Five years after embarking on ukactive’s Future Leaders programme, Seb Rowe has joined Alliance Leisure to deliver the next generation of sports and physical activity spaces.

In the summer of 2017, I along with other professionals from the physical activity sector, took a trip of a lifetime to Barcelona’s leading IESE Business School. The week-long course was designed to meet the specific needs of physical activity sector operators and suppliers and equip participants with the skills and tools to drive the sector’s future growth.

I was working in business development for Life Leisure at the time. Malcolm Mcphail, the then CEO, suggested I join the Future Leaders programme not only for my own professional development, but for the wider benefit of Life Leisure.

We studied from 7am to 7pm every day, developing solutions to real-world challenges. It was tough, but it was incredible. The tools and techniques that I learned during that week I still use in my work today. It was a brilliant experience. And beyond all of the practical learning, it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life. 

That week in Barcelona was only the start of what proved to be a continual learning experience encompassing mentoring, events and ongoing engagement. The Future Leaders alumni still exists today and despite being out of the sector for a while, I continue to benefit from that shared connection with industry colleagues.

The alumni has allowed me to build lasting relationships, learn alongside other people in the industry and lean on others for advice and information. It’s been invaluable for my career.

I worked for Life Leisure for 11 and a half years. In 2020 I left to join the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman as Programme Manager. But sport and physical activity has always been a big part of my life, so when I saw an opportunity to come back to the sector, I didn’t hesitate.

Alliance Leisure has a great reputation, and after talking to the senior leadership team I understood their vision and knew I wanted to be a part of the organisation.

I’m working alongside some very talented people. The culture has really impressed me; Alliance has a glass half full mentality and are always questioning what they need to do to grow and improve. It’s very refreshing.

I’m getting the chance to observe projects at different stages of development, understand the challenges in delivering these projects and how we can overcome them – it’s what Alliance calls ‘the art of the possible’. I’m looking forward to the day when I can see a leisure development through from beginning to conclusion.

As a former footballer, I experienced my fair share of good and not so good public sports and leisure facilities as I played my way up through the ranks. I have personal experience of the value of good quality public sector facilities. It’s encouraging to see local authorities investing in centres that make a long term positive impact on local people and communities. I’m thankful that the ukactive’s Future Leaders programme has helped me get to where I am today so I can work with public sector partners to deliver centres that make a real difference to people’s lives. 

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