Donegal's Anne McFarland launches governance guide for sporting entities

Olympic Federation of Ireland championing good governance

Donegal's Anne McFarland launches governance guide for sporting entities

Donegal's Anne McFarland launches governance guide for sporting entities

As with so much else in Level 5 life, the launch of Anne McFarland's new book is taking place online.

Sponsored by the Olympic Federation of Ireland, 'Sports Governance: A Guide for Sporting Entities' is Anne's second book and was published on Wednesday (October 18).

Enthusiasm personified chatting from her home, Dunmore House, just outside Carrigans, Anne revealed she had moved home to Donegal, from Russia in 2002.

She said: “I wrote my first book in 2017. It was called: 'A Practical Guide for Company Directors' and was fairly technical. I am an ex-finance director and I quite like doing research. The Companies Act 2013 had just come out and, basically, changed the rules for every company in Ireland. It was a big change to company law.

“At that stage, I had stopped full-time. I was a finance director based in Russia. We lived in Russia from 1990 until 2002, as a result, all of my children speak Russian. When we came home, I continued working with Russia and Russians until 2012.

“So, I was semi-retired and looking for something to get my teeth into. I had always been interested in governance, how companies should be run properly. When the Companies Act came out, which brought in new regulations, as well as consolidating past legislation, the perfect opportunity presented itself.

“I thought, 'I'll write a book on governance and the Companies Act and how they relate to each other', so I co-authored it with David Duffy,” said Anne.

Becoming increasingly involved in sport, particularly rugby and horses, Anne realised a book on governance and sport would be a good follow up.

She said: “By that stage, we had had a few sporting scandals. I actually had the bones of the book written and I hunted around and I picked up another Donegal person, Sarah O'Shea, who works for the Olympic Federation of Ireland as a lawyer. Sarah is one of the leading sports governance practitioners in Ireland.

“Sarah said, 'I think we can do something on this. Let's try and see whether the Olympic Federation is interested'. At his stage, 2018 / 2019 the [Pat Hickey] episode was over and Sarah Keane had come in as President of the Olympic Federation of Ireland. The organisation was very keen to play the governance card. It had Sarah O'Shea working on governance.

“It has been a joy to work with the Olympic Federation of Ireland. It takes governance so seriously because of the legacy that it had and was forced to clean up but it took it really seriously. The Federation said, 'Yes, that is exactly the kind of thing we would like to back'.

“The other organisation, which is fairly interested is Sport Ireland. The Government gives funding to Sport Ireland, which then distributes it to the various National Governing Bodies. Sport Ireland was also tasked by the Government at this time to make sure that by the end of 2021, every National Governing Body and Sports Partnership had signed up to a governance code,” said Anne.

In the 'National Sports' Policy 2018- 2027, Sport Ireland was tasked with ensuring every national governing body had signed up to a governance code.

That is when Anne got the idea to write something for sports bodies to help improve governance.

She added: “We are all great at talking about governance at the moment. Governance comes from the Greek word for the helmsperson who steers a ship. Now, they can steer the ship well or into the rocks. All governance means is running your organisation effectively, which is why we talk about good governance.

“When I wrote the book, I wanted particularly to help the middle-sized organisations and small organisations to get onboard, to know what this governance code was that the Sport Ireland was asking them to sign up to.

“A lot of it was really common sense but there is a code, so even though you might think you know everything about running a company or an organisation, it gives you something to check off, Have I done this? Have I done that? Have I pulled out all my stops.

“This book is not written for the lawyers and the accountants. This book is written for all of us who are involved in running the club, the sporting entity, just to know what we should be doing. The book has three parts. At the beginning of each chapter, I reference what the chapter will be dealing with and at the end of each chapter there are 10 key points. In addition, in every single chapter, there is a section for the small club, say of 10 people, and what they should be thinking about,” said Anne.

Anne's book is published by Orpen Press and she said she is happy to go out and have a chat with any local sports entities.

Preparing for Wednesday's launch, Anne thanked the Olympic Federation of Ireland, which sponsored the book and paid for the publishing.

She added: “I cannot thank Sarah O'Shea and Sarah Keane and Peter Sherrard, who is the CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland enough. They took it so seriously.

“Looking to the future, I would like to do more work with sporting entities. The more I get stuck into sport, the more I see they need help. Sports and charities are areas which I feel need governance.

“Governance is just about running something well. If someone becomes a director of a company or a local club, it is automatically assumed they know what you have to do.

First and most important, day-to-day, we need to start running things more effectively. Small sporting bodies have to be run effectively because they are in charge of people's hopes and dreams. It is about good governance, running my organisation effectively and well, not how I think best, no matter how passionately I think,” said Anne.

Anne pointed out that when someone becomes a Director, they have some personal liability in law, for example, if the company goes insolvent and keeps trading.

She said: “That is your biggest risk. Acting normally when you know the company is insolvent and you cannot pay creditors, is trading recklessly. In that case, if you are a director, you have personal liability. Investigations into such matters are horrible. They take a personal, horrendous toll on people, whether they are guilty or innocent,” said Anne.

Anne McFarland's book: 'Sports Governance: A Guide for Sporting Entities' can be obtained by contacting her on email:

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