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Our commitment to increasing diversity in sport and physical activity

We know we can do more to become a more diverse organisation and to help the sector do the same - here's how we're aiming to do it.

10th September 2020

In June we acknowledged that, while we’ve already focused much of our work on tackling long-standing inequalities contributing to people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds being far less likely to be physically active, we’ve so much more to do.

Responding to the abhorrent killing of George Floyd, we outlined our support to the Black Lives Matter movement, committing to improving diversity within the sport and physical activity sector.

We identified several areas where we wanted to focus our work and we’ve spent the past few months in wide consultation with colleagues and partners to take decisions on the next steps.

A female archery coach instructs another woman at an archery lesson outdoors.

Yesterday, alongside the four other UK sports councils, we announced our role as part of a major piece of work to analyse existing data on racial inequalities and to create an opportunity to listen to more experience of it.

Today, we’re outlining our next steps to not only help and support more people from BAME backgrounds to take part in sport and physical activity, but to support the sector in diversifying its workforce at every level – from leadership, to coaching and administrative roles – and to do much more to stamp out racism and tackle inequalities.

You can read more about our reasoning for this in the latest blog from our chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth.

Read Tim's blog

These next steps can be broken down into four key areas.

Becoming a more diverse organisation

We recognise that we must be more diverse and inclusive, and we’ve worked closely with our own internal BAME network and our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group to develop changes focused on leadership, attracting, retaining and developing BAME talent, and wider staff engagement.

As part of these measures, we're setting a new target to double the proportion of BAME background staff in Sport England over the next five years. This means a minimum of 20% of staff to come from a BAME background by 2026, halfway through our new 10-year strategy which we’ll launch in early 2021. Although historically we've had had low staff turnover, we believe this is a realistic and ambitious target and we are committed to meeting it.

We’re also reviewing our current recruitment practices to ensure they’re debiased, transparent, equitable and fair. We’ll be opening up opportunities at Level 5 and above both externally and internally at the same time, to drive greater opportunity for recruitment of more diverse candidates at a senior level. We’ll also be creating more roles at Level 6 to bridge the gap between administrative and non-administrative grades.

And we’ll continue our popular, and successful, Let’s Talk about Race sessions run by Business in the Community, which more than half our staff have already attended, and we’ll continue our support for the Race at Work Charter, acknowledging that the role of leadership will be crucial in driving forward with our goals.

We’re also creating a new position at a senior level to lead our external diversity and inclusion drive, more details on which will be set out shortly.

Increasing levels of BAME leadership across the sector

Together with UK Sport, we’ve begun a wide-ranging review of the Code for Sports Governance.

The code, when introduced, was one of the most significant interventions ever made in improving how organisations are run in our sector.

It’s already been successful in relation to gender equality, with women now accounting for 40% of board members across our funded bodies, and in significantly increasing the number of independent board members with new skills and different backgrounds.

The ongoing review aims to ensure greater representation of BAME groups and may result in specific targets being introduced.

Our partnership with recruitment specialists Perrett Laver will continue to identify and develop a pool of talented and diverse board candidates for our funded organisations to use when recruiting for their board roles. We’ve also commissioned recruitment specialists to support us on further work auditing the current picture of diversity in leadership roles beyond the boards of sporting organisations. 

The review of the code is scheduled to conclude in December, with publication of the changes early in the New Year.

A coach gives instructions at a walking football session.

Using our strategy to drive long-term change

We’re currently consulting on the development of our new long-term strategy.

One of the central themes emerging from this is a widespread support for our focus on using our funding and expertise to help others in the sector tackle inequalities in society, and helping under-represented groups engage with sport and physical activity.

Race and ethnicity will be a continued focus as we support the sector to use sport and physical activity to improve lives and communities around England. And we’ll be unapologetic about using our influence to support those in society who stand to benefit the most from being active.

Given this focus, we’re confident that the strategy will be our biggest and most significant contributor to tackling racism and racial inequality in sport and physical activity, with further details being set out as we prepare to publish our plan early next year.

Ongoing work

The work set out above is not happening in isolation – we’ve been working on this issue for some time, although we recognise, given the size and scale of the challenge, the need to do more than we’ve ever done before.

Our existing work on this issue includes:

Equality standards

We’ve just commissioned a complete and independent review of the Equality Standards for Sport.

Launched in 2004, and last reviewed in 2012, the equality standards are a key tool for us to encourage all our partners to better embed equality, diversity and inclusion best practice in all they do.

The review of the standards will bring them much more up to date and help them to better reflect our current realities.

Find out more

Tackling inequalities fund

The Tackling Inequalities Fund (TIF) forms part of our £210 million support package to help the sport and physical activity sector through the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

The TIF was created to help to reduce the negative impact of coronavirus and the widening of the inequalities in sport and physical activity on specific under-represented groups, including a specific focus on BAME communities.

Through this fund, £20m of National Lottery money is enabling community groups working with these audiences to continue to exist and engage with their communities, with a view to keeping them active during both the lockdown and early recovery stages.

Find out more

Growing partnerships

We already fund a number of organisations and projects to support us on our work to make sport and physical activity more inclusive.

The TIF, outlined above, has allowed us to further invest in organisations like Sporting Equals, and other BAME intermediary organisations.

Today, we can confirm further investments into the University of East London (£400,000 supporting a three-year programme to support the development of talented athletes from BAME groups) and the British Basketball League (£200,000 for their community development programme).

And we’ll continue to communicate further investment and interventions that support organisations who are heavily involved in supporting BAME communities.

Talent pathway

Identifying the need to create a more diverse and inclusive talent pathway, that would ultimately lead to British and English teams being representative of the entire nation, in 2019 we published the first ever Talent Plan for England.

Since its launch, we’ve been working on systemic change within national governing body talent systems with the relevant leaders. We’ve also been investing in separate inclusion projects outside the system, alongside specific work with the Talent Inclusion Advisory Group (such as the recently agreed partnership with the University of East London and the African Caribbean Engagement (ACE) programme with Surrey County Cricket Club and the England and Wales Cricket Board).

Find out more

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