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New Expert Group Members to drive Sporting Innovation

Figures from business and research have been signed up to help shape the future of sport in Wales as part of a unique advisory group.

Nine new members will join the Sport Wales Advisory Group – the first of its kind to be established to develop new strategic thinking to help broaden sport's appeal amongst the less active.

First set up in 2013, the group is tasked with bringing expert thinking from different sectors and bring new ideas and insight into how the sport sector can continue to raise participation amongst the Welsh population.

They include Head of Operational Change at BT Gareth Hopkins, Mencap Cymru’s Sian Davies, Aberystwyth University lecturer Marco Arkesteijn and Youth Sport Trust’s Dylan Gallanders.


Also added to the group are Cowbridge-based businesswomen Heather Brock, Swansea University researcher Emily Marchant, Tennis Wales CEO Peter Drew and Bridgend leisure services manager Andrew Thomas. Sport Wales Board Member Samar Wafa will also join the group


Richard Harry will be the new Chair, and the new members will join leading Mental Skills Performance Coach Andy McCann, Director of Sports Officials Consultancy Janie Frampton and Sport Wales senior manager James Owens, as the group is refreshed

Most recently, the group worked in partnership with the Future Foundation to identify trends which could impact on the world of sport not just tomorrow, but five, ten and fifteen years from now. The Acting Today for an Active Tomorrow report was published in 2014.

A new ideal to provide benefits for volunteers called GivetoGain is also being taken forward after recommendations from the Group.

Supported by Sport Wales, the group will report on its findings and recommendations to the Sport Wales Board and government officials. The findings will seek to benefit the whole sector, providing guidance for improved delivery against a backdrop of continued reductions in resources.

Sport Wales Chief Executive, Sarah Powell commented:

"There has already been a significant impact on the sports sector’s outlook through the thinking and insight of the advisory group. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Helen Humphrey for her chairing of the group and all the members who have stood down. Their contribution to sport in Wales has been critical to our future thinking

“It’s important that we have a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and experiences who can join forces to help shape a long-term strategic view of where we need to prioritise, focus and invest.

"We have chosen each group member based on their skills, interests, proven ability as strategic thinkers and openness to learn from others and different sectors. 

"I put the challenge down to them to bring lasting ideas and innovations that can impact on getting every child hooked on sport for life and contributing to medal success.”

New Sport Wales Advisory Group Chair, Richard Harry commented:

"I am delighted to have been given the privilege of chairing the Advisory Group in its second term. I hope to be able to continue that good work, and develop the Group's role even further.

"Our report Acting Today for an Active Tomorrow, published recently, sets out the challenges that the sports sector and Welsh society are facing. Over the next two years, our mission as an Advisory Group is to provide the foresight so that sport not only meets these challenges, but transforms itself to become central to everyone's lives in Wales.

"I've already been inspired by the energy, ideas and diversity of expertise of our new members - and together with those who are serving a second term, I am confident that we can achieve that mission."

Member Biogs

Samar Wafa

Samar is a Sport Wales Board member. 

She grew up in Cyncoed and attended Cardiff High School and Cardiff University, representing both in netball, hockey, athletics and basketball. After graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Business Administration and an international internship in Africa, she returned to Cardiff and achieved qualifications in sports coaching, community nutrition and leisure management. She later founded her own sports, fitness and nutrition company.

Samar has worked extensively at grassroots and community level, and through her work with minority charities and numerous Welsh and English-medium schools and been actively increasing participation in sport and achieving a real attitude change towards physical activity. A keen linguist who speaks five languages, Samar has worked with the London 2012 Olympics and the Rugby World Cup, as well as, more recently, UEFA, Sport Cardiff and the Cardiff Half Marathon to put Wales on the international sporting map. The combination of her activities and achievements was recognised when she was shortlisted for Sport Wales Community Coach of the Year in 2013.

Sian Davies


Currently a member of Mencap Cymru’s senior management team, Sian is an experienced third sector leader. A graduate of Cardiff University, Sian has also held positions in Public Affairs and Public Relations in addition to a period teaching English in South America.

It is through her work at Mencap Cymru that Sian has developed an understanding of inclusion and the covert barriers that continue to prevent meaningful integration. It is also through this work that Sian has learnt to appreciate the potential sport has to challenge external perceptions and raise personal aspirations. It is this possibility, to equip those most marginalised from participation, that Sian is interested in addressing during her time on the Group.

In her spare time Sian enjoys running, exploring new places and reading.


“I am genuinely excited at the prospect of exploring how to make sport more accessible through my membership on this group. I know from personal experience that participation in sport is key to well-being and belonging.  It can be transformative; ultimately helping to create more cohesive and resilient communities.”

Peter Drew


Peter has been the CEO of Tennis Wales for the past five years and has overseen the successful recent development and implementation of the Tennis Wales 2020 Vision Plan for growing and developing tennis participation across Wales.  He has a Masters Degree in Health and Physical Education from the University of Western Australia specialising in youth sports, and also has advanced level tennis coaching qualifications. 


Originally from New Zealand, Peter has 20 years of experience working within the different sporting cultures of New Zealand, Australia, England, and now Wales, and he hopes to be able to use that variety of experience to bring some different perspectives to the Sport Wales Advisory Group. 


As a New Zealander originally, he is of course a strong rugby enthusiast, but is also experienced and knowledgeable in a number of different sports.



Gareth Hopkins


An experienced and senior level telecommunications leader, Gareth Hopkins is Head of Operational Change at BT. He runs an organisation responsible for Openreach’s strategic transformation of its core IT systems, planning processes and field delivery methods.


A graduate from BT’s future leaders programme, he has spent nine years with the company and developed an extensive portfolio of roles, ranging from running large UK-wide engineering teams to working in Asia building next-generation broadband solutions. Although from Swansea, he spends much of his time based at Openreach head office in London.


A hugely passionate sportsman, Gareth has played rugby since the age of six at most levels in Wales and is regularly found mountaineering across Britain and Europe. He is also a keen golfer.


"I’ve always gained massive enjoyment from being in teams and participating in sport. My sporting ethos developed early at school and the skills I’ve learned through rugby in particular have been a massive help in my business career. Sport teaches you resilience and engenders a will to win – and added to the experience of leading transformation in a FTSE 100 company I hope my skills can bring positive change to Sport Wales, helping to deliver Sportopia.”


Emily Marchant


Emily is currently involved with research at Swansea University, specialising in child health and exercise. Her interest in this field was sparked by her time at University, where she achieved a degree in Sports Science and a Masters in Public Health and Health Promotion.


Emily continued her career path as a researcher on a physical activity intervention for asthmatic children. She has also delivered a number of MEND programmes to families and children focusing on exercise and nutrition.


Emily has always had a passion for working with children, which led her to experience the unique atmosphere of a children’s summer camp in America. She spent four summers working as a football coach and was subsequently promoted to a year group manager.


Sport has played a central part in Emily’s life. She grew up playing a variety of sports and competed at regional level in football and cricket. Emily represented her University in football for 5 years, acting as club captain, with one of her highlights playing the annual Varsity match.


Emily is planning on undertaking a PhD in child health and exercise with the aspiration of becoming a University lecturer.


Heather Brock


After finishing her degree in Metallurgy and Material Sciences at Nottingham University, Heather joined W H Smith as a Corporate Graduate, before returning home to Cowbridge to join RS Bird Ltd, the family business.


Through the next 25 years Heather was responsible for identifying and implementing a number of significant changes within the company, latterly developing its trading site and securing Waitrose as a tenant. This has freed up a significant portion of her time to devote to other interests.


Heather joined the Board of Welsh Rowing 4 years ago as Finance Director and was elected Chair in 2014. During this time she has become acquainted with Sport Wales and in particular its interaction with National Governing Bodies. She was also a member of the Commonwealth Games Wales Finance Committee during the last cycle and has just been re-elected.


Heather simply loves sport and having spent many years supporting her two now grown up sons and volunteering at their clubs, is very keen to play a part in the future of sport in Wales.


Dylan Gallanders


Dylan is studying Sport and Social Sciences at the University of Bath in order to develop an analytical understanding of the place of sport, health and physical activity within today’s society.


He is currently part of the Youth Sport Trust’s Team Leader Programme, allowing him to gain experience facilitating and delivering workshops, leading groups of young people and creating inclusive environments for young people to thrive in.


Dylan has previously been a Platinum Young Ambassador and member of the Welsh Young Ambassador Steering Group. He continues to be passionate about advocating the voice of young people and inspiring others to take part in sport. 


Dylan has worked for Wrexham Council coordinating their Activ 8-2-16 scheme which aims to provide opportunities for young people with a wide range of difficulties to participate in physical activity. This has contributed to his passion for promoting equality and allowed him to gain an understanding of the barriers to participation facing young people in contemporary society.


He enjoys both playing and coaching a variety of sports as well as volunteering at sporting events.


Marco Arkesteijn


Participating in various sports from a young age has motivated Marco Arkesteijn to pursue a career path focusing on the role of exercise on an individual’s health. A degree in Human Movement Sciences, followed by a PhD in Sport and Exercise Science provided the foundations to understand how humans move, and the impact this has on the whole body.


Marco Arkesteijn is currently a Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at Aberystwyth University. As part of his teaching, he frequently incorporates modern wearable technologies that can help to inform and motivate an individual about his own health.  His research interests include the impact of exercise on muscle strength and coordination, in particular in older adults, but also in an athletic population.  Marco is a member of the Ageing Well in Wales Programme, specifically focusing on falls prevention in older adults.


In line with the Sport Wales ambition, he hopes to encourage everyone to enjoy being physically active and take part in sport. His own sporting activities consist of football and tennis. He enjoys walking and cycling, both as a daily commute and for leisure, exploring the beautiful scenery Wales has to offer.


Andrew Thomas


Andrew is the group manager for sport, play and active wellbeing within Bridgend County Borough Council and has held a range of roles within the organisation over the last 22 year.


Recent achievements include the development of an outcomes focussed contract to operate the Councils leisure facilities for a 15 year period, ensuring sport is highly visible within the Council’s strategic equalities plan and the development of collaborative working approaches within and beyond the organisation to build a healthier county borough.


Andrew has co-ordinated the local sport plan for a number of years and has experience of using research and consultation to determine strategic sporting priorities and to build performance management frameworks. The sports development services have achieved the national significant achievement award for gender equality programmes and a successful ‘Girl Power’ initiative is currently evolving.


Andrew has also led the successful Calls4Action scheme to develop improved engagement with people with disabilities.  He is now working with health and social care partners to raise awareness of the potential for sport and physical activity to contribute to key changes in legislation designed to improve wellbeing.


He is a board member for CIMSPA (Wales) and is completing a dissertation on leisure contract arrangements at Cardiff Metropolitan University.


Richard Harry


Richard is Chair of the Sport Wales Advisory Group.


In his first term as a member of the Group, Richard led the team which produced the ground-breaking report 'Acting Today for an Active Tomorrow', identifying the key trends that will transform Welsh sport and society over the next decade.


After gaining experience as a policy advisor at HM Treasury, and an information specialist in the NHS, Richard took up a research position at Sport Wales in 2006. He has a degree in Accounting and Economics, a Masters degree in Public Policy and a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Science Research Methods, all from Cardiff University.


In his seven years at Sport Wales, Richard worked on a range of projects, including the development of Sport Wales’ people segmentation tool, the Active Adults Survey, and the School Sport Survey. He now combines his work with the Advisory Group with his role as an analyst in the education sector / Head of Statistical Analysis at the examinations board, WJEC.


Andy McCann


Andy is an adviser, mentor and performance coach to high performing people from many walks of life, including some of the UK's highest profile individuals. He is currently a Director for both AMCAN Consultancy & Training Ltd and DNA Definitive Ltd.


Previously a successful teacher and head of physical education, Andy's approach and ethos was recognised by the receipt of a number of awards.  Since leaving teaching in 2004, Andy has continually been involved in sport by providing consultancy support to UK Sport and SportsCoach UK and is a visiting / associate lecturer at a number of universities in England and Wales.


He has an interest in the development of mental toughness and performance and is a specialist mental skills performance coach to a number of professional sports teams and athletes.  His work has been described as 'cutting edge' (Daily Telegraph) and he is regularly featured in the national press and on TV and radio.


An elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and an internationally published non-fiction author, he is frequently a commissioned writer for a diverse range of publications.  A popular conference speaker, Andy has spoken at various national events including the Royal Society of Medicine and in collaboration with major sports performance brands. In addition, Andy sits on the Welsh Advisory Committee for the Stroke Association.


"I am delighted to sit on this Sport Wales Advisory Board.  I am confident that as a nation, we in Wales can be further encouraged not to abdicate responsibility for our own physical activity, lifestyle and health, which will clearly be to the benefit of our communities and country as a whole."

Janie Frampton


Janie is the Owner Director of Sports Officials Consultancy Ltd an organisation which specialises on the education and development of sports officials across all sports, working with National Governing Bodies, National Associations and education establishments both nationally and internationally to develop and deliver bespoke education programmes to encourage the growth, participation and quality of sports officials.


Janie has been an active football referee for 26 years, and became the second women to have operated within men’s professional football. She has officiated in many International matches, including the Women’s Champions League and World Cup Qualifiers, as well as the highest women’s games domestically. 


Janie moved into Referee Development in 2001.  She is one of only a handful of female FIFA Referee Instructors in the world, and has been involved in many tournaments and workshops, including the development and selection of the female referees for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China in 2007 the FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup in Chile in 2008 where she was appointed as technical analyst, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany 2011 where she was appointed as an observer.


An experienced facilitator and lecturer Janie specialises in developing people through learning and inspiring them to believe in and achieve their own potential and provides an invaluable wealth of experience, knowledge, skills and success to motivate them to succeed.

Outside of watching football and sport in general, she enjoys amateur photography, music, reading and marathon training.

James Owens

James is a Manager for Sport Wales based out of the Mid and West Wales Office.  In addition to being responsible for Sport Wales work within the region he also leads on workforce development across Wales which includes coaches, officials, volunteers and leadership development.

He has a background in Sport Development and Facility Management working and Managing leisure centres within Wales and England.  Within Wales he has worked on projects including the community sport review, free swimming and active workplace.

James also represents Sport Wales on the UK Coaching Committee, UK Quest Board and Chief Culture and Leisure Officers of Wales group

Outside of work, James is involved in many sports including triathlon and cycling along with being kept busy with his 3 children.