June 23, 2021 – The board at British Gymnastics, with help from senior leaders from Sport England, UK Sport, and London-based executive recruiting firm SRI, has appointed Sarah Powell as its new chief executive officer. “The caliber of applicants for this position was outstanding and we are delighted to appoint Sarah, who is a successful executive leader with 20 years’ experience in the sports industry,” said Mike Darcey, chair of British Gymnastics. Ms. Powell, the current CEO at Sport Wales, will join the executive team at British Gymnastics on Oct. 4. Jane Allen, who held the top role with British Gymnastics for more than 10 years, retired in December. Alastair Marks was appointed interim CEO in January. He will remain on the board at British Gymnastics once Ms. Powell arrives and assist her as she takes responsibility for the organization’s strategy, direction, and leadership.
“Bringing someone new into the organization from outside of gymnastics will add a new dimension to our leadership team,” said Mr. Darcey. “Sarah has worked with a number of organizations at board level that have needed to evolve and modernize as well as championing equality, diversity, and inclusivity across all levels of sport. Sarah’s experience extends far beyond her well documented skills as an administrator. As a former international athlete and coach, Sarah has been involved in sport in many different ways and these experiences will, I’ve no doubt, help shape and define a new era for gymnastics in the U.K.”
Ms. Powell is a former Welsh hockey captain and went to the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. She dedicated 10 years to playing at senior level before retiring from international competition to coach the Welsh under-18 hockey team. Also a former secondary school teacher, Ms. Powell joined Sport Wales and was high performance director between 2008 and 2010. She became corporate director of Sport Wales in 2010 and then, in 2013, became the first female CEO of Sport Wales.
Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of Sport England, described Ms. Powell as a highly respected and experienced leader in both the grassroots and the high-performance areas of sport. “Her communication and engagement skills, combined with high personal integrity and strong values, will be essential qualities in this role, particularly as British Gymnastics seeks to drive positive change and embed the recommendations of the Whyte Review.”
Ms. Powell spoke of gymnastics as having a unique ability to introduce millions of young people to skills that can positively influence the rest of their lives, whether they stay within the sport or not. “Now, more than ever before, with increasing levels of inactivity we need to prioritize creating opportunities for people to have fun and experience all that the sport has to offer,” she said. “That is why I’m incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to lead British Gymnastics.”
“There are well-publicized challenges facing the sport at the moment and I am under no illusions about the scale of change needed to create a culture where gymnasts, parents, coaches, supporters and the many other stakeholders who really care about the sport, know that their views, experiences and ideas really matter to British Gymnastics,” she said. “I am committed to listening to and working with the wider gymnastics community to better understand how we can all work together to create an environment where gymnastics is a fun and enjoyable experience for all ages and abilities.”
SRI is a global executive search and consulting firm focused on the sport, esports, media and entertainment, fashion, and sporting goods industries. The firm’s services include executive search, emerging leaders search, hiring strategy, board assessment, succession planning, salary benchmarking, new market entry consulting and multi-vacancy projects.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media