Sports Centre Management Recruitment and Professional Sports & Recreation Bodies: The Historical Background

1. Three Principal Sources for Centre Management Recruitment

Initially centre managers came mainly from three principal sources (Physical Education, Baths Management and the Military Services). From the mid-1970s, as the number of sports centres rapidly grew, and demand and interest increased, the sources for managers broadened.

1A Physical Educationalists

PE teaching was the largest source of early centre management recruitment. By definition PE teachers were those that had completed a three-year, full time course of higher education. Up until the late 1960s a PE teacher’s qualification was the only sport related higher education qualification. Therefore, PE teachers, especially those from the few specialist colleges such as Loughborough, Leeds Carnegie, and St. Luke’s, Exeter, were to be found in many aspects of sport in this country and abroad. PE teachers were normally the lead person in charge of a school’s sports facilities and equipment, although this part of their duties did not figure highly in their training syllabus, even in the specialist PE colleges.

Associations of PE teachers were separate for male and female teachers. Their priorities lay with establishing the status of PE teachers and the subject within schools and had no special interest in facility management issues. However, PE teachers were seen to be particularly suited to jobs in sports centre management, especially dual-use centres on school sites. This group was predominant in founding the Association of Recreation Managers [ARM] in 1969/70. These managers, with their background, saw sport as a ‘public good’, to be supported by government policy and spending. This sometimes meant that they struggled to reach out to those who see sport in business terms as the private sector expanded through fitness clubs and the wider leisure sector.

1B Baths Management

In the 1970s baths management was a well-established activity within local authorities dating back to a time when it was literally concerned with running slipper baths, washhouses, public laundries and the forerunners of today’s swimming pools. (Some public slipper baths and laundries were still operating in the 1990s). In some pool establishments it had been the practice to cover over the pool in the winter months to accommodate alternative activities such as dances or recreational badminton. The Association of Baths Superintendents was founded in 1921. It was renamed in 1962 as The Institute of Baths Management (IBM).

Although the Institute was recognised as a source of expert knowledge on pool operation it did not, with some notable exceptions, figure highly in terms of status within the local authority officer set-up. It was seen largely as a technical operation. Nonetheless it was a successful Institute with its own staff, membership of which was strictly confined to those that had passed or were studying for the Institute’s examinations. The syllabus for these was largely concerned with the technical aspects of operating the plant involved, water treatment and so on. A successful correspondence course was available supplemented by short courses. The Institute was very protective of its membership rule of ‘examination qualification’. In 1979, for obvious reasons, it changed its name again to The Institute of Baths & Recreation Management (IBRM), though it remained largely based on swimming pools.

As centres and leisure departments developed, both the words ‘recreation’ and ‘sport’ were added to its title in 1993, changing to The Institute for Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM). Despite several rounds of discussions with other groups in the last two decades of the 19th century, the Institute’s members decided to retain their own status until much later.

1C Ex-services Personnel
The armed forces had a large estate of facilities for sport and physical training. In addition they were prominent in certain team and individual sports seeing it as an aid to recruitment and the maintenance of resources. From the 1950s, towards the end of National Service, extra resources had been deployed in respect of the falling level of physical fitness amongst new recruits.
With this experience ex-services personnel, both officers with leadership experience and those involved in physical training, were able to find jobs at various levels in sports centres, with the most senior officers at manager or assistant manager level. They welcomed the opportunity to share their work experience by joining ARM in the early days and participating in the various activities with other centre managers.


2. Other Professional Interests

2A Parks Management

By the 1970s parks management was a well-established activity within local authorities and included responsibilities for parks, outdoor sports facilities such as pitches, tennis courts, and athletics tracks as well as other outdoor space and play facilities. The Institute of Parks & Recreation Administration (IPRA) had been formed in 1926. Although parks management was perceived as principally concerned with amenity horticulture this was not entirely accurate as the organisation was focused on ‘management’. It had its own staff and premises at The Grotto, Lower Basildon, near Pangbourne, Qualifications in horticulture would have been gained in other arenas and the Institute was concerned with educating people to take on departmental responsibilities. It offered its own 2-year courses on Parks management at its headquarters, which included a residential block. Overseas students attended. Some membership grades were dependent on examination success.

Amongst this group were some very senior parks managers with local authority chief officer status. Thus when new recreation departments were being created in local government in 1973-74, quite a number of those chief officers were placed in charge of the new recreation and leisure departments. It had considered expansion and widening its remit but without success, but the experience nonetheless helped to influence attitudes within parks management. That influence was such that it was willing to participate positively in amalgamation talks with other bodies.
The introduction of Compulsory Competitive Tendering in the 1980s and specifically the effects of a client/contractor split on local government staff structures significantly changed parks management. Other professionals such as landscape architects, legal executives, and land use planners put themselves forward for the client role leaving park managers as contractors with little input into policy making. Ironically this weakening of the parks management career structure led to less interest by them in leisure and recreation and a reduced influence within ILAM. In 1982/83 IPRA’s educational charity status, constitution and resources were the basis for the formation of The Institute of Leisure & Amenity Management (ILAM) in 1983.

2B Municipal Entertainment Managers

The Institute of Municipal Entertainment [IME] was formed in 1947 and In the 1982 was a relatively small group managing municipal theatres, piers, resort services and the like. When the concept of local government leisure service departments gained momentum they realised that it was in their interests to be part of the original amalgamation to form ILAM in 1983. ILAM operated several specialist panels to deal with sectoral interests within leisure but quite early on they agreed not to duplicate efforts with the established groups of Arts Officers.

2C The Institute for Recreation Management [IRM]

The Institute of Recreation Management was a small organisation with a number of experienced managers and directors in membership. In 1981/82 IRM joined the amalgamation talks and became part of ILAM in 1983.

2D Sports Development Officers

After the increase in sports and leisure centres the concept of a separate sports development function emerged and with it the desire for a new organisation. The idea was to keep facility management and sports development quite separate. For some centre managers this seemed unnecessary because they undertook the development of sport in their programmes in order to fill their centres. However a separate function emerged fuelled by the younger membership and the way extra grants became available and by the fact that ‘sports development’ was exempted from the CCT legislation of the 1980s. The National Association of Sports Development Officers was formed in the 1990s. In 2008 this group then joined with ILAM to become ISPAL.

2E Chief Leisure Officers

This group had their own association (Chief Leisure Officers Association (CLOA). Membership was initially only open to Chief Officers and their deputies and was strengthened by the expansion in comprehensive leisure departments in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The group was involved in discussions about amalgamation. Whilst supportive of the process they remained in a form which mirrored chief officer organisation in other local authority disciplines. There was a particular ‘chief officer’ point of view on policy and it was one that the government expected to consult. As a small group there was a problem about sustainability and consequently there was much joint working with groupings such as ILAM in order to develop policy e.g. role of leisure departments. Many chief officers had membership of both organisations.

2F Other Groupings and Interests

The Recreation Managers Association represented industrial sports and social secretaries (before that it was the ISCA). Many large employers including factories (e.g. Jaguar, Nestle, British Leyland, Bank of England and Civil Service) had significant outdoor sports and social facilities and accommodated successful sporting teams. Although the formation of ILAM consisted of 4 bodies ( ARM, IPRA, IRM, and IME) there had been other membership possibilities. Other groups in being at that time were the Association of Playing Field Officers (from 1958), Golf Club Secretaries, and Football Stadium Managers. The sports equipment trade had their own associations, but some individuals had taken up Associate Membership within ARM and later ILAM. There was a close working relationship with the trade associations, particularly on sponsorship and exhibitions.

After the establishment of ARM there were talks with many groups involved in managing some aspect of sport and leisure as to the potential for amalgamation into a larger institute.
During the life of ILAM the management of Children’s Play also became an additional interest through the formation of a specialist panel. Close links were developed with the play equipment trade but in the main the topic was related to the needs of existing ILAM members.

Indeed there were so many other small groupings. Derek Casey, as Director of the Sports Council, expressed some exasperation at just how many organisations they had to work with. It is not surprising that a more unified and more professional status for sports and recreation managers became an important aim for Sport England.


3. Amalgamations move on!

ARM had originally recognised the need to increase and widen membership, develop a qualification, seek ‘chartered status’ and raise the status of sports managers in the eyes of other local authority officers. To this end they were proactive in talking to other bodies to seek the original amalgamation. This was achieved in 1983 with the formation of first ILAM from ARM, IPRA, IRM and IME (then ISPAL from ILAM and NASD in 2008). Some former ARM members were involved in the formation of The Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (IMSPA) in 2011 – when the ISRM joined with ISPAL, in a deal brokered by Sport England, to become The Institute for the Management of Sports and Physical Activity (IMSPA).
Chartered status was not achieved for the profession until 2012 by which time the concept of professions in which jobs were dependent on the achievement of certain professional qualifications had rather gone out of fashion. (CIMSPA – the chartered institute – see Chapter 10).

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