Leading and Living Like We Play

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”

Warren Bennis, Founding Chairman, The Leadership Institute, USC

The global pandemic has turned the world of faith and sport upside down – changing the paradigm and imposing a lasting impact on our way of life. It has raised questions such as: what is the role of faith and sport in this new world order? What is the responsibility of faith and sport leaders to society now and moving forward? How can we use the power of faith and sport to address pressing societal issues? How do we go beyond inspiration to provoking action?

Recognizing the need to have a more diverse thought and values-driven leadership to guide us in tackling the challenges we face in this new world order, Sport for Humanity has created a Faith & Sport Leaders Council. This distinguished group of visionaries and leaders will help us shape a more relevant “faith and sport narrative” in the service of humanity.

We are honoured to welcome the founding members of the Sport for Humanity Faith & Sport Leaders Council.


President/CEO, LA84 Foundation; President/CEO, Play Equity Fund

Renata Simril is the President & CEO of LA84 Foundation, a legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games. The Foundation is a nationally recognized leader in support of youth sport programs and public education. Renata coined the term “Play Equity” to describe a national crisis hiding in plain sight: that play is a basic human right and all youth deserve equal access. She is regularly listed as one of the most influential leaders in the civic realm and sports industry.

Renata currently serves as an independent director to the Steel Connect board (NASDAQ: STCN), United Way of Greater Los Angeles; LA Sports and Entertainment Commission and LA Dodgers Foundation. CSQ magazine named her a Visionary in Sports and Entertainment in 2017, and received the WISE LA (Women in Sports and Entertainment) Women of Inspiration award in 2016.

Since attending the First Global Conference Faith & Sport in 2016, Renata has been a strong supporter of the movement. She became a Sport for Humanity global mentor in 2018 and led the partnership between LA84 and Loyola Marymount to host the 2018 Sport for Humanity Regional Conference in Los Angeles.

“As the new normal is shaped, it’s crucial to move resources into communities that need it most and support young people who are not part of the industry of youth sports. While economies and businesses are about money, the shift toward pay-to-play dominating youth sports has left too many kids on the sidelines or out of the game completely. Sports teach the value of teamwork. It has the potential to unite and strengthen communities. Structured sports and play programs must be accessible to all children, instead of an expensive playground for upscale enclaves. Despite the dreadful forecasts related to the COVID-19 outbreak, its legacy in youth sports can be to create meaningful change. We will not live six feet apart forever. As we put our differences aside, together we can rebuild youth sports in the spirit of its intentions. Times like these can bring such actions out of all of us.”
–Excerpts from Make Youth Sports Great Again written by Renata Simril, Forbes Magazine, May 2020


Secretary General, Religions for Peace International

Dr. Azza Karam serves as the Secretary General of Religions for Peace – the largest multi-religious movement changing the world and challenging the status quo through a mutual conviction that religions are more powerful, inspiring and impactful when they work together.

Born in Egypt, Azza completed her Ph.D. focused on Political Islam in 1996, which became her first book in Arabic and English. She holds a Professorship of Religion and Development at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, in The Netherlands – of which she is a citizen.

Azza served as a Senior Advisor on Culture, at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and as Coordinator/Chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development. She is the Lead Facilitator for the United Nations’ Strategic Learning Exchanges on Religion, Development and Diplomacy, building on a legacy of serving as a trainer/ facilitator of inter-cultural leadership and management in the Arab region, as well as, Europe and Central Asia.

“Working with religious actors on all aspects of human rights carries both challenges and opportunities. Precisely because gender equality and women’s empowerment are the most stubborn litmus test of religious’ buy-in to all human rights, these are also the areas in which seeing faith-based partners advance can be the most awe-inspiring. I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, in my personal and professional gut, that when faith actors rally together for gender justice—across religious, regional and ethnic lines—that is precisely when “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice” (in the words of Martin Luther King Jr). To seek to work with religious actors around the least common denominator is necessary, but by no means sufficient. To seek to work with religious actors to question our own approaches and transform respective worldviews—therein lies the purpose of transformational leadership, i.e. what our world is hungry for in these times.”

–Excerpt from an interview with Dr. Azza Karam on UN Taskforce for Religion and Diplomacy, February 2019


President, International Bobsled & Skeleton Federation IBSF

Ivo Ferriani has been President of IBSF since 2010. A former athlete, coach and team director, Ivo is known and appreciated for his passion for bobsleigh and skeleton, and his tireless commitment to the interests and further development of the sport.

He is credited for introducing the Monobob at the Youth Olympic Games, as well as, the Women´s Monobob as a new discipline for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. In 2015, the Para-Sport World Cup for disabled athletes started on Ivo’s initiative – where women and men competed on equal terms.

Since 2016, Ivo Ferriani has been an IOC member and a member of the IOC Executive Board since 2018. He contributes his expertise to several commissions, including the Coordination Commission for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, IOC Sustainability and Legacy Commission, Athletes’ Entourage and Commission for Women in Sport.

“In these times it is even more important to stay focused and have a common goal. Now it´s our turn to show people what sport has taught all of us throughout these years: never give up, respect regulations in place and respect each other, be fair and show true sportsmanship by giving a helping hand. We all should be role models for our families and friends, neighbors and even the unknown person who may need support. Let us convince them with our positive attitude and our way to see light at the end of the tunnel even if the tunnel seems to be dark and long. Sport makes a difference in our life – now it’s our turn to make a difference in other people´s lives!”

–Excerpt from Ivo Ferriani’s letter to the IBSF regarding the global pandemic


Deputy-Director General and CEO, Maccabi World Union

Born in Argentina, Rabbi Carlos Tapiero is the Deputy Director-General & Director of Education of Maccabi World Union. For 12 years, he served as Community Director & Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Guatemala.

He completed the highly prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program. At present he is working on his Doctoral Thesis in Sociology. He lectures on numerous topics, teaching in the USA, Europe, Latin America, South Africa, the FSU & Israel, and his experience ranges over much of the theoretical & practical nexus of modern Jewish community organization.

Rabbi Carlos has been a Sport for Humanity supporter since 2016 as a delegate at the First Global Conference on Faith and Sport. In 2019, Rabbi Carlos became part of our Young Leaders Mentoring Program and is now further deepening his commitment to the Sport for Humanity global movement by becoming a Founding member of our Faith & Sport Leaders Council.

“Sports can be a vehicle to change society given its intrinsic values – cooperation, team work, respect, making the best of every challenge, personal and team growth, individual, family and community transformation. To achieve peace, it is indispensable the conjunction of dialogue, knowledge, acceptance of differences, solidarity, love for all creatures.”
–Rabbi Carlos at the Youth Promoting Values for Peace panel discussion, G20 Interfaith Forum in Tokyo, Japan (July 2019)


Chief Executive Officer, Director Everton Football Club

Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale is one of the Premier League’s most respected figures. In addition to being CEO of Everton Football Club, she also serves as Chair of Everton in the Community’s Board of Trustees.

Under Denise’s leadership, Everton in the Community, the club’s official charity has been transformed into an internationally acclaimed organization that uses the power of sport to motivate, educate and inspire some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach people in the community.

In 2014 she was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for ‘services to the Merseyside community’. In 2015 she received an ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award at the Stadium Business Awards. In 2017, she was recognized with a Lifetime Role Model award at the Football is More Conference in Switzerland for her “excellent life-long commitment to social causes”.

Away from Everton, Denise is a Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Merseyside, Chair of the Transport Commission aiming to bring a new rail station to Liverpool and a member of the national C-19 Business Pledge, providing guidance to business owners navigating the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our country is facing a crisis unlike anything encountered since the Second World War. As a football club in the heart of our community, we are acutely aware of the important role we play. Signing up to this pledge and committing to the measures and steps necessary to help our fans, our staff and our wider communities underlines how seriously we are taking the task ahead of us – and how determined we are to ensure we support the most vulnerable now and in the weeks and months to come.”

–Denise Barrett-Baxendale on Everton FC becoming the first football club to join the C-19 Business Pledge, a national initiative that aims to harness the collective power of business as a force for good in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK.

Podcast Header with David Eades

The “Live Like You Play” Podcast Series

Sport for Humanity acts as a cheerleader for the best that sport has to offer. We focus on values found equally in sport, faith and life itself, which serve to improve peoples’ lives.

Later this month, we will be launching the “Live Like You Play” Podcast series with David Eades. This podcast is a chance to speak to those who are playing that game – from athletes and coaches, to CEOs and administrators; and equally from faiths around the world.

It’s a great chance to get some inside track on a world we find so fascinating and invaluable. Equally, it’s an opportunity to hear what pushes people to use sport in order to improve the lives of those who often feel – and are – excluded.

We are thrilled to announce that our first “Live Like You Play” podcast guest is Prof. Denise Barrett-Baxendale, CEO of Everton Football Club and a Founding Member of our newly-formed Faith and Sport Leaders Council.

The “Live Like You Play” podcast will be available through Audioboom and distributed via Apple Podcast, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Watch out for more details in the weeks to come.