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Building your strategic plan

A good strategic plan should provide the sports club or Federation with a roadmap to help them achieve their goals and overall vision. It is a documented plan with key SMART objectives which help to focus not only the staff but the Federation or club’s resources in specific areas.

This guest article by Geoff Wilson will not cover all aspects of strategic planning but will give you a general introduction on the subject.

Why strategic planning matters

Taking the decision to develop and grow your club or Federation means embracing the risks that come with growth and development. Spending time on planning should help you reduce and manage those risks. This includes identifying exactly where you want to take your club or Federation and how you will get there. As your club or Federation becomes larger and more complex, your strategy will need to become more sophisticated. You will also need to start collecting and analysing a wider range of information about the sport in your country and the organisation itself. You’ll need information on how your club or Federation operates and about current and potential developments in your sport. To develop a strategy, you must shift your focus from day-to-day concerns and consider your broad and long-term options.

The four key elements of strategic planning

To develop a strategy for your club or Federation you must deepen your understanding of the way your organisation works. You need to know how your organisation compares to other sport organisations in your country. As a starting point, you need to ask yourself the following four questions:

1. Where is your club or Federation now? This involves understanding as much about your organisation as possible. Find out how it operates internally and externally, what drives its revenue/costs, and how it compares with competitors? What is happening in the sports industry? Who are your key stakeholders? What resources do you have at your disposal? Be realistic, detached and critical.

2. Where do you want to take it? Work out your vision, mission, goals, objectives and values. Where do you see your club or Federation in three or five years? What do you want to be the focus of your club or Federation?

3. What do you need to do to get there/how do you get there? What specific action plans do you need to develop under each objective? What changes to the structure and financing of your club or Federation is needed? What is the best way of implementing those changes?

4. Are you getting there? This phase relates to monitoring the implementation of your strategic plan. This step involves meeting regularly to critically scrutinise your Federation’s performance against the objectives and action plans formulated.

What is a vision?

In one sentence, a vision describes a clear and inspirational long term desired change, resulting from an organisation’s efforts and activities. It clearly states where you want your club or Federation to be in the future?

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement defines the current purpose and activities of your club or Federation – simply what you do, for whom, and what the benefits are. Your mission statement describes concisely (within a couple of sentences) your club or Federation’s activities, customers and how it manages each of these to achieve its purpose. It ultimately deals with the question – Why do you exist?

What are Strategic Goals?

These are long-term targets to which resources are directed and can be related to any one of the club or Federation’s key activities.

Strategic goals are generally:

– Broad areas of focus that help to achieve your vision;
– Macro;
– Long term in nature; and
– Focused on addressing organisational or sporting issues.

What are Objectives?

Objectives are your strategic goals translated into specific milestones that can be performed using the resources of your club or Federation. Objectives should be SMART – – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Responsibility-assigned, and Time-bound.

What are Action Plans?

Action plans involve breaking down objectives into more precise activities or tasks. Action plans document for staff and stakeholders what is to be done, by whom, how and when.

Key learnings

1. Conducted detailed research or an operational review on your club or Federation prior to starting the strategic plan.
2. Bring together your key team and ensure they all contribute during the workshop.
3. Organise several strategic planning workshops. Ensure you give enough time to this process. I also recommend the workshops are held away from the stadium or headquarters.
4. Ensure all objectives are SMART and measurable.
5. Set up a strategic review committee whose purpose is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the strategic plan. This review committee should meet every quarter with a report provided to the board regarding the status of tasks completed.
6. Launch your strategic plan to your key stakeholders and staff. Ensure everyone is bought into the vision, goals etc


Geoff has created a 90 minutes course that will give you a clear direction when creating your strategic plan. Useful templates are provided that you can use when creating your vision, mission, values, goals, objectives and action plans.

About Geoff Wilson

Geoff runs his own Sports Consultancy, working with clients such as FIFA, UEFA, AFC and FIBA across the world. He is also on the board of Tourism Northern Ireland. You can follow Geoff on twitter @geoffwnjwilson connect on Linkedin at linkedin.com/in/geoffwnjwilson

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