Five Sports Councils Join Forces to Tackle Racial Inequality in Sport

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  • Sports Councils to commission two major pieces of work to explore racism and racial inequalities in sport
  • Recommendations and reports due within six months

Five Sports Councils responsible for investing in and growing sport are joining forces to tackle racism and racial inequalities across their nations.

The Chief Executives of UK Sport, Sport England, sportscotland, Sport Wales, and Sport Northern Ireland have worked closely in recent weeks to develop a collective plan to help build a sporting system that is properly reflective of the societies they represent and to stamp out racism and racial inequality in sport.

Two major initial pieces of work (further details below) are being commissioned as part of the first phase of plans, while the CEOs will also meet regularly to track progress and publish updates.

The first piece of work involves bringing together existing data on race and ethnicity in sport, identifying the gaps and making recommendations while the second involves creating an opportunity to hear lived experiences of racial inequalities and racism in sport, offering people a safe space to tell their stories.  Both projects are a result of the recognition that while individually each Sports Council has sought to tackle the issues, it has not gone far enough nor been done collectively.

Antoinette McKeown, CEO of Sport Ni, said:

‘Northern Ireland is no stranger to the power of sport. In Northern Ireland, we have learned from other “ism”; sectarianism, that sport can heal, unite and build trust across communities and groups. It is past time that we use this rich experience to address racism in a more systemic way. Sport NI has looked inward and asked if we have done enough to tackle racism in sport; to show leadership with the sports sector to affect the meaningful change needed.   We are delighted to work with our colleague sports councils in understanding more through the research to be commissioned and listening to the lived experiences of those Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community members involved in sport. In Sport NI we are committed to stamping out the “isms” in sport that serve us so badly. We recognise that action taken or not taken which dehumanises one of us, diminishes all of us as a people and as a society. The new normal post Covid-19 provides us with an opportunity to build a Northern Ireland that stands up to be counted in targeting racism as the enemy. This joint project fully support that vision”

Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport, said: “Our ambition is to see the high-performance sector reflecting the diversity of our society. That means challenging ourselves to ensure the sport we all know and love is truly inclusive and we are doing everything we can to stamp out racism.“Working in partnership as Sports Councils, we are determined to use our collective power and influence first to listen, better understand and engage on the issues of racism and racial inequality that exist in our sector – then drive the change we need to see.

“UK Sport has also now established an anti-racism group, to look at issues of race and racism in our organisation and across elite sport and take positive action.”

Data gathering project

In recent years, the Sports Councils have carried out a considerable amount of work looking at the barriers to participation and inclusion in sport of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, as well as from other protected characteristics.

However, this work has not been joined up. There are too many areas where there is no clear picture of the overall landscape in the UK, no comparative analysis on what sport can learn from other industries and limited guidance and standards on what data sports bodies and partners can and should be collecting in relation to race and ethnicity.

This study will focus on the workforce in sport (from volunteers to the paid workforce and senior leadership) as well as participants in sport (from grassroots to talent and high performance) in order to gain greater insights into any participation and progression barriers.

It will help to identify the data that currently exists and what data is missing; what insights the existing data provides; and what further insights are needed.

This will not reinvent many of the reviews that have already happened or duplicate the work that has already been carried out in this area. However, it will bring this information together into one place to help deliver informed actions and recommendations.

Gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of race, racism and racial inequality in sport

The Sports Councils believe increasing knowledge and understanding of the “lived experience” of racism and racial inequalities of people accessing and involved in sport – whether as participants, athletes, coaches, volunteers or parents – is vital.

A piece of work facilitating people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to tell their stories in a safe space will therefore be commissioned immediately.

With the aim of building trust in this process from the outset, a forum will be established where people can talk frankly about their experiences, including historical and present-day issues, without criticism or prejudice. The group will seek to work with facilitators who have experience in providing safe environments for people to speak openly.

Support will also be offered to participants who need it and these stories will be documented and clear recommendations for change made as a result.

A full report and set of recommendations will be made within six months on both pieces of work,

A commitment to transparency

The CEOs will continue to meet to discuss this work, including tracking progress and discussing both shared and unique challenges.

The group will also update their own partners and sectors, sharing findings and recommendations and setting out concrete action to bring systemic change. These updates and plans will also be made public.

In addition, UK Sport and Sport England are planning to audit the diversity of leadership within sport, while they have also begun the first joint review of the Code for Sports Governance, looking especially at elements of the Code that support equality, diversity and inclusion.