Like many organisations committed to creating a more inclusive and diverse society – and particularly to tackle the challenges of racism and racial inequality – Sport England gave significant focus in October to Black History Month.
During the period it was encouraging to see many positive and inspiring stories being told. It was an excellent platform to learn and discover more about the contributions Black people have made – especially in the sport and physical activity sector – over many generations.
At Sport England, we used the month as a time for reflection and an opportunity to listen to the Black community and hear first-hand about the journey different groups have been on.
I was especially grateful to the Black Swimming Association, who explained their work and set out their strategy in a powerful blog on our website. Their undertaking and activity is transforming lives, and reminds us of how investment and positive action in sport and physical activity makes a real difference to communities.
However, as well as being a celebration, the month also provided a stark reminder of the inequalities that exist within society, and how they manifest in our sector. These challenges make it difficult for many Black people to enjoy the benefits associated with being active that lots of us take for granted.
Active Lives Adult Survey
Last month, we published our latest Active Lives Adult Survey report that provided further evidence of the impact coronavirus (Covid-19) has had on physical activity levels in England.
It showed that everyone has been impacted in some way by the restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus, but that certain groups and demographics have been hit harder than others.
Unfortunately, but predictably, it showed that Black and other minority ethnic adults have been hit hardest. I urge you to read Lisa O’Keefe’s latest blog which looks at the numbers in detail and considers some of the reasons behind them.
Since then, of course, we’ve had high profile and jarring reminders of the negative impact racism can have on the very fabric of sport.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club
The way Yorkshire County Cricket Club responded to Azeem Rafiq’s complaints, and then handled the wider challenges that followed, has been appalling. It is a positive move that Lord Kamlesh Patel has now taken over the Chair. He has started to right some of the wrongs, but clearly there is much more change and reform that must follow.
And no-one should underestimate the size of the task, especially regaining the trust of the communities and individuals impacted.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has also, quite rightly, come out and said they will deal with the governance issues at the county. It’s important that – while due process must be followed – once completed they take swift, robust and appropriate action.
As we are with all sports, we are currently in discussions with cricket about future investment from Sport England. The issues of inclusion, diversity and good governance were central to our recent updating of the Code for Sports Governance and will form a significant part of those discussions – including how we can help them as a national body make sure the strong focus on these issues can be effectively cascaded down to regional and county structures.
Azeem Rafiq’s treatment makes the need for that more urgent than ever.