Anstiss

Yeah, it's very positive, positive to see.  I'd like to move on, if I can just talk a bit about safeguarding. There's a, obviously a huge issue in sport, particularly for young women and much of that was highlighted in the recent White review, which UK sport commissioned in 2020 with, with Sport England after numerous gymnasts spoke out bullying and abuse. So what do you feel are the biggest changes that still need to happen across sport today? 

Sally Munday 

Well, the first thing that, that we've done with Sport England, we, we co-commissioned the, the white report and we weren't sure if we would get to the White report being published and then there'd be clear set of work for Sport England to do a clear set of work for us to do and, and British gymnastics. But what we realized very quickly was that actually there's so much that overlaps and there is some very specific stuff in the White review that, is about elite sport, but there is a whole load that is about much wider sport. And we are working with Sport England in a collaborative way, uh, around what are the big shifts that that need to be made. And of course we're working very closely with British gymnastics specifically about that sport, but there are things that really big topics that the white review suggests we need to open up and discuss. 

So we're in the process of working out kind of what are the really, what are the most important things that have come out of that that we need to address, collectively. I think that, one of the things that I would say is that my experience and our experience at UK Sport is that the vast majority of, people that are involved in the programs that we fund have a, have a positive experience. But we're also very clear that that one case of abuse is, is one too many. And this is where the balance of winning and winning well is really important. We're very clear, we wanna keep winning, but we also know that not every athlete will leave a program having necessarily achieved what they wanted to achieve. But what we want is for every athlete in the programs that we support, to be able to look back and for the most part feel pretty positively about their time in a program that we've supported and making sure that we do things right and that the sports do things right is really, really important. And at the heart of that ambition 

Sue Anstiss

There was talk, I, I guess we, you've almost answered the question about that whole no compromise approach of sport, but perhaps it may have exacerbated that drive for medals at all costs. I wonder whether you feel there is a realistically possible to have a place where you can combine sort of nurturing, caring environment where we really look after the welfare of the athlete with, that drive to produce medals and results, especially with young people too. 

Sally Munday 

I don't believe it's either or, we're very clear on that it is not either / or. You do not need to have a poor environment, a poor culture to win medals. I I would counter the opposite from my own experience. You know, we have an Olympic gold medalist from the 2016 hockey team sat in this room. Their culture, in my opinion, is a big part of what contributed to, to their success. Can you win without winning well? Yes you can. That's been proven. We're very clear that it isn't either / or. The other thing that I think is really important to say is that Olympic and Paralympic athletes are exceptional human beings. They nearly always will arrive in a program with their own drive and determination and motivation and desire to become an Olympic or Paralympic champion. 

They're not generally these meek, mild individuals that arrive and then it gets foisted on them, Oh, we we're gonna force you into being a champion. These are highly driven people who are trying to become the best in the world at what they do. And to become the best in the world at anything is not gonna be easy. It's gonna be hard, it's gonna be tough. But the really important thing is that we make sure that people understand what it will take. And we also make sure that they are supported and we wrap the right things around them. So, you know, did I see athletes, you know, crawling off the hockey pitch after a fitness session looking like they might never want to return? Yeah. 10 minutes later, big smile on their face. Yes, we've, we've, we've taken another step forward cause we know we're gonna be the fittest team at the Olympic Games. 

There is a drive about these people and actually part of sometimes what we've got to do is make sure that we are protecting them from sometimes their own drive. But that doesn't take away at all from the fact that if there has been abuse, we have to stamp it out. And as a community, we have to make it very clear. I, like I said to you, I, I was 10 years a CEO at hockey. 10 years we received money from UK sport. Never once during that time did I feel like we were being given money to win medals at all cost. And if I had ever felt that, I can tell you frankly what I would've told UK Sport to do with their money. However, what I also accept is that because most of the sports that we fund, without our funding, as I said earlier, athletes wouldn't be able to train full time. They wouldn't be able to have the programs they've got, They wouldn't be able to afford to enter some of the competitions that they get to enter to qualify for the Olympic and Paralympic games. I understand that actually this sense of, well, cash does come for athletes that have got potential. It's almost part of the equation because most of these sports are without our money, amateur sports that couldn't afford to support athletes to be full-time athletes. 

Sue Anstiss

So do you feel confident that it's, I guess will we see more crystal ball to see more these stories coming out in the future? Do you feel that sports in Britain is in a better, much better place than it was say five years ago? 

Sally Munday 

I think where we're in a really better place is that stuff like this is being aired. We, like every other industry in this country will have this stuff going on. You go look at the NHS, you go look at the military, you go and look in commercial organisations. It exists, it exists in human beings. Our job as a community is to make it really hard for it to exist for people that wanna behave in an appropriate way to call out unacceptable behavior. And I think what has really changed over the last five or so years is people's confidence to call out unacceptable behavior. We have recently this year, started a pilot Sport Integrity. And that is an independent disclosure place being run by Sports Resolutions, to enable athletes or staff to go and disclose and it deals with a independent complaints process. So if an athlete feels like they can't disclose in their own sport and, and many will, and they'll get their issues dealt with very, very effectively. So for all the bad stories we, we hear in the, in the media, there are plenty of stories where governing bodies have done a really, really good job of dealing with issues that have come up. But port integrity will allow athletes and staff who don't feel it can be dealt with. You know, that there's a conflict perhaps in their own organization to go and go and have it dealt with independently. And we're, we are, we are piloting that for the next few years. 

Sue Anstiss

We've heard lots more talk recently around gender disparity in sports science and research and the application of that, and obviously you are, the only funder, EIS is funded by you is it, and then entity. So I guess what role do you feel you can play there as UK sport in, in terms of, changing that in the future? 

Sally Munday 

So the Institutes of Sport are that they play such an important role in the sort of team behind the team that supports athletes. So providing everything from physiotherapy and medics to nutrition to performance lifestyle advisors who are working with the athletes about what might they do post their, their athletic career. And, I think the same applies to the, English Institute of Sport as applies to all the other organisations we fund whilst they're slightly different because they're actually a wholly owned subsidiary of UK Sport. But the same drive for diversity around their leadership team, around their board, and around their, their appointments. And again, wanting to see more and more women in roles that aren't necessarily the roles where you would traditionally expect to see women. Traditionally, people expect to see women in the nutrition roles and in the physiotherapy roles and actually, seeing more women, and you are definitely seeing more of it now in roles that have been more traditionally held by men,  strength and conditioning, the medics and the doctor's roles.. And the Institute of Sport is doing a fantastic job of bringing more women through that. 

Sue Anstiss

Fantastic. That's good to hear. And, and I guess it's almost where that science and that that's down to them in terms of where they put that effort and focus in the future in terms of, that gender balance too. I'd like to finish finally really just to comment and we've obviously seen enormous progress for Women's Sport in the past decade, but there's still much more to do as you've alluded to. So what do you feel are the real priority areas for accelerating that change moving forwards? 

Sally Munday

Well, what I really hope I really hope that in 10 years time we're not even having these conversations. But I think, I think the acceleration needs to come by carrying on, having these conversations and us being prepared and, you know, we're at a leader's conference here, so everyone here is a leader and everybody, whether they're male or female, has a responsibility and a part to play in this. And we, I think all have a responsibility, whatever our role to keep talking about how diversity actually leads to better decision making, it leads to better outcomes. We all have a responsibility to challenge misogyny when it happens. We all have a responsibility to make sure that interview panels are more diverse so that we have more diverse people looking for more diversity in appointments. And as I said earlier, I think we've got an amazing opportunity in this country hosting the International working group for women in the next four years.  It'll put a spotlight on what we do. It will encourage people who perhaps haven't previously engaged in this conversation to engage in this conversation. And we really need the decision makers in broadcast, in commercial companies in the media to actually come and, and play, play their part. And we're seeing it grow.  I think we're gonna see it really, really accelerate over the next five years. So I'm, I'm, I'm optimistic,  but I'm also realistic about actually it feels like we are on the cusp, but we are not yet over the hump. We've still got a long way to go and that is incumbent on all of us who have leadership roles to make the change. 

 

Sue Anstiss:

What an honour to talk to Sally again for a second time. I had such positive feedback from the audience attending who loved her openness and her honesty, authentic collaborative leadership in action for sure. 

If you'd like to hear from other women driving change across sport, do visit fearlesswomen.co.uk where there are details of all of my guests from this and the previous series. You can also listen to all the podcasts on the website and find out more about The Collective,  a network for all women working in sport. You can sign up for the Fearless Women Newsletter, which highlights the developments in women's sport, and there's more about my book Game On, the unstoppable rise of women's sport. 

Thanks again to Sport England for backing the Game Changers through the National Lottery and to our production team at What Goes On Media, including our rather brilliant executive producer, Sam Walker. 

Finally, thanks to my fantastic colleague Kate Hannon at Fearless Women do come and say hello on social media, where you'll find me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram @sueanstiss. And if you have a couple of minutes, it would be great if you could rate or review the podcast as it really makes a big difference in helping us to reach new audiences. 

The Game Changers, fearless women in sport.