Meet the SOA Board – June 2024

After the June 2024 AGM, we thought now was a pertinent time to give you a bit of background about your current board and a quick summary of what their jobs involve. You will have seen from the 2024 AGM Booklet that some of the board ( Chair, President, interim Operations Director and Finance Director) have indicated they will step down from their posts in September when an EGM is being held as part of the Club Networking Day in Perth on 14th September (more to follow on this later).

Chair – Keith Dawson

The role of SOA Chair is an interesting and varied one, including Charing the Board to ensure it provides a clear strategic direction to SOA, through ensuring the Board meets it’s financial duties to maintain the health of SOA, to an ambassadorial role with stakeholders. This leads onto ensuring good governance practices are maintained. All this, working with a committed group of like minded individuals working to make sure the sport is a thriving one. 

The last two years have been particularly challenging and interesting. Highlights were ensuring that WOC24 eventually took place amidst major financing challenges, successfully applying for the World Masters MTBO Champs in 2026 and helping shape SOA strategy for the next four years with our major funder Sport Scotland. Sadly my increased responsibilities to Ukraine and recovering from a major injury preclude me continuing. I know my successor will find it an interesting role and much less challenging with WOC24 behind us.

President – Richard Oxlade

Being a board member has been a great opportunity to help the sport in this area and has been a constant reminder that without the hard work of many volunteers behind the scene the sport couldn’t thrive or even survive. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time (well most of it!) working with everyone in Scottish Orienteering over the last 7 years and I can recommend working on the board to anyone who has a passion for the future of our sport.    

I’ve been involved in orienteering for a long time now (nearly 40 years), starting off in the that orienteering mecca Hertfordshire, followed by a few years with SLOW (Souf London Orienteers), lots of time in the North East of Scotland with Grampian Orienteers (a real orienteering mecca), and then a move south to Edinburgh. I’ve planned, organised and controlled numerous events (and got it wrong a few times), including coordinating two 6 Days which couldn’t be much different (over 6000 competitors at WOC2015 and COVID at 2021). I love competing with my peers, and confess that forest orienteering is my real passion. Pavements are just soo hard to run on and I’m not fast enough to sprint, although the MTBO sprint discipline has reminded me that short distances can be great fun. In my professional life I have always been curious about the way teams and organisations work (or don’t, and how they good decisions are made (or aren’t). I’m fascinated by the work of people like Daniel Kahneman who sadly died this year (albeit aged 90) and how people make decisions.    

Finance Director – Ben Hartman

Ben Hartman

The Finance Director oversees all the SOA’s financial affairs, policies and procedures.  While that may sound a little dry … every year throws up different challenges that can only be resolved by working together with other board members, the lovely staff team, the wider orienteering community and our key partners like SportScotland. Seeing our programme come together, from very large events such as the forthcoming World Championships or each 6-Day event, to each club’s thriving programme of local events and activities, you can really appreciate the commitment, resolve and spirit of our members. 

Development Director – Mary Williams

I am responsible to ensure that the development officers use their time to deliver on the current
Scottish Orienteering Development Plan. The current plan was created and agreed five years ago in
conjunction with Sport Scotland. This plan is nearly at the end of its life span and concentrated on
our development officers and coaching officers meeting target numbers against training and
coaching courses and inclusion. These targets have been met, but not necessarily promoted our
sport to a new audience particularly in the age group from 18 years to 45-year age groups.
Currently the sport is developing a new 4-year Strategic Plan in conjunction with Sport Scotland. The
main focus for Sport Scotland is to get as many of the population active as possible. The SOA focus is
to grow the number of people aware of and participating in the Sport of Orienteering over the next
four years.

I have been orienteering since university days and now run W70 courses. I joined the SOA board
nine months ago to try and give back something back to a sport that has given so much fun and
action to me and my family. I must admit that it has been a learning curve both in terms of my
administration skills and how the SOA works. I have really enjoyed the experience of working with a
very professional Board and the excellent support given by our Chief Operations Manager – Nikki

Welfare Director – Ken McDonald

I am Ken McDonald and I have been Director of Welfare on the SOA board since June 2023.  A key responsibility of the role is safeguarding for children and vulnerable adults and to ensure that we have appropriate policies and procedures in place in this area. 

Another high priority remit is “Equality, Diversity & Inclusion” (or “EDI”) in our sport.  Our national agency for sport in Scotland, Sportscotland sets inclusivity at the heart of its “Sport For Life” strategy which aims to develop an active Scotland where everyone can access the benefits of sport.  In some respects orienteering is already fairly inclusive – for example, we see people from a very wide range of ages participate alongside one another in our sport.  However, in other areas we have work to do in order to identify and break down barriers to ensure that as broad a range of people as possible can find orienteering welcoming, accessible and rewarding.  We have recently started on a development process with sportscotland to work towards this goal over the next four years.

Ultimately the sustainability, spread and success of orienteering in Scotland will be boosted by making the sport as accessible as possible and this is a central aim in our longer term strategy.

Safety Director – Tim O’Donoghue

Tim O'Donoghue

My responsibility as Safety Director is to monitor injury/incidents to see if there are trends (positive and adverse): respond to identified trends.  Ensure that the H&S policy is realistic and up to date.  Keep the risk register up to date through regular reviews.

I also take the lead in respect of SOA policies. I agree priorities for creation/review/update of policies and participate in these activities.  Focus on sharing new/revised policy content across Scottish Orienteering.

I have been involved in orienteering for a number of years and an interesting fact is that our wedding date was set to allow us to attend the Scottish 6 Days, which provides a simple way of remembering the date (at least every other year).

Youth Director – Mairi Eades

Photo Credit : Wendy Carlyle

I am the Youth Director for SOA and bring the voice of the younger generation. I competed at the last World Orienteering Cup this year and have been orienteering since I was able to walk.