Conference Presenters


​Key Note Speakers ​

Dr Paul Thomas ​

Paul has had a lifelong relationship with sport, both as a participant and through his career. Growing up in the South Wales Valleys he was involved in a wide variety of sports, which he has continued throughout his life. From being Area Manager for Sport in Merthyr to establishing a community gym in Ebbw Vale, which is now being run by the community, Paul has consistently championed the power sport has to change lives and bring about a range of benefits for all.

His career has seen him take academic and consultancy roles in India, China, Malaysia, Pakistan and parts of Europe, gaining significant experience in the development and implementation of leadership within varying cultural environments. His work as an academic included designing Sport and Leisure Undergraduate programmes, to Post graduate MBA and PhD mainly in Complexity and Leadership. He is the founder of DNA Definitive, which involves critical academics from Universities around the world and Business Executives seeking alternative ways to deliver sustainable business.

He starred in the BBC Radio Wales 'Wales at Work' special and a BBC 1 documentary as 'The Business Doctor', where he sought to challenge the mindset of businesses, through placing organisational leadership in the hands of empowered frontline staff.

Paul's passion for ensuring the barriers to participation in community sport are dismantled and every child has an opportunity to make the most of their talent are central to his approach.


Workshop 1 - Equality and Diversity​

Caroline Spanton – Head of Women’s Rugby, Welsh Rugby Union​

Caroline has been working in the Sports Development sector for over 15 years, starting on an internship during her University degree with Caerphilly Sports Development Team, this was pivotal to her career path that followed. Early roles included Senior Women and Girls Development Officer, which then led on her to working for Sport Wales as a Regional Officer. Her next move was as Sports Development Manager for Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council for 5 years, alongside this role she became a Voluntary Board Director for Welsh Rowing for 3 years and then took the role as Chair of the Board for 18 months.

Moving into a National Governing Body role Caroline worked as Head of Development and then Head of Sport for Hockey Wales, managing significant change to modernise the governing body. Her most recent appointment began when she joined the Welsh Rugby Union in January 2015 in a new position as Head of Women's Rugby focusing on implementing a new pathway to secure long term growth and development in the grassroots and community aspects of the game, through to leading the elite pathways and the Wales National Teams in 15s and 7s.


Workshop 2 - Research and Insight

Dr Rachel Hughes – Head of Insight, Sport Wales​

Rachel has been Head of Insight at Sport Wales for 10 years. She has a remit to lead and develop a programme of research and insight activity that informs policy development, improves investment decisions, promotes the case for sport across a range of social policy agendas, and contributes to the delivery of bigger and better outcomes for Welsh sport. She is also currently leading on two significant and linked projects: embedding the Well-being of Future Generations Act in Sport Wales' work; and understanding and showing the measurable impact that Sport Wales and the sector's work has on the people of Wales.

With her vision of a sporting census of young people, Rachel created the innovative biennial School Sport Survey. An impressive 116,000 young people and 1,000 teachers took part in 2015, making it the largest survey of young people in the UK and the largest survey of its kind in the world. As a result, Rachel has shared this work and advised a number of government organisations across the world, including New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and England. The methodology and data has been instrumental in building relations between sport and education, and developing a pupil-informed sporting offer. The 2013 campaign won the Public Sector Campaign award at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations PRide Awards Cymru Wales in 2014.

Prior to joining Sport Wales, Rachel worked as an academic at Aberystwyth University and Cardiff University. She has undertaken a significant amount of applied research for both the Welsh Government and the European LEADER II programme. Her research specialisms focus around social and cultural issues, and issues of rurality, at both an applied and conceptual level.

Of particular note, Rachel worked on a Welsh Government-funded research project exploring the role, functions and future potential of town and community councils in Wales. Findings and recommendations from this research directly underpinned parts of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 and led to changes in guidance enhancing both town and community councils' the accountability and capacity to act.

Rachel attained an undergraduate degree in Geography from Aberystwyth University and her Masters and doctorate from Bristol University.

Rachel absolutely loves being a Mum of two small children and everything that comes with that. In the small amount of spare time that she has, Rachel enjoys the challenge and reward of being a Board Member of Hafan Cymru; a charitable housing association which provides housing and support primarily to those escaping domestic abuse, helping them to regain their independence, and helping to establish and run a Parent School Association at her daughter's nursery.


Workshop 3 - Commercialisation of Leisure​

Steve Osborne – Principal Lecturer, Sport Management, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Steven has over 22 year's voluntary, professional and academic experience within the sports and leisure industry, He has experience in developing, implementing and leading on sports development services, event management, strategic change programmes, local and national strategies, and managing teams of sports professionals. This work has been conducted in all major spheres of sport including voluntary, public, not for profit/private and national organisations.

He continues to support the development of Welsh sport as a non-executive director for one of the largest not for profit leisure trusts in Wales, previously acting as chair of Welsh Rowing and as a non-executive director with British Rowing.​ Steven joined the Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2014, following a four and a half year tenure as a lecturer at Swansea Business School (UWTSD). Within the Cardiff School of Sport Steven is currently a principal lecturer leading on the promotion of student employability. His research and academic interests are focused on sport and leisure management, marketing and entrepreneurship.


Workshop 4- Major Event Legacy​

Gwilym Evans – Head of Major Events, Welsh Government

Details coming soon.


David Evans – International Sports Events Manager, Welsh Government

Details coming soon.


Workshop 5 - Trust or Not to Trust?​

Anthony Hughes – Managing Director, Aneurin Bevan Leisure Trust,

Details coming soon.


Andrew Thomas – Group Manager Sport, Play and Active Wellbeing, Bridgend CBC

Andrew Thomas has over 25 years of experience in the sport and leisure sector and is currently the Group Manager for Prevention and Wellbeing within Bridgend County Borough Council. He manages a portfolio of services including sports development, play provision, dual use facility operation and the management of the 15 year leisure contract established to operate leisure centres and swimming pools. Andrew fulfils the Councils authorised officer role in ensuring that the specified services and the commitments made through the procurement process are supported and delivered as part of what is locally defined as the “Healthy Living Partnership Programme”. This approach recognises the outcome focused contract that the local authority has established and the expectation that investments made will develop more active and healthier communities.

Andrew has recently completed a MA in the Leadership and Management of Sport at Cardiff Metropolitan University including a final project that evaluated the importance of the client and contractor relationships and a partnership approach to developing effective services and opportunities.

Andrew previously led the regional collaborative project for 11 local authorities who formed the South East Sports Development Forum as a forerunner to the current community sport review being conducted by Sport Wales. This initiative was successful in securing “Making the Connections” investment via Welsh Government and identified the benefits to workforce development, advocacy and strategic planning across a regional footprint. In response to new Wellbeing focussed legislation in Wales, Andrew now has a focus on reviewing how discretionary services such as sport and physical activity can really contribute to the challenges being faced by other statutory providers such as health, social care and education. He is active beyond his employment with Bridgend County Borough Council being a board member of Disability Sport Wales, a member of the Sport Wales advisory group and vice chair of CIMSPA Wales.


Workshop 6 - Our Sporting Future

Richard Tobutt, SkillsActive National Manager

Richard Tobutt is a National Manager for SkillsActive, the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for Active Leisure, Learning and Well-Being. He has led the development of the SSC in Wales for well over a decade but more recently his skills are applied across the Devolved Administrations.

Richard has acquired extensive experience operating within the education, lifelong learning and skills arena and has developed effective relationships with key policy makers including the Government (and its agencies) and the FE, HE and work-based learning sectors.

Graduating within the field of sport and leisure he found employment within local government where he developed a valuable understanding of the sector. As a Lecturer he also gained knowledge and understanding of qualifications and training and delivered both the practical and theoretical elements of some BTEC, A-Level and GNVQ programmes.

In November 2002 he was seconded from Cardiff County Council to SPRITO – the National Training Organisation for Sport, Recreation and Allied Occupations becoming the first employee for the NTO in Wales before finding employment with SkillsActive. Richard has secured inward sector investment of around £3m from a range of sources and has also overseen the development of various Apprenticeship Frameworks and National Occupational Standards (NOS) based activities.


Workshop 7- Working in Partnership

Chris Jennings – Director of Sport, Cardiff Metropolitan University,

Chris is Director of Sport at Cardiff Metropolitan University home to Britain’s largest academic School delivering a range of undergraduate, post graduate and research degrees to over two thousand students. Chris has worked in a variety of operational and strategic roles within the UK’s sport, recreation, arts and higher education sector and has wide experience of project, event and operational management.

His leadership philosophy is based on recruiting and coaching teams to be self-sufficient, establishing lean decision making processes and budgetary systems, focusing on outcomes and creating and maintaining a positive culture to allow talent to thrive.


Laura Williams and Emma Hill - Senior Sports Development Officers, Sport Cardiff

Details coming soon.


Workshop 8 - What sport policy in England and Wales can learn from each other: An opportunity for policy transfer?

Dr Nicola Bolton – Strategy and External Engagement Co-ordinator, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Nicola is an active researcher with published papers reflecting her interests in applied research and evaluation and is currently working with UKRCS on Sport Wales’ national evaluation of ‘Calls 4 Action. She led the independent national evaluation on the Free Swimming Initiative, for Welsh Government and for Sport Wales’ on ‘5X60,’ and Market Segments.

Her career spans twenty five years and has involved working in higher education, government and national governing bodies of sport. She is currently a Director of British Gymnastics and the British Gymnastics Foundation and is on CIMSPA Wales.

Her particular interests include: public policy and sport policy; strategy; government; community and sport development; and physical activity.

Dr Chris Mackintosh, Senior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University

Chris has just completed his PhD in challenges facing the mass participation sport policy agenda between 2009-2016 in England. He is a national advisor to England Golf on how to get more people playing more often. He has worked on over 100 research projects and started his career as sport policy researcher in what was the Sport Council for Wales between 1997-2000 before going on to work for Sport England, the FA, RFU, ECB and has most recently worked for the Antiguan government reviewing their national sport policy and approach to engaging communities in sport.