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Combined action needed to end racism in our sector

Our chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth, made the call during the 'Time for action: Tackling racism in sport' event held in Leicester today.

1st March 2024

Our chief executive Tim Hollingsworth has called on everyone involved in sport and physical activity to play their part in driving racism out of our sector.

Speaking as part of a panel at the ‘Time for action: Tackling racism in sport’ conference today, our chief executive outlined some of the progress that had been made over the last four years, but admitted there was still much to do to tackle the deep-rooted issues that impact many people’s experiences of playing sport and being physically active.

“As leaders we need to be more vocal on this topic,” he said. “It’s easy to say that we’ve launched an ED&I (equality, diversity and inclusion) strategy, hired the right people and funded the right programmes and think ‘that’s my job done’. But that’s the approach of a boss. A leader cannot stay silent on this issue.

Delegates at a tackling racism conference talk around a table

“Sport England has a strong focus on tackling inequalities, but we also need to maintain a direct focus and be much better at talking directly about tackling racism.

“Yes, we can confidently talk about change that we’ve made as an organisation over the last four years, but the change that is now needed, that will make a real difference, concerns the collective work of our sector.

“What is required is a systemic approach and, to enable us to influence that, we need to ensure we’re listening to the right people and have the right people in the room.”

Hundreds of delegates from across the sport and physical activity sector attended the conference, which was run in conjunction with UK Sport and the other home nation sports councils.

Held at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium, home of the Premiership Rugby team Leicester Tigers, and live streamed for those unable to attend in person, the event brought people together from across the sector to drive forward our anti-racism work.

"Sport England has a strong focus on tackling inequalities, but we also need to maintain a direct focus and be much better at talking directly about tackling racism."

Tim Hollingsworth

Chief executive, Sport England

Building on the successful Tackling Racism and Racial Inequalities in Sport webinar held in October, the event gave delegates the chance to explore in detail three themes that had been identified for discussion:

  • Being bold and acting without fear
  • Gaining buy in from senior leaders and staff
  • Diversifying talent in all areas of our organisations.

Speakers included all five home nation sports council CEOs, former Sport England board member Chris Grant and diversity, equity and inclusion campaigner Hayley Bennett.

Attendees also attended a number of workshops focussing on topics including:

  • Breaking barriers: unveiling the individual actions and behaviours of the Active Partnerships' journey to tackling racism
  • Working towards anti-racist leadership in sport
  • Race representation and diversifying talent with the Leaderboard Academy.
  • What is TRARIIS?

    In 2020, the murder of George Floyd was a catalyst for the five sports councils responsible for investing in and growing sport across the UK, to come together to explore racial inequalities in sport and to look at how reflective our sporting system is of UK society.

    Led by the five chief executives of each organisation, this group has met regularly over years since, and quickly established the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequality in Sport Review (TRARIIS).

    This was to help better understand if the councils were doing enough to understand the context and tackle the issues involved.

    The review involved an extensive analysis, carried out by the Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University, of all publicly available data on race and ethnicity in sport.

    It also involved an additional piece of work led by AKD Solutions, a Black-led learning and development consultancy, to carry out a lived experience research project in which over 300 people across the UK, ranging from grassroots participants to elite athletes and coaches, shared insights into their involvement in sport.

    The findings made clear that racism and racial inequalities still exist within sport in the UK and that there are longstanding issues, which have resulted in ethnically diverse communities being consistently disadvantaged. 

    The review also highlighted the detrimental impact this has had on individuals, leading to mistrust and exclusion, and makes clear areas where we must see change.

    The review has produced two reports, published in June 2021, identifying where there are gaps as well as common themes. They set out recommendations on how to make meaningful progress.

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