Our Leaders

The individuals who make our work possible.

Our Founders

  • Sir John Beckwith

Motivated by a passionate belief that all young people benefit from taking part in sport, Sir John created the Youth Sport Trust. He was awarded a knighthood in 2002 for services to youth sport.

  • Duncan Goodhew MBE

Duncan is Vice President of the Youth Sport Trust and co-founded the organisation. He won a gold medal for 100m breaststroke and bronze medal for the 4x100m medley relay in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

Our Honorary Life Ambassador

  • Baroness Sue Campbell DBE

Sue has been involved with the Youth Sport Trust since the charity's inception, first as Chief Executive, and then as Chair. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards and was the Chair of UK Sport until 2013.

Our Patrons

  • Lord Sebastian Coe

Lord Coe won four Olympic medals and set eight world records in middle-distance running. In 2004 he was named head of London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. After the successful bid, he became the chair of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

  • Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is Britain’s greatest Paralympic athlete and is recognised as one of the most gifted and courageous sportswomen of her generation. She has won 11 gold medals in five Paralympic Games.

  • Steve Cram MBE

Steve Cram is recognised as one of the finest athletes of his generation. He is a World, Olympic, European and Commonwealth medallist as well as 3-time World Record holder during his athletic career. He was recognised for his achievements by winning the 1983 BBC Sports Personality of the year and receiving his MBE in 1986.

Our Board

  • Neil Davidson CBE - Chair

Neil is an experienced chairman and CEO with over 20 years’ experience on boards. He became chair of the Youth Sport Trust in January 2018. He is also currently President of Loughborough Town Cricket Club, a trustee at the United Learning academy chain, an associate governor at Ashmount Special Needs School and a member of the Lord’s Taverners charity.

  • Dame Katherine Grainger DBE

Katherine is the first British woman to win medals at five successive Olympic Games including a gold medal at London 2012. Katherine is now the Chair of UK Sport. She joined the YST Board in 2018. She works with various charities and sporting bodies and this, alongside her lengthy sporting career, was recognised when she was made a Dame for services to sport and charity in 2017.

  • Billy Downie

Billy is Headteacher of The Streetly Academy. He has served a National Leader of Education supporting schools in challenging circumstances. Billy has also served as an elected member of the West Midlands’ Regional School Commissioner’s Headteacher Board. He currently Chairs the Black Country School Games, and has recently served as an advisor to the Institute for Ethical Artificial Intelligence in Education. 

  • Dr Paula Franklin

Dr Paula Franklin is the Chief Medical Officer for Bupa Group. Paula studied medicine in the UK and worked as a GP before leaving clinical practice to study Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Following this she worked for the Children’s Defence Fund charity in Washington DC on US health policy and legislation. On returning to the UK, Paula joined Bupa and held a number of roles in both health funding and healthcare provision. In addition to her medical degree, Paula has a Master’s in Public Heath from Johns Hopkins, an MBA from London Business School, an MA in Bioethics and Medical Law and a diploma in counselling. Paula is also a trustee of the Bupa Foundation and she is on the Advisory Council of the Black Women in Leadership Network.

  • Melanie Honnor

Melanie has over 25 years of experience working in international media companies with a focus on digital transformation in sport and broadcasting. She was previously Chief Commercial Officer for a start-up in the video healthcare industry and led Business Development for Qualcomm Europe’s Broadcast Division. Prior to that she held senior roles at Sky, Capital Radio and Discovery Communications. She is Chair of Trust in Fashion which supports the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity and is Chair of the YST’s Fund Development Committee.

  • John Gilligan (Chair Audit and Risk Committee)

John, a Chartered Accountant, provides corporate finance advice to European financial technology companies.  He has been involved in various aspects of community rugby over many years including establishing an education awards scheme for players, chairing an injured players fund and chairing London Irish Amateur RFC. He has also been a school governor.

  • Joanna Coates

Joanna has more than 20 years of experience working with brands, rights holders and the media. She made waves in her former role as Chief Executive of England Netball, where they secured rights to host the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 in Liverpool, which was the best attended Netball World Cup to date. Netball also became the fastest growing female team sport in the country under her guidance. Most recently, Joanna was the Chief Executive of UK Athletics between March 2020 – October 2021.

  • Valerie Copenhagen

Valerie is currently on secondment as the Head of Disability at Sport England. Previously she held the role of Executive Director at UK Deaf Sport where she led on programmes linked with increasing participation of deaf and hard hearing people in sport and physical activity across the UK. She has over ten years of experience within the charity sector. She also sits on the board at UK Council on Deafness and is chair of the Sport and Recreation Alliance Youth Advisory Panel.

  • Claire Boakes

Claire has over 20 years’ experience leading industry-winning marketing, brand and partnership campaigns. Currently managing Land Rovers global sport & humanitarian portfolio, she is very experienced in credible and authentic partnership management and communications. Claire has a passion for championing the next generation and purpose lead strategy.

  • Sajid Gulzar OBE

Sajid is a National Leader of Education, has previously inspected for Ofsted and has worked internationally on behalf of the National Association of Special Educational Needs (NASEN) and Cambridge Education. He is the founding CEO of the Prince Albert Community Trust which consists of five primary schools and a brand new secondary free school. Sajid is a guest lecturer at the University of Birmingham’s Education Leadership Academy and has served on the West Midlands Regional School’s Commissioner’s Head Teacher Board since 2017. In June 2019 Sajid was awarded an OBE for Services to Education.

  • Shweta Sharma

Shweta is an experienced commercial strategist, business and technology leader. She has extensive experience creating and managing the end-to-end delivery of innovative digital products and services. She is passionate about creating fun, engaging and climate appropriate services, which are consumer first. Shweta was Director Entertainment at Xbox Europe, Middle East and Africa where she built a new commercial division by creating and scaling new sports, TV and apps products and services. She has led digital businesses spanning various industries, such as Navico, Disney and Harvey Nichols. Shweta is a non-executive board member of BT Group’s Technology Advisory Board and works across a diverse portfolio of companies. She is a proud mentor to women in tech and a champion for evolving culture in the workplace.

  • Lipa Nessa

Lipa is the chair of our Youth Board. She was formally a semi-pro footballer and is now a sports activist and football coach. She also became a Youth Sport Trust ambassador in 2018.

Observers:

  • Abi Misselbrook-Lovejoy 

Abi is an Executive Headteacher across two primary schools in inner London. She is passionate about school sport being inclusive and fun and was an Advanced Skills Teacher in primary PE and Maths before moving into school leadership. Before volunteering with the Youth Sport Trust Abi had been involved in charities supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion in London.

  • Shaunagh Brown 

Shaunagh is one of only 30 professional rugby players in England, who also plays for the Harlequins FC. Shaunagh has a passion for getting young people active in any way that engages them whether that's elite competition, local competition or just participation activity. With a particular interest in supporting girls to be active. Starting her sporting career on the athletics track, Shaunagh has competed for Great Britain in the Shot Put, Discus and Hammer before going on to compete at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She then turned her attention to rugby in 2015 and less than two years later was running out for her first England appearance. Shaunagh joined the Student RFU board of trustees in 2021. 

Our Senior Leadership Team

  • Ali Oliver MBE – Chief Executive Officer

Working here for over 15 years, Ali played a central role in forming the national School Sport Partnership (SSP) network in her former role. Ali was previously a PE teacher, Head of PE and Deputy Director of Sport at a university. In 2020 Ali was awarded an MBE for her services to sport.

  • Will Roberts - Chief Operating Officer

Having experience in the fitness industry and as a sports coach in his home city of Stoke-on-Trent, Will moved into an NGB before joining the Youth Sport Trust team. Now our Chief Operating Officer, Will continues to be actively involved in sport in his local community in North Staffordshire as a volunteer coach and club leader.

  • Nicola Boon - Chief Brand Officer

Nicola has over 20 years experience in Branding and Marketing. Nicola’s passion for purpose was ignited when leading on the Co-operative Bank brand partnership with national homeless charity Centrepoint which led to her previous role at national environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. Nicola has seen first hand the transformative power of sport through her involvement at her local community boxing gym and she is driven by the opportunity to level-up access across the UK.

  • Helen Vost - Managing Director - Youth Sport Trust International

With over 25 years’ experience in the voluntary sector, Helen supported our founders to establish the Youth Sport Trust as a charity in 1995. She is responsible for delivering EU Erasmus+ Sport funded projects with European partners and the delivery of the sport strand of the British Council’s Next Generation Gulf Programme.

  • Surinder Sihra - Director of Finance and Governance

Surinder is responsible for the YST financial and treasury strategies as well as ensuring that business plans and development programmes are effectively resourced and funded. 

  • Lisa McHendry - Director of Innovation and Insight

Having worked at YST for over 20 years, Lisa is responsible for overseeing our thought leadership work. She ensures that we develop innovative programmes that support schools and organisations to maximise the impact of PE, school sport and health-related activity.

  • Kay Batkin - Network Director

Kay has worked for YST for over 11 years and is responsible for growing and developing our relationship with schools and the networks that support them. Having joined Youth Sport Trust from Sharnbrook Upper School in Bedfordshire, Kay has a long history of working within the Education sector. In previous roles Kay has lead on the delivery of major national programmes such as the School Games. Recently Kay has been supporting the development and growth of the Well School Movement as well as supporting our member schools.

  • Emily Reynolds - National Programmes Director

Emily has worked for YST for 8 years and has responsibility for the development and delivery of our national level programmes. Throughout her time at the YST Emily, has led the introduction of YST Leadership Framework and overseen the approach to Reframe competition. Passionate about ensuring Young People are given a platform to be heard and empowered to take action.

  • Amanda Vernalls - Head of Research and Insight

Amanda is responsible for overseeing our research and insight team, who identify, strengthen and share evidence that champions the impact of PE, play and sport on yong people’s wellbeing, life skills and achievement.