Conference Opening - Five Years Forward


Tara Dillon, CIMSPA CEO


Tara Dillon welcomed delegates to the conference noting that in her 32 years in the sector, “this is the best coming together of all types of sport and physical activity professionals I have ever seen”.

“It has been and incredible journey to date. Our figures are great as Marc has just discussed. We are growing exponentially, thanks in large to our team, our board and most importantly the support we are receiving from the entire sector.”

Five years forward

“Back in 2014, we went out on tour to get an idea of what the sport and physical activity sector was about. We asked, ‘what is this sector? Where are we going? Where do we want to be?’ We listened to the workforce and the key things that they wanted were a sector led by one voice, to have standards set by those in the sector and qualifications awarded by a organisation that understands the sector’s needs.”

“That was then, and here today, I believe we have achieved so much. CIMSPA has landed!

“We are are stronger together, and looking at everyone here is proof of that. Together we have made the idea of becoming a respected and recognised profession a reality. For so long we were guilty of just saying “this is what we could do with or what we need to do is…”

This is a new era, we have matured and improved together and now we share an agenda for the future.”

Looking at the CIMSPA strategy and its nine strategic outcomes, Tara said it was incredible where CIMSPA was heading. She referred to successes achieved to date, including 70 per cent of training providers signed up to CIMSPA. She said it was great that there are a handful of sports working with the organisation, but she wanted all 46 funded sports working with CIMSPA and was making great inroads with Sport England to achieve just that.
CIMSPA has over 20 higher education institutions working towards CIMSPA degree programme endorsement and she congratulated Cardiff Met for becoming the first HE to achieve this standard.

“We have 130 operators [in partnership], but we need all operators to be part of this movement because we are so much stronger together.”

Tara went on to say that government and allied professions are now taking the sector seriously, which was important given that the sector’s new market was health. GPs, physios, occupational therapists etc hold 80 per cent of the population that the sector currently doesn’t service, yet knows it can.  She said the new professional standards around health and long term conditions will give the sector an “army of people” to which GPs will refer.

Her conclusion was that all they [the health sector] wanted was a chartered institute to deal with, because it “looks like them and how they behave”, and that was the key in the door.

With regards to individual members, Tara said 10,500 was a great achievement, but that the target was 500,000 – the number of people who work in the sector.  In addition, there are a wide range of organisations and stakeholders who want to and should be a part of CIMSPA.

“Now is the time to widen and deepen our reach and profile. We cannot stop. These figures are great, but they need to be off the chart.

“Our aim now is to continue to lead and engage at the highest level but to do this we need the support of the entire sector. Everybody has their part to play. From new startups to large operators. Everybody needs to get on board. If we all pull in the same direction, have the same aims, we can reach our shared goals.

Tara added that she understands how difficult times can be: “I know how tough being an operator can be, I have been there myself. Competition is huge but our position means that we are being taken seriously. Three years ago, I was begging to get my calls taken by some government departments – now they are calling me.”

Taking CIMSPA to the next level will cost money, part of which must be funded by the sector, and Sport England is quadrupling its investment in CIMSPA over the next few years.

“That’s phenomenal.  That’s confidence and a tick in the box, not for CIMSPA but for the sector and CIMSPA together as a collective.”

Ending her session, Tara repeated her pledge to the sector, saying: “I will not stop, we will not stop until the public and the allied professions understand just how good you are.”