Welsh sport minister makes board warning over lack of representation

Alun Cairns
Alun Cairns became Secretary of State for Wales on 19 March, 2016, replacing Stephen Crabb who became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Welsh Sport minister Dafydd Elis-Thomas has warned that the absence of Welsh representation on the board of UK Sport is "detrimental" to sport in Wales.

Lord Elis-Thomas has repeatedly called on the Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns to approve the nomination of Sport Wales Chair Lawrence Conway to the UK Sport board.

Mr Cairns must confirm any appointment.

Wales has not had official representation at a UK Sport board meeting since September, 2016.

BBC Sport Wales has obtained emails between Welsh ministers and the UK ministers which reveal that Mr Cairns previously put forward his own nominee to represent Wales on the board of UK Sport.

It is understood that Mr Cairns withdrew his nomination and the situation appears deadlocked.

Sources within the Wales Office have suggested that Mr Cairns has explored various ways that Wales can guarantee it has representation on the board of UK Sport and ensure that Wales has a "strong and credible" voice on the board.

In a letter from Lord Elis-Thomas to Mr Cairns sent in February, 2019 he describes the situation as "totally unacceptable" and says it is "compromising the ability and role of UK Sport to act on behalf of the UK as a whole".

In a statement UK Sport told BBC Sport Wales: "It is of great importance to us to have a nominee from all four of the home country sports councils on our Board as soon as possible.

"Whilst the appointment is a matter for the UK and Welsh Governments to resolve, in the meantime we have been ensuring regular and proactive engagement with Sport Wales in our work at a Chair and Executive level.

"We will continue do everything we can to support a resolution to this matter."

Former Sport Wales chair Paul Thomas was suspended along with fellow board members in November 2016 before he was sacked in March 2017.

He was replaced on an interim basis by Mr Conway in September, 2017 before Mr Conway was confirmed in the post in June, 2018.

Mr Conway was previously a senior civil servant who worked closely with former Labour First Minister Rhodri Morgan from 1999 until Mr Conway's retirement in 2010.

After leaving the civil service he worked as a special advisor to Mr Morgan's successor Carwyn Jones.

The Chief Executive of Sport Wales, Sarah Powell said: "It's really important to Sport Wales that we have representation on the Board of UK Sport so that we can provide insight and guidance on the future direction of elite sport across the UK."

A UK government spokesperson said: "Appointments to this position are made in line with UK Sport's Royal Charter. It requires the Secretary of State for Wales to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Welsh Secretary continues to give this matter consideration."