Mark Sesnan, the co-founder and Chief Executive of GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited), the Woolwich-based leisure Social Enterprise, has been awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in this year’s New Year’s Honours List, by Her Majesty the Queen. The award is for services to the UK Leisure Industry, in particular during Covid-19.
In 1993 Mark co-founded what was to become one of the first and most successful not-for-profit leisure trusts operating in the UK, from the Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG). At a time when local authorities were looking to reduce costs, he moved the borough’s leisure centre services from being managed internally to being operated by a staff-led, not-for-profit Social Enterprise trust.
Today inspired by GLL’s success there are more than 120 leisure trusts operating across the country, managing around a third of all public leisure centres.
Under Mark’s direction, GLL now operates over 300 public leisure centres, libraries and children centres and has an annual turnover of nearly £300million. These include seven leisure centres and thirteen libraries within the Royal Borough including the popular Charlton Lido, the Waterfront Leisure Centre and Eltham Library.
In addition to the Royal Borough of Greenwich, GLL works with over 50 local councils, public agencies and sporting organisations and employs a diverse workforce of over 14,000 people.
In 2008 Mark was instrumental in founding the GLL Sports Foundation: created to provide financial and practical support to talented young athletes across all Olympic and Paralympic disciplines. Since its launch the Foundation has invested over £10 million, helping the nation’s next generation of sporting talent.
Mark has also played an important role in the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Working with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) GLL operates both the London Aquatics Centre and the Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with a remit to provide community use, cater for schools, clubs and families as well as being sites for elite, international sporting events. GLL is soon to begin a new partnership with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority that will see it operate a number of facilities including the Lee Valley Velodrome and White Water Centre.
He has been at the forefront of the leisure industry’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in his role as GLL’s Chief Executive and also as a board member of both UKActive and Community Leisure UK. He has lobbied for Government support for the industry and highlighted the crucial role that public health must play for the physical and mental recovery of the nation.
Even during the most challenging periods of lockdown, when leisure facilities were forced to close, GLL, under Mark’s leadership, introduced free online exercise classes and activities via a dedicated app and when allowed offered free outdoor exercise classes to encourage everyone to stay active. GLL leisure facilities, always at the heart of local communities, have been used as Food Banks, Nightingale Hospitals and Vaccination Centres.
Commenting on his award Mark Sesnan said: ““This is a great honour not only for me, but for my colleagues, for GLL, for the leisure industry and for the wider Social Enterprise movement within the UK.”
Councillor Danny Thorpe, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “I want to say a huge congratulations to Mark, I’m so pleased to see his hard work properly recognised.
“Mark has been instrumental in ensuring our borough has top quality, accessible and affordable leisure services and his passion for partnership means our residents get the best deal.
“We’re lucky to work with such a dedicated professional. Congratulations on this incredible achievement.”
Gareth Kirk, GLL Society Chair added: “Mark has dedicated his life to GLL and the social enterprise movement in the UK. He is known by every GLL society member and has a strong personal connection with staff across all corners of the UK.
“Mark leads the team with the same socially driven purpose and goals in today’s business environment that he did 28 years ago, when the organisation was founded. While the core values of the organisation have remained strong and stable, the level of growth and diversification has been ground breaking.
“On behalf of all GLL society members I’d like to congratulate Mark for this well-deserved achievement.”
In addition to being GLL’s CEO, Mark Sesnan has held and continues to hold a number of key positions including:
- Board member GLL Sports Foundation
- Board member UK Active
- Honorary Secretary of Community Leisure UK
- Former Chair of Social Enterprise London
- Former board member of Social Enterprise UK