Lesley Ferkins

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Director, AUT Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ)


Auckland University of Technology



Lesley’s area of research specialisation is the leadership and governance of sport organisations. In this, she has worked closely with the boards of national sport organisations in New Zealand (Football, Tennis, Squash) as part of action research interventions to develop board strategic capability. In Australia her research involved global sport governance and work with Australian state and national sport organisations in developing governance capability. She currently has an ongoing programme of research in leadership and governance with New Zealand Rugby, and is part of an international team active in the evaluation of action research impact that encompasses projects in New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Lesley currently supervisors a stable of masters and PhD research students whose topics contribute to research and practice in leadership, governance and management of sport/sport organisations. Her preferred research approach and expertise is in action research with a strong qualitative orientation.

Lesley is published in the world’s top sport management journals, is Associate Editor of Sport Management Review journal, and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Sport Management. She has over 30 peer reviewed Journal articles and 15 invited book chapters. As an invited speaker to sport management conferences in Taiwan and Germany, Lesley has also presented at numerous international conferences in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. Lesley was President of the Sport Management Association of Australia and NZ (SMAANZ), a board member for six years, holds three current board roles, and has previously sat on/advised to eight different non-profit and sport boards. Her most recent appointment is as independent director to Tennis New Zealand. She is also Chair of Aktive Auckland’s Tertiary Advisory Group and sits on the Sport NZ governance board for the development of a leadership framework for the sector.

Prior to academia, Lesley held leadership positions within the NZ sport sector. She was Executive Director of the New Zealand Recreation Association, and Executive Director of the newly formed netball franchise, Netball North Harbour/Northern Force (now Northern Mystics). She also worked for the government agency in sport (then Hillary Commission now Sport NZ), and for Tennis New Zealand. As an athlete, Lesley has won three national teams event titles in tennis, and was a US University tennis scholarship recipient. Later, she competed in multiplesport, placing in the top 10 Longest Day Coast to Coast. Lesley now enjoys skiing, mountain biking, mountain running and kayaking.

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