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Good governance: Interview with Saska Benedicic Tomat



Saska Benedicic Tomat, Good Governance in Grassroots Sports (GGGS) Project manager, shares with us her vision and expectations for the project.


Get ready to think again! Self-reflection and open-mindedness are indeed essential for leaders to be able to think and develop good governance strategies.




1. “Good governance” is a key issue in discussions when it comes to politics and financing. So questioning its impact on sport is not something to be surprised about, even though focusing on grassroots sports is not something normally done. Can you let us know how the GGGS project came about?

SBT: “Funded by the European Commission Sport Unit ( under the 2011 Preparatory action in Sport projects), the Good Governance of Grassroots Sport (GGGS) project was set up in December 2011, with the aim of providing support and guidance to leaders of grassroots sport organisations.

If the principles of good governance (transparency, democracy, accountability, responsibility, cooperation, representativeness and ethics) are to be well known, we have to keep in mind that Good Governance is first and foremost the process according to which organisations are led and managed. They influence how the objectives of the organisation are set and achieved, how members as well as stakeholders are involved in operations and give them a vehicle to address concerns. It also includes issues about how we can optimise the “procedures” for making decisions and how to manage performance monitoring, including risk monitoring and assessment.

ISCA and its members are aware of and respect the various different levels of organisational capacity and of external obligations. We know that we need to protect the “sport market” and the political interests that are primarily a challenge for organisations which are heavily dependent on public financial support. The sports sector is diverse and includes a number of different types of organisations as well as a number of differently sized organisations. The size of an organisation as well as its cultural and historical background clearly define and influence the structures of good governance.

With this project, we want to empower members of grassroots sport organisations who bear the important responsibility to govern their organisations and deliver on their objectives in a way that enhances public trust and support. With the Good Governance in Grassroots Sport (GGGS) project, organisations and partners came together to respond to the challenges of good governance while at the same time recognising the uniqueness of the sport sector. We know that with the enthusiasm, commitment and skills in the sector we can continue to improve governance in grassroots sport organisations and so contribute to making our sector the envy of the world.”



2.How do you plan to address all the dimensions related to good governance throughout the project?

SBT: “Following the project kick-off meeting and a focus workshop with partners, a specialised working group worked to develop a framework which supported the collective understanding of good governance. The framework falls into three themes:




These are all related to the GGGS principles defined by the project partners: Inclusiveness in the representation of interested stakeholders, Democracy ,  Accountability and Transparency in grassroots sport organisations.

During the project period we will identify practices and challenges in grassroots organisations' everyday work which are related to governance, we will identify the governance landscape, work on Desk research and on a collection of good examples. We want to know what the rules and expectations in good governanceare, collecte mistakes and failures in governance we know of and find out what kind of dilemmas we have in our organisations. ISCA and its project partners have taken a balanced view by exploring and engaging across states and sectors to define how we can we create ‘a way of governing for the sector by the sector’.”



3. One of the project partners said that “Good governance is about how we play the game, not which games we are playing”. If so, then good governance should only be about defining and respecting the rules of the game. To your mind what should these rules be and to what extent can we expect to define principles and recommendations that will be suitable for all?

SBT: “We do not want to define one single model of good governance. We don’t want to define rules as we don’t believe in ‘one size fits all’.

We want to share and exchange knowledge about existing governance practices in grassroots sport. It is our priority to ensure that grassroots sport organisations have a shared understanding of what good governance means and that they can give each other mutual support. We also identified a need to establish good governance guidelines and, some kind of check list or quality assurance scheme.

To provide an answer to this need, the GGGS project will also deliver a self-assessment tool as a self-regulatory tool.  It has a checklist format, but is not appropriate or possible for an outside organisation to use the tool to audit performance since compliance with the tool will be measured by the organisation itself. It will help leaders to think about how they govern, manage and control organisations. It is designed to help organisations to 1) illustrate a commitment to good governance, 2) achieve sustainable development (by encouraging the development of systems and processes that do not rely on individual’s knowledge which can be easily lost) and 3) develop their strategy and leadership (based on good examples from and consultation with the owners of those good examples).”



4. Thinking about the future, who should be responsible for ensuring that the rules of the games be respected and what could be the EU’s added value in this respect?

SBT: “I would rather say ‘who should be responsible for good governance in the sport sector and for setting recommendations for good governance’. The answer is for me very clear: leaders of grassroots sport organisations themselves.

It is important that legislators and regulators do not start to battle with organisations to control the sport sector. Grassroots sport organisations’ leaders have to preserve the integrity and independence of their sector. They can do only that if they have the right skills and tools. They need to understand and evaluate the role they play and how they can contribute to the organisation.  That’s why it is important to provide to top political leaders with training and development scheme to ensure they are adequately informed and confident in their roles. The added value from the EU in this respect is very high since it can offer room to look at how various organisations, cities and countries have approached governance as well as opportunities for organisations and leaders to benchmark their processes and evaluate where they can make improvements.

The GGGS Education Programme – a special Framework of Curriculum Themes and Content for Top Political Leaders from Grassroots Sport Organisations – developed during the GGGS project will have long-lasting impact and extend beyond the project’s lifespan. It might even be a framework for action for the EU in this field.

It is in fact designed to be flexible and simple. The education programme is not a prescriptive approach to governance and as such does not provide a detailed breakdown or a checklist of what is needed. In fact each organisation is different; what may be appropriate for one organisation in terms of the culture of good governance may not work in a different organisation. Therefore the programme rather provides input into the GGGS principles of good governance recognised by the GGGS project partners as well as practical considerations that grassroots sport organisations may wish to consider.

It includes three training workshops that are connected to the four GGGS principles and falls into three main topics/areas:

-Focus on policy  - Developing leadership by understanding context

-Focus on people - Developing leadership by building capacity

-Focus on process - Developing leadership through monitoring compliance.

This framework will allow the participants to go through the various dimensions of good governance and has already been proven to increase their awareness on the topic.”


Posted on 15/11/2012 by


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