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Sport councils join forces to tackle racial inequality in sport

The five councils will commission two major pieces of work to explore racism and racial inequalities.

9th September 2020

The five sports councils responsible for investing in and growing sport across the UK are joining forces to tackle racism and racial inequalities across their nations.

The chief executives of UK Sport, Sport England, sportscotland, Sport Wales, and Sport Northern Ireland have worked closely in recent weeks to develop a collective plan to help build a sporting system that's properly reflective of the societies they represent, and to stamp out racism and racial inequality in sport.

Two major initial pieces of work, of which there are further details below, are being commissioned as part of the first phase of plans, while the chief executives will also meet regularly to track progress and publish updates.

A coach watches on during a football session on a five-a-side pitch

The first piece of work involves bringing together existing data on race and ethnicity in sport to identify gaps and make recommendations, while the second involves creating an opportunity to hear lived experiences of racial inequalities and racism in sport by offering people a safe space to tell their stories.

Both projects are a result of the recognition that while individually each sports council has sought to tackle the issues, it’s not gone far enough nor been done collectively.

Recent events across the world have provided new impetus to look again at the significant ethnicity gap in leadership and participation that exists in sport.

That should not, however, hide the fact that some of the challenges faced and reasons for it are long standing and deep rooted. Tackling them will demand real leadership and we are determined to play our part alongside the other sports councils.

This work, and in particular the evidence that we will collect and the lived experience we will learn from, is just the beginning. Like others, a key focus of ours will be changing our own organisation and how we work.

This review will be key to helping us understand better how to lead, to move forward positively to change, and to make a lasting difference to people’s lives.

Tim Hollingsworth

Chief executive, Sport England

Data gathering project

In recent years, the sports councils have carried out a considerable amount of work looking at the barriers to participation and inclusion in sport faced by people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, as well as from other protected characteristics.

However, this work hasn’t been joined up. There are too many areas where there’s no clear picture of the overall landscape in the UK, no comparative analysis on what sport can learn from other industries and limited guidance and standards on what data sports bodies and partners can, and should, be collecting in relation to race and ethnicity.

This study will focus on the workforce in sport – from volunteers to the paid workforce and senior leadership – as well as participants in sport, from grassroots to talent and high performance, in order to gain greater insights into any participation and progression barriers.

It’ll help to identify the data that currently exists and what data is missing; what insight the existing data provides; and what further insight is needed.

This will not reinvent many of the reviews that have already happened, or duplicate work that’s already been carried out in this area.

However, it’ll bring this information together into one place to help deliver informed actions and recommendations.

Gaining a deeper understanding

The sports councils believe increasing knowledge and understanding of the ‘lived experience’ of racism and racial inequalities of people accessing and involved in sport, whether as participants, athletes, coaches, volunteers or parents, is vital.

A piece of work facilitating people from BAME communities to tell their stories in a safe space will therefore be commissioned immediately.

With the aim of building trust in this process from the outset, a forum will be established where people can talk frankly about their experiences, including historical and present-day issues, without criticism or prejudice.

The group will seek to work with facilitators who have experience in providing safe environments for people to speak openly.

Support will also be offered to participants who need it and these stories will be documented and clear recommendations for change made as a result.

A full report and set of recommendations will be made within six months on both pieces of work.

Our ambition is to see the high-performance sector reflecting the diversity of our society. That means challenging ourselves to ensure the sport we all know and love is truly inclusive and we are doing everything we can to stamp out racism.

Working in partnership as sports councils, we are determined to use our collective power and influence first to listen, better understand and engage on the issues of racism and racial inequality that exist in our sector – then drive the change we need to see.

UK Sport has also now established an anti-racism group, to look at issues of race and racism in our organisation and across elite sport and take positive action.

Sally Munday

Chief executive officer, UK Sport

Commitment to transparency

The councils’ chief executives will continue to meet to discuss this work, including tracking progress and discussing both shared and unique challenges.

The group will also update their own partners and sectors, sharing findings and recommendations and setting out concrete action to bring systemic change – these updates and plans will also be made public.

In addition, alongside UK Sport, we’re planning to audit the diversity of leadership within sport, and have also begun the first joint review of the Code for Sports Governance – looking especially at elements of the code that support equality, diversity and inclusion.

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