James Marchington talks to newly appointed CPSA chief executive Nick Fellows about Olympic legacy, promoting shooting to a wider audience – and has he got his certificate yet
You haven’t been involved in shooting up to now, so what did you do before, and what makes you qualified to run the sport’s governing body?
I’ve worked the majority of my life in sport, originally in leisure centre management and marketing. I spent three years in regional newspapers, where I enjoyed the business side but missed the sport. I went on to work for the British Olympic Association, where I ran the Olympic Medical Institute.
I was with the BOA for 12 years in all and I really enjoyed that world. It gave me contact with athletes, and provided a real opportunity to make a difference in terms of getting them fit and tuned. I had the opportunity to go to three Summer Olympics as part of the BOA team, which was a fantastic experience. When the BOA closed the OMI, I worked for a county sports partnership for the 18 months before I joined the CPSA.
I think all that has given me quite a rounded view of sport, as well as having some valuable business experience.
Will you be taking up clay shooting now you are at the CPSA?
Like many people I have done some shooting but never followed it up. I went on a corporate day at Churchill’s and really enjoyed it. I went away thinking that was great, but not really knowing how I could carry on doing it.
Now I have applied for a shotgun certificate. Thames Valley Police have cashed my cheque but I haven’t heard back from them yet. I’ve done my competency course, and I have some shooting planned with one or two of our coaches.
I’d like to keep making some progress in shooting, and it would be great to enter a competition one day. One of the great things about the CPSA is we have the classification system so you can see how you’re progressing as well as comparing yourself to other shooters.
Having seen how other sports are run, would you say that clay shooting is well served by our governing body?
That’s a side I’m still learning about. The only way I’m going to find out is by talking to members, clubs and grounds. I’ve started doing that, and I’m finding that there’s a number of things the association has done well, and a number of things that it perhaps hasn’t had the capacity to do so well.
With a membership base of 25,000 or so you’re never going to please everyone all the time. We mustn’t beat ourselves up over the fact that we’re not satisfying everybody, but concentrate on the right things to do for the association. Having said that, there are areas where we can do more.
I want to make the sport more visible, and also make it more accessible. It’s very easy for someone to be put off by ringing a ground to be told yes, come along for a lesson, it’ll cost you £90. Have a series of five or six lessons, then go and buy a gun that’ll cost you £1,000-£2,000. Before you’ve got very far down the line you’re looking at quite a significant bill for something you don’t know if you’ll be that good at, or keen on.
In many ways clay shooting is no different to other sports. There are some very expensive sports out there, with far greater participation than clay shooting – golf and sailing for instance have high entry points. So I don’t think we need to be put off by the cost factor, but we need to find softer ways to bring people into the sport, welcome them and look after them – give them a pathway that they can follow.
That deals with the question of bringing new people into the sport, but what about helping shooters to progress up the ranks to top competition level?
It’s the responsibility of the governing body to piece together all the sources of support and funding, so we can draw a pathway for the disciplines. Because of the funding position within shooting, we’re not in the luxurious position of some Olympic sports, which can justify UK Sport investment in their whole talent pathway, but we can set a framework.
Some of it will have to be funded by the competitors themselves, or by their sponsors, but if we provide that structure people can see how they can get from one level to another, and what they need to do in order to get into the European Team, the World Cup Team or the Olympic Team.
One of the big issues for us as a membership organisation is how much of our membership revenue we should spend on elite teams, and how much should be devoted to developing the sport and helping clubs at a local level.
Talking of the 2012 Olympics, you missed out on the row over the shooting venue – but what can we do about ensuring a legacy for shooting?
In fact I didn’t miss it entirely. I was sat in a BOA Executive Board meeting when Phil Boakes came to present the case for shooting at Dartford. To be fair it was probably the wrong organisation he was talking to, because the decision lay with LOCOG and it had already been made by then. It’s certainly too late to change it now – Woolwich it is.
I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of a hard legacy. That’s not entirely a bad thing. What suits one major event doesn’t necessarily suit the demographic of the sport. A massive shooting centre creates the liability of a huge overhead. That sort of thing can break a sport if it doesn’t have a very high usage.
What we’ve got to capitalise on is the soft legacy – the interest that’s created by the Olympics, with people seeing the sport and wanting to give it a try. One way is to raise the profile of clubs around the country where people can go and shoot.
One of the ways to make the sport more visible is to capitalise on the personalities of some of the shooters. The media likes to hang things on people and personalities. The difficulty with that is the team doesn’t get selected until the beginning of May next year, which gives us a very short window to promote them.
We’ve got a job to do over the next 12 months to build the profile of some of the shooters, some of whom hopefully will be involved in the Olympic team.
Plus we’ve got people like George Digweed who shoots non-Olympic disciplines but has been hugely successful on a world scale. We need to bring characters like that to people’s attention outside the shooting world. As the governing body we have a big role to play in that, with the support of the individuals themselves and their sponsors.
We asked our Facebook followers what they’d like us to ask you, and one of the most popular questions was about the regions. So how important are the CPSA regions to your vision for the sport?
I think the regions are very important. It’s great that we’ve got people willing to put their time into the county committees and regional committees, and I think we can offer them more support to help them to grow the sport at a local level.
We’ve got a limited staff at HQ, and trying to get out and cover the country from here would take too much time and money. Using the regional committee structure in a more proactive way might be a way to get more done – but we need to listen to what they need from us in terms of support and resources to help them develop shooting locally.
What are your impressions after your first couple of months in the job, and what do you plan to tackle first?
I’ve really enjoyed my first few weeks in the CPSA. I’ve spoken to some members and been to a few grounds and one or two competitions, so I’m beginning to get a feel for how things are.
I’m very open to hearing comments and suggestions about ways we can provide a better service and improve the benefits we offer to members. That’s key for us, we really want people to feel it’s worth being a member of the CPSA.
We’ve already carried out some surveys to find out what members think, and we’ve had some positive responses with people commenting that it’s nice the CPSA is asking us. I want members to realise that the CPSA is interested in their views.
We’ve also been doing a lot with our IT systems behind the scenes, looking at ways of putting all our info on one platform. That will allow us to integrate the information, so we can communicate better with our members, and send out information in a more timely way.
First and foremost we want to engage more with the members and tailor our services as the governing body to what our members want and need. Equally we’ll be looking for their support as well – in bringing in friends as new members and getting more people involved in the sport.