Sport NI: Public body receives no confidence vote from its own staff

Sport Northern Ireland
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Sport NI has been given a vote of no confidence from its own staff during an ongoing restructuring at the public body.

The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA), which represents around three-quarters of staff at Sport NI, proposed a vote of no confidence in "the overall need and process for the ongoing restructuring of Sport NI".

The ballot of union members was in response to a restructuring plan being drawn up by senior management.

An overwhelming majority of members voting (93%) have expressed no confidence in the overall need for the restructuring review, with 100% backing a vote for no confidence in the ongoing process.

NIPSA doubts rationale for restructuring

In documents seen by BBC Sport, NIPSA has questioned the rationale for the current restructuring and its ability to deliver on current Sport NI strategy, saying "this is taking place in a policy vacuum at the Sport and Physical Activity Strategy [and] has not yet been agreed.

"As such there is no confidence that the restructuring will actually meet the needs of the strategy."

It also asks why, when one of the rationales for the restructuring was that the organisation was 'management heavy', Sport NI "has ended up with more senior management with relevant and associated costs".

As an Arms-Length Body, the ongoing structural changes have been approved by the Department for Communities and a Sport NI spokesman said: "This process has been underway for a considerable period of time, and all staff have been consulted extensively at each stage and throughout.

"This has been via written feedback, positive engagement with trade unions, open forum meetings, and written responses. These have been listened to, with many changes made as a result of positive consultation," continued the Sport NI spokesman.

"Transformation and restructuring are also discussed at the chief executive's fortnightly briefing to all staff, with most sessions attended by over two thirds of staff and comments and questions on the restructuring are encouraged, welcomed and responded to in open forum.

"We have committed to minimising the impact on staff to a very significant extent, including a commitment to no compulsory redundancies and minimal financial impact on staff.

"We enjoy a positive and constructive relationship with the trade union so if staff have concerns, we will continue to listen to them, and we will continue to reach out to representatives to understand these."

Michael Boyd resigned from his Sport NI Director of Sport role after just 15 weeks in the post to take a position with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
Michael Boyd stepped down as Sport NI's Director of Sport after just 15 weeks in the post

Boyd left Sport NI role after 15 weeks

The NIPSA ballot follows the recent confirmation that Director of Sport Michael Boyd has left the role after just 15 weeks in the post.

Boyd was appointed in February, joining from the IFA on April 7th - but resigned effectively on 15 July. He has since taken up a position with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

"Sport NI can confirm that our recently appointed Director of Sport has decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere, and we wish him every success in doing so", added a Sport NI spokesperson.

"The Director of Sport is a significant role, and we look forward to re-opening this opportunity to seek a strategic thinker and best-fit candidate in the coming months."

Boyd's appointment had been one of four key new management positions within a body that was looking to move on from a recent troubled history of staffing issues and resignations.

Last year, a report by the National Audit Office laid bare a turbulent four-year period from 2014 to 2018 which had seen the CEO Antoinette McKeown suspended, dismissed and then reinstated - as well as the resignation of the chairman, vice-chairman and nine board members.

That report, entitled 'Governance Issues in Sport Northern Ireland', detailed "fundamental failings in the governances of Sport NI over a sustained period - failings which are estimated to have cost £1.5m and diverted Sport NI from focusing on the furtherance of sport and physical recreation."

The Sports Minister Deirdre Hargey has previously warned of the need for Sport NI to avoid the distraction of any further internal problems.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: "The Department continues to work with the Board and the Executive Team at Sport NI to ensure that it operates within an appropriate governance framework and continues to deliver positive outcomes for sport. It would not be appropriate for the Department to comment on internal staffing matters."

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