David Ferguson, the former Southern and Scotsman sports journalist and radio commentator, will take over from current director Marie McQuade in January.
The Observatory was founded in 2015 by former PE adviser Charlie Raeburn and a board of trustees including Martin Gilbert, co-CEO of Aberdeen Standard Investments, and former athlete and MP Menzies Campbell.
An independent charity working with leading researchers and universities from across Europe, North America and the southern hemisphere, it is supported by trusts and individual donors with a purpose to commission a high level of independent research into sport and physical activity to inform and guide policy-making in Scotland.
Its first major piece of research, led by former Sport England head of strategy Nick Rowe, investigates the true levels of sporting participation across Scotland and will be published early next year.
OSS chairman Charlie Raeburn, a former chairman of Scotland’s Local Authorities PE Network and current member of the International School Sport Federation Executive, said: “We’re pleased with our progress in the past three years and the work spearheaded by Marie and supported by the board.
“Marie has been a fantastic director for us, playing a key role in guiding us forward, and we wish her well as she moves on to new challenges.
“As we look to the next chapter, we are delighted to have secured David Ferguson as our new executive director. We are confident that his background in sport, journalism and the charity and community sector, and passion for sport, will help us to engage support and cohesion across Scotland, which is central to driving real change in sport participation.”
David said: “I am honoured to be offered the role and look forward to building on the solid foundations laid by Marie.
“It is pretty clear when you see Scotland at the bottom of European tables around physical activity and at the top for obesity and health problems, that we have a real challenge, but I also see real potential to effect change.
“I’ve worked with leisure trusts, sport bodies and the Scottish Government in recent years and witnessed terrific pockets of participation and met wonderful people bucking the trend, so the desire is there.
“I’ve also been encouraged by discussions with sports people from around the world, including OSS board members from Scandinavia and Holland, about how participation levels are rising elsewhere.
“This is not about elite or performance sport, but sport in its widest sense, simply helping everyone find a way to enjoy the benefits of improved physical and mental health and social cohesion, and reduce pressure on the NHS.
“The Observatory can help by bringing together sportspeople and academic researchers to delve scientifically into the reasons for change, and use that quality, independent research to bring confidence to the policy-making of government, governing bodies, trusts, councils, clubs, schools and others striving to improve physical and mental health.”
Anyone interested in working with or supporting the Observatory can get in touch with David at: [email protected]