We can't be complacent over racism in sport

Posted: Wed, 03 Jun 2020 08:47

We can't be complacent over racism in sport

Quite rightly sports stars, teams and brands joined in the #blacklivesmatter and #blacouttuesday trends this week. Stars like Lewis Hamilton speaking out about their rage mean fans are reminded that racism isn't just a US problem.

Let us be really honest with ourselves. We have not rooted out racism in British sport.

The highest profile cases are usually when something happens in football and these hit the back and sometimes front pages. There is always a cry of something must be done and some short term high profile action follows. It happens in the domestic leagues and the international game.

But below the headlines racism casts a shadow over the governance and running of our sport.

The UK population of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK is 14%; but there are only 5% BAME board members across the whole sporting sector. This low number of decision-makers from BAME backgrounds ultimately affects all of sport, for instance, the workforce in sport is at 3%, coaching 7% and lowest inactivity levels come from Black and Asians communities.

As Chris Grant said at the launch of the Sport England Report

"I'm convinced that sport must be a leader, and not a follower," he'll add.

"That's why I want to invite and challenge the whole of sport to come with us on this journey, and in doing so to be clear-sighted and honest about the ways in which we're currently excluding and letting down whole swathes of our population.

"When it suits us, we're happy to talk about the leadership role that sport can play; its capacity to inspire a nation or to transform lives. No other aspect of national life has so many column inches and broadcast hours devoted to it.

"But there's an elevated level of discomfort when talking about race and culture in sport and we need to get beyond this if we are genuinely going to do something about the ethnicity gap."

This is the time to for sport to show leadership. By addressing its own issues.

Some of these communities are rarely seen in elite-talent such as British Asians, who make up nearly 4 million people in the UK but only 7 British Asians out of 630 athletes represented Team GB in Rio Olympics and Paralympics. Sport Recreation Alliance found in 2018 that 40% of BAME communities had a negative customer experience in leisure centres compared to 14% of white British Communities. Sporting Equals have led in research and development of pilot programmes to change the low levels of BAME participation across sport and physical activity.

Sport England highlighted the deep rooted inequalities in sport participation in their latest research in January. Sport fot All - highlighted the ethnicity gaps in sport.

This is why I got involved with Sporting Equals and the Leaderboard programme. Working with Sporting Equals on the research was jaw dropping. As Chris Grant said at our launch of the findings, Sport has had to work really hard to keep the BAME commnity out of leadership positions. Racism exists in the sector.

It is why we supported the Rooney Rule for sports bodies at the Think Tank. We also supported Lesiure-net in their Diversity forum work as the physical activity sector is perhaps even further behind on a range of diversity issues not just race.

So we cannot pat ourselves on the back and pretend the problem doesn't really exist. We can't pretend the various initiatives have addressed all the fundamental issues.

It is wonderful to see the hashtag campaigns as a sign of solidarity. But we can't do this once or twice a year if we are outraged at the news headlines. Sport has to look hard and critically at itself. Let's be honest there are large chunks of this sport and physical activity sector which are frankly appalling at dealing with the diversity issues.

For too long we have accepted that there are good people trying their hardest to make changes. And there are. But as part of my own decision to call about inequality and injustice and not be too afraid of the consequences this is one issue I am calling our sector out. I want to see more action than hashtag campaigns. I make a commitment that the Sports Think Tank will remain vigilant, and support policies and programmes that make us all feel a little uncomfortable but help change the levels of racism in society and sport. We will not rest until participation levels are similar and our BAME leaders are properly represented in all levels of sport coaching and leadership.

Tags: DCMS, Featured, Racism, Sports Policy