It was, in truth, reactive – my first response to the understandable anger and despair not only evident through the Black Lives Matter movement, but also much closer to home from colleagues and friends.
The events of the early summer forced a moment for introspection and reflection in many sporting organisations, and there was an overdue recognition that – though much progress has been made in tackling racism and racial inequalities across our sector – so much more needs to be done.
Even at that time I knew that reflection alone was not enough. Considering our role in promoting and championing grassroots sport and physical activity across England, I identified several areas where we believed we could take meaningful action, both as an organisation within our own right and within the overall sector in England within which we operate and, to an extent, curate.
In recent months I have read up where I could, and spent many highly valuable hours talking to colleagues, partners and experts, both listening to, and getting a better understanding of, the lived experience of so many who have been deeply affected by racism and inequalities across sport and gathering views on areas we should immediately address.
As a result, and recognising this is just the start, we’ve today set out a number of initiatives and changes so that we can move forward in this area.
The changes we’re making are focused on a few key areas initially.
The first is about making sure that our own house is in order. That, as an organisation, we can look ourselves in the mirror and say that we truly reflect the country we are seeking to serve. I can’t do that today.
So, we’ve reviewed our staff, our policies and procedures, and the specific work we undertake to ensure each has a strong focus on equality, diversity and inclusion. We’ve set out a number of key commitments and changes including, I’m pleased to say, creating a senior level diversity and inclusion role, which we will advertise shortly.
The second is about addressing the systemic failure in sport – long known but highlighted by recent media coverage – to create opportunities for members of the wider Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities to engage in leadership, coaching and administrative roles at every level.
We can no longer ignore the fact that many Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities fall well below recommended levels of activity and suffer from poorer outcomes in the areas we know sport and physical activity can make a significant difference.
We’ve moved to address this by announcing with UK Sport a long-planned, wide-ranging review to the Code for Sports Governance, and we’ve commissioned a complete and independent review of the Equality Standards for Sport.
We’ve also today set out a wide range of other project and partnership work that we are investing in and supporting and I am also delighted to be working alongside the other four sports councils of the UK to better understand the bigger picture and to give people an opportunity to share their experiences.
It's powerful enough that the sports councils of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together with UK Sport have such commitment to work together.
Better still, we’re all signed up to a firm belief that we need to work together and over the long term – not only to create a more diverse and inclusive sporting system, but to recognise and stamp out racism and racial inequality in sport.
Alongside many immediate actions – including a novel partnership with the University of East London to create a genuinely more diverse talent pathway – we will make the tackling of inequality the central plank of our new strategy for the next decade.
If we truly believe that everyone should access the benefits that taking part in sport and physical activity bring, then we can no longer ignore the fact that many Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities fall well below recommended levels of activity and suffer from poorer outcomes in the areas in which we know sport and physical activity can make a significant difference.
That is what our work will focus ruthlessly on addressing. While some tactical work now has happened and is designed for the short term, alongside it is a commitment to long term, systemic change.
While I am concerned that we don’t appear to be delaying action unduly, this is a vital approach to take. Some wise counsel I received recently advised me to “stay in the problem for longer”.
That is what I, and Sport England, are committed to doing. To ensure real lasting change. And I will update you regularly on how we’re progressing.