Welcome back to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Head of Membership Development at Swim England, Gabriella Hay!

Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?

I have worked in sport for over 10 years, spanning a wide range of organisations. I started out in the Communications Team at the Lawn Tennis Association, worked as a Programme Manager at the Youth Sport Trust (a national charity using sport to improve children’s wellbeing), lead on the membership programme at British Triathlon and currently I head up the membership and digital product teams at Swim England. I love all sports in general. I play tennis and golf A LOT and have dabbled in triathlon events, but am always open to new sports and activities.

Gabriella Hay


What do you do in your current role?

The main purpose of my current role is to grow and develop Swim England’s membership programmes, ensuring we are engaging with our core market and keeping them engaged in aquatic sports for as long as possible, whether that is as a participant, coach, teacher, volunteer or supporter. Did you know that Swim England looks after swimming, open water, diving, artistic swimming and water polo – 5 sports under one body! We have a range of different membership products available, catering for over 200,000 members and my job is to make sure we are continually developing our existing products, looking for new product opportunities and ensuring our digital offering is aligned. We ultimately want a nation swimming, and believe that every child learns, every community enjoys and every medal inspires.

Gabriella Hay


What does a normal week look like for you?

No two days are ever the same. One day I could be brainstorming with our marcomms team on our next participation campaign, or running meetings with our customer services team, the next, briefing our digital product team on a new project or presenting to one of our boards on the work we are doing. I really thrive under pressure and like the varied nature of my role, using my people skills to build relationships and make stuff happen. Obviously COVID-19 has made the role very desk based at present, but when things return to some kind of normal, I will be on the road too, at events, meeting partners, and even visiting clubs.


How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?

After university I coached tennis full time for a few months, whilst I worked out what I wanted to do, and it didn’t take long for me to realise that I was passionate about getting into the development side of sport, and wanted to try and have an impact on a larger scale. I love the business side of sport and I’m passionate about working out how we can be more sustainable and fit for the future, especially as we move away from traditional funding and delivery models.


What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?

Making sure my teams are happy and know what their priorities are. I like to set clear goals and objectives for my teams, but I’m also very aware right now that the need to be agile, flexible and empathetic is so important. I am passionate about leadership and work hard to empower my teams so they feel comfortable to take risks and are not afraid about making mistakes.

What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?

I was still working at the LTA when Andy Murray won his first Wimbledon in 2013 and I definitely cried a lot of tears of joy when that happened!


What do you think is next for your industry?

A massive question, but with the world of COVID-19 and a real shift in behaviours, we are already seeing huge growth in outdoor swimming, and I think that we are going to see this increase even more once restrictions are eased. The desire for people to want to use exercise far more as an opportunity to connect with nature and the environment is going to be pertinent too. Swim England is looking at ways in which we can engage with our audiences differently and provide more flexible opportunities for our customers to take part in aquatic activities, through technology and virtual events. A lot of our stakeholder work will be looking at how we can future proof the leisure industry, to make sure it is meeting the ever changing and evolving needs of communities. I think the important role that sport and physical activity plays in both our physical and mental health is going to be a huge opportunity for us to reconnect and rebuild a more meaningful society.

In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about enough or focus on enough?

Diverse representation on boards and in Senior Leadership roles. I still believe there is a lot of work to do in this area across the whole sporting sector and think we should be working harder to address these inequalities.


What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?

Make connections, network, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Be bold, be brave and believe in yourself – you never know where you might end up. You can be the change you want to see in the world.

How to follow Gabriella Hay on social media…

Twitter – https://twitter.com/haygab55

Linked In – https://www.linkedin.com/in/gabriella-hay-020a7823/

Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Gabriella Hay ! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.