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Claire Nelson – Leading the Way for Netball in Scotland

5th October 2017

Today, we catch up with our very own Claire Nelson, CEO of UWS Sirens and Netball Scotland, who tells us what it’s like to be honoured with a Leaders Under 40 Award for exceptional Leadership, and how she plans to shape the landscape for women in Netball and sport moving forward.


How does it feel to have been nominated for Leadership in the Leaders Under 40 Awards? 

It is an incredible to honour to have been nominated for a Leaders Under 40 Award, let alone to have actually won in the Leadership Category. These global Sports Industry Awards are so prestigious and previous winners, or Alumni, come from across some of the biggest sports brands and organisations across the world, including Google, Premiership Football teams, FIFA, New Zealand All Blacks, the NFL, WWE and Sky. For a female CEO from a female sport in Scotland, it is an incredible achievement to have made this distinguished list, and it is testament to the phenomenal work that has been undertaken in our sport in recent years.


What are your tips for successful leadership? 

For me, a successful leader is someone who is able to bring together a great team of people, and then inspire and empower them to not only realise their potential, but to also push beyond it. A good leader is able to see the strengths and potential in the individuals in their team, even when they perhaps can’t see it themselves, and then create the environment that will allow them to flourish and thrive within. Empowerment is key.

It is also imperative to build trust. I have led my team on a really challenging journey this past year, into unknown territory, pushing them to think differently and be brave. I had a strong vision for the sport and our new Franchise, but it could only be brought to life through a full team effort. And, despite the uncertainty and the challenges, my incredible team trusted in that vision and pushed themselves to deliver things that hadn’t been done before. And boy did they deliver.


What are your plans to further push the boundaries of netball?

It’s all about momentum. We have only scratched the surface of what is possible, but by building a powerful platform and giving ourselves a stronger voice in the industry, we now have the tools with which we can build. But there is still so much to do. I want netball to be front and centre in leading the drive for greater equality for females in sport. I want to have one of the best female sports Franchises in the world, competing in one of the best women’s sports leagues in the world. I want to use our platform to inspire, engage and empower females to realise their potential. I want to have a thriving sport that is inclusive, fun and offers incredible opportunities to participate at all levels of the pathway in whatever capacity you choose. I want our national team to be able to really compete against the best teams in the world. And I want to attract strong commercial investment and create powerful and engaging digital content to continue to support our growth.

These are very ambitious aspirations but it is all possible – look at the rise of the sport in New Zealand, a country similar in population size to Scotland. We just have to keep being brave, and pioneering, and relentless.


What advice would you give to women looking to push the boundaries of their own careers?

Have self-belief and go for it. I have had a varied career across hospitality, technology and sport (all male dominated industries), but I’ve been successful in each because I’ve put myself forward for every opportunity and then worked my butt off to get results. And I’ve done all of this whilst being a mother, being young and being myself.

Also, it’s important to understand that you can be tough and still be kind. Ladies, we don’t need to behave like the Ice Queen to get ahead – the most successful people I’ve encountered are those that make others feel good about themselves and give encouragement and praise generously.

But the go for it advice is the most important. Don’t wait until you have all the right skills or experience to take an opportunity. If you want a role and believe you’d be good at it then go for it…and then make sure you learn what you need to know really quickly! It’s what I did and I’ve had some incredible roles and experiences as a result. And I am so excited for what will eventually come next. Life is such an exciting journey.


What’s next for netball in Scotland?

A huge year for us. We’ve been growing so quickly that it’s now time to consolidate and focus on building a sustainable framework that can support our sport and our people. We need better domestic club and competition infrastructure, a bigger workforce, and increased commercial investment to support our ambitions and future proof the sport in a volatile public funding landscape.

For the Sirens we have our second season in the Superleague and we are looking to improve on our on court performances and build on our off court successes. There will be more engagement, more Sirens For Success in schools, and more education and development for our members. And of course more exciting live home games for our fans to experience.

But the biggest challenge of all lies with our Scottish Thistles who have some huge targets to hit – World Cup Qualification, International Test Matches and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. We have so much talent in our national teams that I’m excited to see what our athletes can deliver, but it’s going to be tough and they’re going to need everyone’s support to help them get the results they need, and deserve.




Congratulations Claire, a wonderful recognition of the work you do.