Tim Lawler: "We need to respond to challenge and change, just like the athletes do"

Tim Lawler, Chief Executive of SportsAid, has written about the importance of 'adjusting, adapting and pushing on' in the programme for this evening's annual SportsBall. The welcome notes see him talk about how SportsAid is diversifying its approach and the charity's exciting plans for the future. He also emphasises the importance of 'seeing the person, not just the athlete' as the next generation of British sports stars progress.
23 November, 2017

Tim Lawler, Chief Executive of SportsAid, has written about the importance of 'adjusting, adapting and pushing on' in the programme for this evening's annual SportsBall. The welcome notes see him talk about how SportsAid is diversifying its approach and the exciting plans which lie ahead for the charity. He also emphasises the importance of 'seeing the person, not just the athlete' as the next generation of British sports stars progress.     

"We need to respond to challenge and change, just like the athletes do"

Welcome to the SportsBall and thank you very much for your support. It is SportsAid’s big night and we’re very pleased to celebrate it with you.

It seems to me that we have succumbed to the old curse – we do indeed live in interesting times! Challenge and change is all around us. We’re into November and 2017 feels like a strange year. Significant global events; national moments and milestones with incredible knock-on effects; continuing economic uncertainty and so on. Yet is it strange? Isn’t that just how things are? The world turns, events develop and we all adjust, adapt and push on. SportsAid has been doing just that.

The year following an Olympic and Paralympic Games cycle is all about adjusting, adapting and pushing on. It so happens too that 2017 follows SportsAid’s 40th anniversary year, so there’s been even more to consider in shaping the next chapter. We are trying to further diversify our fundraising with a bigger push on individual and regular giving, and we think the fun and excitement of SportsAid Week is central to this.

We are refreshing our offer to the corporate sector as commercial organisations have been, and will be, fundamental to SportsAid’s ability to make a difference – in such uncertain economic times we believe the charity offers great value and impact. And we’re planning to expand on our work of recent years in providing skills and resources for athletes and parents to help them manage and make the most of the incredibly challenging and demanding world they’re in – this is so important to get right for each new generation. 

Another key part of the future, and one that has been integral to SportsAid’s past, is the very loyal and longstanding support from Sport England. In simple terms, this support is an enabler: it enables SportsAid to build as an organisation and improve its effectiveness; it enables SportsAid to act, with a clear mandate to help young talent; and it enables focus, with specific funding for specific tasks such as the world-leading Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) and the newly introduced Backing the Best programme.

Crucially, this support also enables the ability of SportsAid to get out into a very competitive marketplace to find more help and support for talent. Having to adjust, adapt and push on isn’t unique to SportsAid. It is no different for the athletes, especially the next generation working towards their breakthrough.

Talented young athletes are entering the world of high-performance sport at a time when Great Britain is effectively a sporting superpower: second in the Olympic and Paralympic medal tables; more gold medals in more sports than any other nation; the only country to improve its medal return following a home Games.

This makes for a competitive and demanding environment anyway, where you have to deliver your best every day, but align those expectations with a diminishing outlook for Lottery funding and the uncertainties mentioned above. That’s not getting any easier for the athletes.

There will always be a next generation and they’ll need our help in many different ways. In sport, the next generation needs to know we’re looking out for them. They need to believe that they will have a chance to prove themselves; that they’ll be supported for who they are, not what they are – that we see the person, not just the athlete – and that they can ask for help. They need to believe they can trust us to do everything we can to help them.

The good news is that we’re in this together. All of us – NGBs, athletes, parents, coaches, Government, SportsAid, sponsors, donors – we all have common goals to help each other and in these interesting times, we might need to work a bit harder and smarter to do so. We need to respond to challenge and change, just like the athletes do.

Since 1976, SportsAid has been able to react and bring about the changes needed to keep moving forward….and sometimes, when things are tough, your speed doesn’t matter….forward is forward. SportsAid needs help to be able to keep doing this. Your help. Please keep it coming.

Thanks as always and have a great night.

Tim Lawler

You can follow updates from SportsAid’s annual SportsBall this evening by following the charity’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, and using the hashtag #SportsBall2017.