Video Testimonials: Tareq A. Khafagy | PWC EBM

Tareq A. Khafagy shares his experience as a participant of PwC’s Effective Board Member Programme

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Video Testimonials: Nigel Cumberland | PWC EBM

Nigel Cumberland shares his experience as a participant of PwC’s Effective Board Member

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Video Testimonials: Lobna El Dessouky | PWC EBM

Lobna El Dessouky shares her experience as a participant of PwC’s Effective Board Member Programme

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My Journey from EBM to Board

Read here how Lead The Board graduate Phil Gayle made the move from completing the Programme to being appointed as an Associate Non-Executive Director on a Hospital Trust Board. 


I had the pleasure of attending the EBM Programme facilitated by Karl George MBE. As someone who is a CEO, has had a career and built up experience and knowledge at a senior executive level, the opportunity to learn more about this was too good to miss. Read More

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On The Board – An Insiders View…

On The Board Graduate Hanna Newton shares her experiences of the Programme in the first of two blogs she has written. On The Board is the governance Programme created for current and ex-profesional footballers and those working within the sport. Sponsored by the PFA and The FA, the Programme is now entering it’s fourth year and has seen previous graduates include Les Ferdinand, Jason Roberts MBE, Chris Hughton, Ugo Ehiogu, Michael Johnson and Darren Moore among others. 

From orientation to graduation, read her first hand experience of an Effective Board Member Programme.


On The Board is an incredible programme.   Read More

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Tony Fernandes, Brendon Batson and Heather Rabbatts recognised for governance in football

Several high profile names from the football world gathered at Wembley last night to celebrate the graduation of the second cohort of the ‘On The Board’ Effective Board Member (EBM) programme. Also recognised during the evening in the presence of football bosses including Bobby Barnes, Deputy Chief Executive at the Professional Footballers’ Association; Greg Dyke, Chairman of The Football Association; and Richard Bevan, Chief Executive of the League Managers Association were Tony Fernandes CBE, Heather Rabbatts CBE and Brendon Batson.


The EBM Award for ‘Significant Contribution to Governance in Football’ is a strategic leadership award which recognises the ambassadorial contribution and visibility in the field and contribution to the advancement of diversity in leadership and supporting the development of the pipeline for leadership. As Chairman at QPR, Fernandes has welcomed the progression of BAME staff including Les Ferdinand MBE who he promoted to Director of Football earlier this year and Chris Ramsey, now manager at the club. In her capacity as the only female Director at The FA, Heather is widely known for promoting the importance of diversity in sport and is a supporter of improving the pipeline of BAME groups across leadership positions in the sport.


A pioneer of black players in football, Batson, along with his then teammates Cyrille Regis and the late Laurie Cunningham were often subjected to extreme racism from fans. Having retired from the pitch, he has worked his way through the ranks at the PFA from senior administrator and previously serving as Deputy Chief Executive of the players union. When being recognised for his contribution, Brendon praised the work of the EBM programmes highlighting the achievements of the graduates and how the programme has been delivered. He gave an empowering address to the audience highlighting some of the barriers that he has overcome over many years in football.


The Award comes at a time when there is still much to do to tackle the lack of diversity on boards within football. According to the Sport’s Peoples Think Tank, “…only 19 ethnic minority coaches are employed in 552 positions across 92 professional clubs, just 3.4% of the roles available.”


On The Board seeks to tackle this issue and help to transfer the ambassadorial experience and insight of players to the boardrooms of clubs across the country. Those completing the course praise it’s aims and outcomes, with Hughton stating; “EBM has given me the chance to broaden my career opportunities, as well as enhancing my ability to relate to boards of directors in my current role.” He is one of only a handful of black managers across the top four tiers of English football. When speaking about The FA’s support of the programme, Dyke stated that; ‘… where BAME players are successful in attaining board places in the game, it will help to widen the diversity of the decision makers in football.”


Created by leading governance consultant Karl George MBE, founder of the Effective Board Member Programmes (EBM), On The Board in conjunction with Sports On Board and sponsored by the PFA and The FA seeks to help players and others involved in football to progress from the pitch to the boardroom. Previous graduates include Les Ferdinand MBE and Chris Ramsey. Notable names such as Chris Hughton, Rachel Yankey, Ugo Ehiogu and Ken Monkou are among the course participants.


The graduation of players throws a spotlight on the continued commitment of the PFA and The FA to tackle the lack of diversity on boards within the sport. The collaboration of EBM and the PFA is achieving results with several participants having already gained board appointments or undertaken board observations. Nathan Blake who graduated from On The Board in 2014 is one example having gained a non-executive position at Newport County A.F.C.


Gordon Taylor, Chief Executive at the PFA, which is the main sponsor of the programme said; “the governance forum is an ideal partner having delivered a similar programme to young, private sector professionals and we are keen to replicate the success with footballers.” The course is accredited by the Association of Corporate Governance Practitioners and Edinburgh Napier University making it a valuable addition to any CV.


For more information about joining the Effective Board Member Programmes, please contact us on 0845 505 1875 or email us at

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Football bosses gather at Wembley to watch players graduate from pitch to boardroom

 Footballers from the second cohort of the ‘On The Board’ Effective Board Member programme graduate at Wembley on Wednesday 15th April 2015.  The ceremony will be attended by graduates and officials from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), The Football Association (FA) and the League Managers Association (LMA) including Bobby Barnes Deputy Chief Executive at the PFA; Greg Dyke, Chairman of the FA; and Richard Bevan, Chief Executive of the LMA. Chris Hughton, Rachel Yankey, Ugo Ehiogu and Ken Monkou are among the graduates. Read More

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Greg Dyke Talks Boards at EBM…

In January, we were privileged to have Chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke join our On The Board session with the current cohort of footballers.


Previously Director General at the BBC, Greg has been the Chief Executive at numerous organisations including the LWT Group, Pearson Television and Channel Five. He also has current roles at HiT Entertainment and has been the Chancellor of the University of York for a number of years.


The FA are a sponsor of the EBM programmes and with his years of experience on boards, Greg was able to share his wisdom and insight with our students as they prepare to take up board appointments once they complete the course.


This week, we will share with you what student Rauf Mirza learned when he met Greg and what he thinks about the EBM programme. As a consultant, Rauf has worked on several projects with the FA including undertaking board appointments.


Rauf said:


The main points covered by Greg were:


– On boards, always ask the obvious questions- don’t assume anything. Ask to clarify.


– Don’t let experts, like accountants or finance managers bamboozle you with their jargon and information overload. Ask to clarify and ask for information on essentials.


– All board members should be familiar with the financial standing of an organisation. Don’t just leave it to the finance people, and don’t accept everything at face value.


– As a board member, get around the organisation and meet people to really understand the organisation outside the boardroom.


– Observe behaviours of board members and executive.



Why is the FA working with EBM/On The Board important and how it will benefit you in your role?


The EBM programme has clearly been identified by the FA as essential in its strategy to improve/develop its structures and functions. For my part, it will benefit me by receiving structured, professional and accredited training on corporate governance, something I have not received despite having experience on 2-3 boards previously. This training, combined with previous practical experiences will enable me to be more effective as a board member/chair in the future.


How will you apply what your learned from the main points Greg shared in your football related role?


Greg’s vast experience of boards is useful learning and vital knowledge for anyone seeking to join a board. Theory will only take one so far but it’s the real life scenarios and challenges that will separate the effective/contributing members from those merely collecting titles for their CV.


I hope to use this training and the previous board experiences to be invited onto the FA Board.


Overall, Greg’s visit was highly relevant to the EBM course, very informative for learning, and entertaining.  It’s a pity there was not more time allocated for more Q and A!



The Effective Board Member Programmes


The EBM course is very well structured, professionally managed and delivered by Karl George who in my experience is one of the best trainers I have come across.


His knowledge and experiences of the subject is excellent and his style is very much interactive, focused on practical learning, and generates an enjoyable atmosphere in the course.


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On The Board Graduate Gets Promoted at QPR

In 2013, a group of ex-football players were the first to complete On The Board. Designed specifically to enhance the ambassadorial experience of players, capitalising on the skills they have on the pitch and combining these with learning in corporate governance, On The Board is sponsored by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and the Footballers’ Association (FA).

A number of high profile names in football graduated from the programme, including Les Ferdinand who today, has been appointed as Director of Football at QPR. Read More

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Greg Dyke Visits On The Board

Earlier this month, we were privileged to have Chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke join our On The Board session with the current cohort of footballers.

Previously Director General at the BBC, Greg has been the Chief Executive at numerous organisations including the LWT Group, Pearson Television and Channel Five. He also has current roles at HiT Entertainment and has been the Chancellor of the University of York for a number of years.

The FA are a sponsor of the EBM programmes and with his years of experience on boards, Greg was able to share his wisdom and insight with our students as they prepare to take up board appointments once they complete the course.

Over the next few weeks, we will share with you what a few of our current students learned from the session with Greg beginning with Ben Purkiss. Currently a defender at Walsall FC, Ben is also a member of the management committee at The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) who also sponsor On The Board.

Ben said:

For the students of the On The Board Programme seeking positions of governance, the opportunity to listen to somebody of Greg Dyke’s ilk and experience was both insightful and informative.

Throughout Greg’s presentation, which detailed his journey to his current position as the FA Chair, the importance of good governance was repeatedly stressed. Greg has extensive and wide-ranging commercial experience and was keen to emphasise the value of investing time in whatever organisation you represent. In order to govern effectively it is imperative that the director fully understands the requirements of a company and develops an understanding of the company’s aims and objectives. Crucially, not all board members that Greg has encountered had governance training and subsequently lacked familiarity with good governance standards.

With one of the aims of the On The Board Programme being to increase diversity in the boardroom, the support of the national governing body is highly significant. Along with his commitment to good governance practice, Greg reiterated his desire to ensure the FA is more representative of society and hopefully we will see graduates of the course progress to roles within the organisation.

At the PFA we are strong advocates of good governance and work closely with Karl and the Programme to ensure we achieve the highest standards of self-regulation. However, we are always looking to improve and I will be looking to invest even more time in the organisation.

Overall it was an excellent opportunity to listen to first hand insight into the way in which boards operate in practice, the problems they face and notably the relevance of the issues explored on the On The Board programme.

Check back over the next few weeks to see what other on The Board Participants had to say about their session with Greg Dyke!

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Graduate Contribution – Learning Journeys by Matthew Tye

“And if we want to achieve our goals, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness”. A powerful message from an inspiring 16 year-old Malala Yousafzai who delivered a speech at the UN in New York earlier this month. If you have not yet had the chance to listen to it, I would encourage you to do so. Because we now have a remarkable young world leader living and studying in Birmingham from whom we all can take inspiration on our own journeys.

Last September I found myself embarking upon a new passage, a BLF journey through the Get on Board Programme. And it is very much a journey that’s a continuous path rather than a springboard or stepping stone. The programme opened the world and knowledge of corporate governance, equipping us with the detail and skills to become effective board members. Not wanting to waste any time and to get ‘get on board’ straight away, I put in a trustee application to the International Glaucoma Association of which I am a member. This is a patient-based organisation which works to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and provide support to patients and those who care for them. Glaucoma is one of the most common eye disorders. Thousands of those affected in Birmingham and across the country have been helped by the charity since its establishment in 1974. At the time of the AGM there were six vacancies on the board to be filled from seven applicants. Although I was not one of those elected, the Council had earlier ratified to co-opt the person who was not elected onto the Board because of the skills and experience shown by all of the candidates. My three year term of office began in March and I have already attended a board meeting and spent a day in the offices engaging with staff and exploring some small but effective ways we can drive the organisation forward. One of my priorities as a trustee is to see patients manage and record their lifelong glaucoma journeys better especially through the use of digital media. Over recent months a ‘Glaucoma Passport’ emerged to support patients on their journeys. I now want to see this taken to the next level as a more accessible tool in the form of an app.

Good governance is knowing where to hover – not too high and not too low. I’m excited that my BLF journey is already ‘on the map’ and can’t wait to see what’s in store over the coming months and years.

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Women On-Boards

Davies has just published his second annual review of progress on the recommendations in his Women on Boards report of 2011. Much progress has been made.  Women now account for 17% of FTSE 100 and 13% of FTSE 250 board directors (as at 1 March 2013), an increase of nearly 40%.

[pullquoteright] “We are now moving to a place where it is unacceptable for the voice of women to be absent from the boardroom.”[/pullquoteright] Crucially women have secured 34% of all FTSE 100 and 36% of all FTSE 250 appointments since 1 March 2012 – the increase in 18 months is equivalent to the increase in the whole of the last decade! He comments “We are now moving to a place where it is unacceptable for the voice of women to be absent from the boardroom.”

But the increase has plateaued, and Davies is now proposing a target of 25% minimum by 2015. He argues this is the best and only way to avoid European regulation.

Importantly he identifies an emerging risk. While women are now better represented in NED roles (at 16%) only 5% of FTSE 250 executive directorships are held by women. The FTSE 100 equivalents are little better:  only 6% of executive directors are women compared to 22% of non-executive.  This highlights the critical importance of the executive pipeline. Unless organisations focus on developing the talent right across their workforce (and not just the male half) women may opt for the greater opportunities offered by a portfolio of non-executive roles. As Davies puts it there is a risk that women will be “sidelined into supervisory non-executive roles, whilst the active day to day business of running companies is left to their male counterparts.” 

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Equality & Diversity and the Board

Ash dieback threatens the survival of the Ash tree in the UK – and the flora and fora that depend on it. Listening to the Today programme I learned that the British Ash is more limited in its genetic diversity than Ash elsewhere in Europe, weakening its chances of survival. As the Forestry Commission comments: “the single best strategy (to improve resilience) is to increase the genetic and age diversity of your woodland”.

Why diversity matters to Boards as well as trees…

Diversity on boards is important for a number of reasons – to better reflect the communities we serve or understand markets and customers we may not be reaching, to ease succession planning and build capacity for renewal, to meet regulatory expectations and achieve fit with partners’ or customers’ policy objectives (1) – but the single most important reason to increase diversity is to improve the quality of thinking.

Self-evidently, the quality of thinking impacts on decision making. We know for example that faced with increasing complexity, cognitive limitations are a constraint on strategic thinking. Individuals develop unconscious thinking habits which are to some extent culturally influenced. The important role of a board team that has challenging conversations has been well illustrated by governance failures.

Furthermore, recent scandals have often had at their root a ‘disconnect’ between organisational values and business direction. Boards seem to have lost touch with their moral compass (2). Among other factors, we know that a group of similar and like-minded individuals – especially a long standing one – reduces the likelihood of prevailing assumptions being effective challenged (the well documented phenomenon of ‘group think’).

More positively a growing trend has been reported recently to put values and effectiveness at the top of the board agenda2. The importance of a balanced Board in terms of gender in particular has had a higher profile since the Davies report (2011) made recommendations for action to achieve gender-balanced boardrooms. Research measuring the share price performance of 2,360 companies globally over the past six years demonstrated that firms with women on boards consistently out-performed those led entirely by men. It concluded that “it would on average have been better to have invested in corporates with women on their management boards than in those without” (Credit Suisse Research Institute 2012) (1) Most of us would recognise a similar imbalance in the age and ethnic make-up of Boards.

And what about equality?

Diversity without equality does not deliver – if new joiners have to fit in with the group, on the group’s terms, they will not produce the improvements in Board performance discussed above. Interpreting someone else’s difference from the perspective of one’s own ‘normality’ marginalises those perceived as different.  Equality is about removing barriers and ensuring all groups (specifically those with “protected characteristics” who have legislative protection) have equal access and can participate on an equal basis. Their experience and skills are equally valued with those of others.  This is often confused with ‘equity’ i.e. being fair (although fairness is not a bad moral touchstone) or treating people as if they are the same (hence a positive approach to diversity starts from appreciating difference).

Diversity means recognising that differences are individual as well as societal, cultural, religious etc. Each of us has an individual relationship with our own background and influences, and brings our own unique perspective to a Board team. Ticking boxes and counting numbers just won’t do it –it’s a means of measuring action, not action in itself. Truly diverse and equal Boards are leadership teams made up of individuals who all contribute from a position of equality and in their own unique way to collectively make the best possible decisions and guide their organisations through uncharted waters. As the old adage has it, if you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got – and in times of change that simply won’t cut it.

Author: Patricia McCabe FACGP

(1) Credit Suisse Research Institute (2011). The research identified several key reasons why greater gender diversity correlated with stronger corporate performance, which included greater effort across the board, a better mix of leadership skills, access to a wider pool of talent and better reflection of the consumer.

(2) Governance Insights- the tone of governance Grant Thornton October 2012

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Can Someone Please Direct me to the Ladies?

Recently, the issue of gender on boards has become a topic of much debate. To be honest, if we think realistically about any company executive of a high profile company and their direct subordinates, we typically see this picture- white, middle class male! So, in an age where equal rights and issues of gender discrimination are prevalent, it is not surprising that this issue has come to the forefront of many business debates. The issue is also topical given the fact that Lord Davies who compiled the report ‘Women on Boards’ in 2011 stated that “At the current rate of change, it will take 70 years to achieve gender balanced boards in the UK.” The percentages as reported in 2011 of women on FTSE 100 boards was a mere 12.5%. The percentage of men is 87.5%.

In the UK today, women are advancing and progressing more and more. We have seen an increase, albeit minimal in the number of women in influential positions such as MPs. So why has this not translated onto boards? Surely in any positions of influence, it is a good idea to have a representation from the community or demographic that the organisation serves and in the majority of cases, major companies are offering services to both men and women. Should this then not dictate that the boards reflect this?

Questions may be raised as to why, if for so long men have dominated the board room and companies have thrived, then why does it make any difference if women and the views of women are now represented on boards? The Prime Minister David Cameron said at a summit in Sweden in 2012 that he has not ruled out introducing quotas to ensure that more women get top executive jobs but should it take parliamentary intervention to make the change? When Lord Davies report intimates that “Companies with more women on their boards were found to outperform their rivals with a 42% rise in sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity”, unless there is a significant change, would it make economic sense for the government to implement quotas especially in a time of such austerity?

How much does this really matter? Section B.2 of the UK Corporate Governance Code- Appointments to the Board states that “There should be a formal, rigorous and transparent procedure the appointment of new directors to the board.” The Supporting Principle highlights that due regard should be given to the “…benefits of diversity on the board, including gender.” The code offers guidance with which companies are required to “comply or explain.” Chairmen are encouraged by the Code to report annually on how principles on the role and effectiveness of the board have been adhered to. So, the guiding document for governance practitioners itself outlines and highlights the need and importance for considering gender when appointing to boards.

The introduction of quotas, encouraging positive discrimination could however lead to a number of problems arising with board composition and overall performance. For example, as women are not ordinarily in the most senior leadership positions within companies, it is possible that welcoming them onto boards could exclude more competent men from attaining the positions. This is just one of the opposing arguments in the 2010 Storvik and Teigen report ‘Women on Board- The Norwegian Experience’. The report itself raises questions as to whether or not the imposition of a quota presents issues of discrimination within itself.

In reality, there are various issues that preclude this debate. Loosely, women have to take time out of their careers to raise families and subsequent to this, many of them reduce their working hours and commitments to be able to continue in this role alongside developing their careers. This break in their career development could contribute to the lack of women that currently serve in the most senior leadership and executive positions. Conversely, there could merely be discriminatory attitudes that prevail within organisations that are not challenged and so have allowed this to perpetuate.

Regardless of the causal factors, what is clear is that in a society where diversity is everything is a strand that runs through everything, the same principles must translate to the seemingly hidden places. We must do more to include and train and develop young women and women who are in middle management positions to achieve the highest positions in companies.

Our challenge to you as a CEO, director or business owner is to seek opportunities to engage women around you with the potential to be the next leaders and welcome them onto your boards.

Until next time!


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The Lack Lustre Love Affair

Football has been for many years an embedded aspect of British culture. The Premier League is probably one of the most talked about leagues globally and its international player base means that now, more than ever football is a global hot topic. Recently, the focus of the game has changed and there has been increasing media coverage of clubs going into administration along with allegations of bribery and corruption.

Possibly the most infamous story that hit our news screens was that of the allegations of corruption in the run up to the FIFA presidential campaign. Sepp Blatter, the name of the current president of the World Football Governing Body, was one that was repeated on a number of occasions in relation to various, what could be described as scandalous elements of the campaign. One of the candidates, Mohamed Bin Hamman was banned from football for life after being found guilty of attempted bribery. He was the former President of the Asian Football Confederation.

What we witnessed during this time was the bad practice of leaders of global football organisations being exposed and mass corruption and bribery being unearthed. Since then, we continue to see that football is suffering due to a lack of good governance. Insufficient transparency, geographical nepotism and greed are dictating what once was a game about a ball, a field and twenty two players.

In 2011, Chuck Blazer the General Secretary of CONCACAF- the governing organisation for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean was quoted as being the whistle blower in the poor practices and allegations relating to the FIFA Presidential Campaign. He believed that there was no separation between the President Sepp Blatter, the Chairman of the Ethics Committee and the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee who were all Swiss, allowing for domination of the body by Blatter. He also highlighted the under-representation on the board of women and other types of professionals within the field such as clubs, leagues and referees. The report by Lord Davies in relation to the under-representation of women on private sector boards highlighted similar recommendations. Will this force the government to act and legislate to ensure board diversity is representative in all sectors?

Blatter himself, after managing to secure enough votes to remain as President has now expressed his concerns about the management of the preparations for the 2014 World Cup due to take place in Brazil. Arguably, this could be a tactic to distract from the now constant stream of revelations regarding his own practice. However, the Head of Brazils 2014 World Cup organising committee, Ricardo Teixeira last week took a leave of absence ‘for medical reasons’ after increasing pressure for him to resign over corruption allegations.  Teixeira has been the President of the Brazilian Football Federation for twenty three years. He has been accused of improper conduct by the English Football Association in relation to improper conduct during bids for the 2018 World Cup and in 2001 he was investigated for crimes including tax evasion and money laundering. On 12th March 2012, he resigned. As governance practitioners reading this article, we can see that there are some clear problems around the issues of leadership, openness, transparency and accountability which are all principles on which good governance is based.

One of the key failures which appears time and time again in football is money, collusion over it and the mismanagement of it. In fact, this is one of the most significant features of poor governance. This is the top of the list in one of the most recent, UK based football failures. Headlines such as ‘Port Vale Unable to Pay Players’ and ‘Port Vale Board Not the Only Ones to Blame’ have haunted the Staffordshire based club. After a £1 million loan taken out ten years ago saw the club rescued from a previous take over, the club have now defaulted on payments leaving players without a salary and the club facing administration. To add to this, the club’s Director Peter Miller resigned from the board leaving them unable to execute their duties in relation to the governance of the club. Shareholders attempted to remove the remaining directors but failed to get the relevant paperwork together on time meaning the directors remain in post.

Highlighting the continuing failure of governance in football demonstrates how important a clear understanding governance remains within all sectors. While to millions the game continues to be about a ball, a field and twenty two players, what these- only some of the stories about failing governance in football reveal is that football is indeed more than just a game!

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