Careers in sport and physical activity: meet Sports Facilities Business Manager Kieran Charles

Kieran Charles

Join us as we discuss his career in the sport and physical activity sector, his future ambitions and his top tips for a successful career.

Could you briefly outline your background and current role?

“I have always been in either hospitality, tourism, or leisure. Since studying Tourism at College, I began working at the Ritz Hotel before joining Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) one of the UK’s largest leisure providers in 2008. Over the course of ten years, I worked my way through a number of roles starting as an admin officer before progressing through to a general manager.

GLL [a current CIMSPA employer partner] was very supportive in helping me to develop professionally and identify a clear route to progress through. During this time I developed my skills by gaining my NPLQ and I also completed a BA (Hons) in Sport Management from Loughborough College. Before this time I was also a member of the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management, also referred to as ISRM, which was the predecessor of CIMSPA.

In 2018, I relocated to Tendring District Council, in Clacton on Sea, Essex, which operates their own facilities in Essex areas. I started as a Sport Facilities and Development Manager but recently transitioned into the role of Sports Facilities Business Manager. This role brings back my passion for travel and tourism as we have over six leisure facilities, but also able to get involved in other aspects of the business such as seafront and sporting events”.

What are your future ambitions and goals?

“So, I now have the opportunity to step into the role of partnership manager which is something I have been aspiring to do for a while. As I am still familiarizing myself to the new role I don’t have any immediate desires to move on but am enjoying working in a team that covers a much wider remit allowing me to be involved and support other aspects of the council including theatre, the seafront and events. This allows me to have a completely different perspective and has reignited the interest I had in my youth in travel and tourism”.

What does it mean to be part of the sector’s only Chartered Institute?

Before CIMSPA, I was always a member of the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) because I felt it was important to be part of a membership organisation that focused on representing our workforce and our sector as a profession. It is all about being recognised for a level of standard and competencies. The fact it has helped me to be deployable in the sector and gives customers, participants, employees, clients, and colleagues confidence in your skills is invaluable.

It gives you a sense of confidence because you are part of a professional organisation and that is important, as it shows you have dedicated and committed yourself to a career. CIMSPA membership shows that commitment and gives your customers and participants confidence in you, your skills and knowledge.

How has being a CIMSPA member supported you to achieve or progress towards these goals?

“CIMSPA played a big role in my early career particularly when I was an assistant manager. This also came at a time when I wanted to seriously look at my career path. Becoming part of CIMSPA gave me the knowledge I needed to be able to first write to the level I needed to complete my level Level 4 Higher Professional Diploma in Sport and recreation Management I had been working towards. Secondly, being a member helped me in my work and gave me the knowledge and understanding to apply to my workplace, which was vital. I have always been of the belief that it is important to be as wise as you possibly can in order to manage a variety of roles. As a CIMSPA member you are required to complete CPD each year to support you to do this. For me personally, I have achieved this by completing wider courses outside of my initial area of interest. For example, my exercise to music qualification, despite not having any rhythm myself, has really helped to grow my knowledge in line with governing bodies, such as Sport England, ukactive and CIMSPA, and also awarding organisations, to manage your workforce moving forward.

CIMSPA has started to progress over the past five years in terms of recognition for its support to the sector. I have found that understanding what CIMSPA does becomes far easier once you get involved in the organisation. Whether it is the professional standards framework which helps members to plan a career in the sector or whether looking for the latest guidance update in regards to COVID-19. Everyone now looks to CIMSPA as the go-to body for answers and gaining clarifications. CIMSPA is now as well known as RLSS UK, ukactive and Sport England, but now they are aligned with one another, more so than ever before.

I utilised the resources made available by CIMSPA quite early on in my career, and once I went through my degree, I used a lot of the information available to help me. More recently, CIMSPA has been a daily click for updates on guidance. CIMSPA’s guidance has been extremely useful in pointing towards other governing bodies as well which shows great partnerships between CIMSPA and the NGBs. For leisure, this has been extremely useful to have Swim England, Badminton England and everything else available from one area which has helped us significantly during the pandemic.

As an organisation (Tendring District Council), we have accessed CIMSPA’s ReTrain funding which has helped us to apply for funding for our staff which will help to keep them retained in our sector. Then of course there has been ReActivate which has focused more on supporting NOPs and having a centralised place for COVID-19 awareness and safety training”.

What one thing or piece of advice would you recommend to others currently in or entering a role like your own?

“Broaden your horizons by utilising professional bodies, such as CIMSPA, that are out there. If anyone is considering how they can develop, or if they should do more courses, then I would say it’s the right thing to do. I think the responsibility of development is down to the individual and it is down to them to go and find the information to present.That being said, bodies are there to help you and will often collate information on courses and resources to help you pretty clearly and concisely. This information is provided with the option of further support to help you to progress through your career”.

Where do you see the potential for new opportunities or change within our sector?

“Everyone keeps on referring to the new normal, in my point of view, there are some key learnings from the pandemic. I think some of the control measures and the things the sector has put in place with CIMSPA, ukactive and Sport England, has really helped everyone. Some of these control measures will be here to stay in the future and will likely be seen as best practice simply because they have helped develop our business during a challenging climate. I also believe communication has vastly changed for our sector. We have gone through a dramatic shift, from a paper-based system through to just using an app has been a big shift for our sector. If you look at how leisure has changed in terms of how we share news and can go to CIMSPA for simplified guidance is the right step forward for our sector”.

How are you preparing yourself for those new opportunities and changes?

“I think both myself and also my team are all embracing the change and seizing the opportunity that we're currently in. Understanding new opportunities but also understanding how they fit within the business for a long term perspective continues to be a key factor. So I think it's coming to terms with the changes and making it work for your facility but also understanding the long term effects and the impact of the control measures”.

Since being a CIMSPA member what has been the biggest benefit to you?

“I think it is where I am now, and having the flexibility to leave one employment and walk into another because I am recognised for my professional skill set. Also having a great portfolio, being a member, alongside the post-nominal letters that CIMSPA membership is accompanied by, which openly shows you support CIMSPA in its vision for the sector which is then recognised by employers throughout the sector”.

Do you have any advice for those thinking of applying for membership?

“I would advise anyone considering applying to CIMSPA to either contact them directly or speak with someone who is already a member to make sure they have all the relevant information to hand before signing up. I believe the processes couldn’t be any simpler considering the amount of information required to check you meet the standards of the membership categories.”


Kieran is just one of thousands of CIMSPA members whose dedicated career represents the professionalism and dedication to sport and physical activity. CIMSPA, our members and partners are working together to bring recognition and respect for our profession and this continues to be possible because of our members, such as Kieran.


The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity

CIMSPA’s work enhances the career opportunities and professional development of the workforce operating in sport, fitness, exercise, leisure, gyms, coaching, outdoor exercise, health and wellbeing. We achieve this through sector-wide engagement, membership, networking, events, directories and professional standards.

Incorporated by Royal Charter Charity registration number 1144545

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