CEO Membership Column – January 2022

This month Alastair Marks reflects on the community spirit in our sport


Learning to row at Bristol Ariel (c) Aaron Sims

Welcome to 2022 – a year when we hope things will return to a greater normality both within our rowing community and beyond.

Back in November, I joined British Rowing as interim CEO with my main focus being to implement our updated strategy ‘Rowing: Everyone’s Sport’. Thank you to everyone who has shared their feedback on this – and if you haven’t yet, then it’s not too late, so please do get in touch.

As the new year gets underway, it’s exciting to consider the huge number of opportunities available to truly make rowing everyone’s sport.

In early December I visited Stratford upon Avon BC, Evesham and Stourport with Jo Atkinson, our Community Support Manager receiving a warm welcome from members. It was great to talk to everyone at each club, learn about their community, as well as hearing how we can support them more as the year unfolds.

I have also just returned from a day out in the South West meeting at Studland with the Coastal Rowing Centre and the team at Lymington before going to meet the clubs that populate the South West Coastal Rowing League, kindly hosted by Exmouth Rowing Club. Despite the wet and windy conditions it was inspiring to see the opportunity that coastal rowing has ahead of it and it would be great to see more and more clubs lining the 7,000 + miles of British coastline like these in the years ahead.

With further visits to clubs planned, I’m very much looking forward to meeting more people around the country over the coming weeks.

Access to your Go Rowing membership portal is also now available in the Android and IOS App stores so your great rowing benefits can be with you on your mobiles from here on in.

We were delighted to receive a huge number of nominations from clubs for the British Rowing Awards and it’s been gratifying to see so many clubs keen to spotlight their members. Thank you to everyone who made a nomination and congratulations to the volunteers, coaches, clubs, crews and rowers who have been selected.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve been spotlighting many of the volunteers and rowers nominated by their regions across our website and social media. You can see the shortlist here. It’s a timely reminder of the importance of community in rowing, the bedrock of our sport.

While we can’t hold the British Rowing Awards in person, as we would like, we look forward to celebrating our national winners when these are announced in a live webcast on Thursday 20 January. Please do join us – and look out for more details on our website and social media.

As always, the new year is also a time for honours and it was fantastic to see Paralympic rowing champions Ellen Buttrick, Giedre Rakauskaite, Ollie Stanhope and Erin Kennedy receive MBEs in the 2022 New Year Honours List. The four Paralympic debutants won a brilliant gold at this summer’s Games with Rio 2016 gold medallist James Fox, already an MBE, also in the crew.

Staying with the GB Rowing Team, in December Louise Kingsley was appointed as the new Director of Performance after beating a field of top applicants from across the globe.

Louise was formerly the Deputy Director of Performance Pathways and Paralympic Programme leading the Para GB Rowing Team to two gold medals at the Tokyo Games. She brings a huge depth of experience to this key leadership role and is passionate about steering the GB Rowing Team as it evolves into a contemporary and world-leading programme.

Recently announced as the new Men’s Olympic Head Coach, Paul Stannard has worked with British Rowing for over 18 years and has led the men’s sculling team since 2013. At the delayed Tokyo Games, the men’s quad won GB’s first ever Olympic medal in this boat class while the men’s double finished fourth, making this the most successful Olympics for men’s sculling since 1948.

Recruitment for the Women’s Olympic Head Coach is ongoing and an announcement on this appointment will be made as soon as possible.

A new year also brings an opportunity to reflect and focus on different things. It’s a time to assess our goals and plan for the season ahead.

As part of this, if you’re looking for a daily training regime then it’s not too late to join the ROW31 crew. Our free daily workout schedule is guaranteed to keep you fit throughout January! Don’t forget to check out our ROW31 Facebook group of like-minded people for extra support.

Moving to membership, I know many of you may be coming to the end of your current membership and so if you have valued the guidance and support that we’ve provided clubs over the last year, please do renew your membership. Every part of your membership fee is invested into supporting our sport and allows us to protect it for generations to come.

Finally, with cases of the latest COVID-19 variant, Omicron, rising around the country we would advise clubs to reassess their policies on face coverings and would recommend that they are used at all times indoors when not exercising. Clubs may also wish to request that members take a lateral flow test before attending the club over this period. Check out our guidance which reflects the latest guidance from the Government here.

Wishing you all the best for the coming year.

Alastair Marks
British Rowing CEO