Wales politics

Sport Wales top figures suspended but rest of board re-instated

Rebecca Evans
Image caption Rebecca Evans said it had been "an extremely difficult period for all"

The chair and vice-chair of Sport Wales have been suspended, Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans has told AMs.

The activities of the body's entire board, including chair Paul Thomas and vice-chair Adele Baumgardt, were suspended in November after concerns that it had become dysfunctional.

On Tuesday, Ms Evans announced that the rest of the board would be re-instated.

She said that a review by ministers had revealed a "significant breakdown" in relations at a senior level.

Sport Wales, originally called the Sports Council for Wales, was created in 1972 to promote elite and grassroots sport.

The minister also said that a number of new complaints had been received about the Sport Wales board after the review was completed.

In a statement, Ms Evans said: "I do want to make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that the conclusions are principally related to a significant breakdown of some interpersonal relationships at a senior level within Sport Wales.

"There are some outstanding issues to be addressed as a result of the assurance review process.

"In addition, a number of formal complaints have been received by the Welsh Government subsequent to the review being finalised."

Image copyright Welsh Government
Image caption A leaked review by chairman Paul Thomas said Sport Wales was in "danger of stagnating"

She said Mr Thomas had been suspended for a "proper and formal process to be undertaken as a result of the complaints received".

She also said Ms Baumgardt had been suspended due to separate concerns about the "cohesive functioning of the board".

Lawrence Conway, a former private secretary to Rhodri Morgan when he was first minister, has been appointed as interim chair.

John Taylor, a former chief executive of conciliation service ACAS, will act as a consultant so that the board can begin functioning again, including setting the budget for 2017-18.

Ms Evans ordered the review of Sport Wales after board members had passed a vote of no-confidence in Mr Thomas as chairman.

Mr Thomas, who has been in the role less than a year, had written a damning internal review into the organisation, which receives £22m a year in public funding.

He said the organisation lacked transparency, was too bureaucratic and focused too much on winning medals in major championships.

He was also unhappy at the £140,000 bill for running the board in the 2015-16 financial year, although board pay is set by the Welsh Government.

In addition to the chair and vice-chair, the other Sport Wales board members are:

  • Professor John Baylis
  • Amanda Bennett
  • Peter King
  • Julia Longville
  • Andrew Lycett
  • Richard Parks
  • Simon Pirotte
  • Johanna Sheppard
  • Samar Wafa

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Media caption'Lid lifted' on Sport Wales, reports Nick Servini

Analysis by BBC Wales political editor Nick Servini

It is difficult to see where this goes now. Even Rebecca Evans is reluctant to give a date for matters to be resolved.

And even in the context of the dry language used in a ministerial statement at the Senedd, it is obvious to all that there has been a dramatic breakdown in relations at the top of this organisation.

Away from the personalities, there is an unresolved policy difference as well.

Paul Thomas wrote a highly critical internal review of Sport Wales, and it is unclear whether the Welsh Government agree with the findings.

An independent review will be competed in the coming weeks and it will be interesting to see whether ministers back Mr Thomas's judgement.

In the meantime, the re-instatement of the board under an interim chair does at least mean that Sport Wales can get on with the job of planning the distribution of funds in the next financial year.

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