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David Carpenter: oration

Read Professor Dimo Dimov's oration on David Carpenter for the honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration in December 2014.


Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you and the congregation Mr David Carpenter, who has left a lasting legacy for British Sport. To anyone who sees no place for entrepreneurship in the public sector, David’s career journey is a showcase for the transformational power of innovation, set off by small but persistent steps and motivated by a desire to make a difference.

In 1976, David Carpenter was where you are today, graduating from the University of Bath with a degree in Social Sciences and looking ahead to creating a better future. In him stirred a powerful mix that would propel his career: passion for sport, entrepreneurial spirit, and leadership competence, enabled by two years of management training at Marks and Spencer prior to his university studies.

At the University of Bath, David won a half blue for tennis and served as Athletics Union President for two years (1975-1977), working on developments that included the first sports hall, swimming pool, and sports pavilion. As the first sabbatical president, he was also Chair of Southern Universities Sport and won a scholarship with the GB team to the World Student Games in 1977. That experience opened up the prospect of a career in sport.

David joined the Sports Council in 1978 for a momentous 24-year career. Having turned a small ‘Recreation Management’ exhibition into a roaring success over nine years, he was ready to tackle bigger challenges. In the early 1990s sport had a great ally in John Major at the top level of government. David researched the possibility of a national lottery to fund sport and promoted it as the only viable way for Britain to compete on a world stage. This effort paid off with the creation of the National Lottery Fund in 1994 with its five "good cause" beneficiaries. As 22 million TV viewers watched its first draw live in November 1994, a watershed opportunity emerged for British sport.

Exploiting this opportunity was a huge change for the Sports Council, a small £25 million organisation, and its risky prospect stirred internal resistance. David led the way forward with the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur: clear vision, building strong teams, never losing sight of operational details, and focus on milestones and learning. He served as Director of the National Lottery Sports Fund from 1994 until 2003.

The Fund was the first to gain accreditation and make awards. With David at the helm, it developed with a dizzying pace, processing 28,000 enquiries in its first 4 months and keeping up with a tenfold increase in budget in its first year. During David’s tenure, the Fund allocated £2.6 billion in over 29,000 grants, from grassroots to elite performance.

On top of the grassroots support for sport, David implemented a strategy that enabled Britain’s leap from mediocrity to third place in the Olympic medals table of London 2012. Although it is athletes and not officials who win medals, David sees his contribution as creating the right environment for talented performers to succeed on the elite stage.

David led the creation and operation of the ‘World Class’ elite performance programmes. This was followed by the establishment of the English Institute of Sport, aiming to improve service provision to high-level performers. In this role, he oversaw the investment of £120 million in a network of modern training facilities. The University of Bath was among the first to seize this opportunity, with a £30 million project to develop the Sports Training Village. A risky commitment at the time, it has become an anchor of our campus experience and community engagement.

Since 2005, David has been a Director of the Sports Consultancy, TrioPlus, driving improvement and opportunity development in organisations spanning the major sports bodies, local government, universities and the voluntary sector. In the London 2012 Games, David stepped up as volunteer leader, a ‘Gamesmaker’, interviewing the potential volunteers and working at the Paralympics to ensure the superb delivery of the events.

David’s career journey has turned what once had looked impossible into what is now taken for granted. It inspires us to take on the next impossible.

Chancellor, I present to you Mr David Carpenter, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa.

Professor Dimo Dimov

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