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27 Oct 2021 | 9:09

The sport for development sector highlighted its commitment to strengthening diversity and tackling inequality with organisations across the Coalition network celebrating Black History Month and supporting its 2021 theme ‘Proud To Be’

Celebrating diversity and tackling all forms of discrimination are central tenets of the sector, and underpin the Coalition’s key strategic objective for 2022 to realise the potential of sport and physical activity as a ‘team player’ in levelling up the UK and building back better from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

October 2021 has seen a wide range of actors and supporters from across the Coalition’s growing national network host events, publish important research and produce resources celebrating Black history.

COMMUNITIES

Having impressed on the pitch in the early weeks and months as a Premier League newcomer, Brentford FC continue to impress off it through its ‘Bee the Change’ strategy which puts equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the heart of the football club. 

“We want our fans to look like the communities we come from,” explained the club, which is a member of the Sport for Development Coalition. “This isn’t about losing our current fans, we want to include them even more, it’s about bringing people in who might not have come to our stadium in the past.” 

Specific activities during Black History Month saw the club’s Community Trust deliver 19 workshops to schools in Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond which reached more than 400 children, and Black history-themed discussion groups for all of the club’s staff. Former player Marcus Gayle, pictured below presenting a workshop alongside current player Salma Mahamud, said: “Black History Month shouldn’t have to be just a month, it should be all year round. But to get to that point we need to start educate young people more about our shared history.” 

Brentford EDI strategy

The Premier League also marked the month by providing a daily focus through its communication channels on some of the Black players who have enriched the competition over the last 30 years. 

To mark the month Lipa Nessa, Chair of the Youth Sport Trust Youth Board, blogged about her recent visit to 10 Downing Street where she spoke about the role of sport in breaking down barriers. “Sport is an anchor in my life and it has played a fundamental part in my growth,” she wrote. “More needs to be done to break down barriers and ensure sport provides a safe space that is enjoyed for all young people.” 

Other recent activities by other Coalition member organisations saw partnerships with civil society and public sector organisations, such as Yorkshire Sport Foundation – one of 43 Active Partnerships across England – supporting the #WYHRootOutRacism movement from West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, and West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit. Foundation CEO Nigel Harrison explained: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with all the other organisations committed to stopping racism and addressing the inequalities it causes. Every single one of our team is committed to being anti-racist, and we all stand with those who have been or continue to be victims of racist abuse. Sport and physical activity can teach us so much about living, working and playing together better.” 

COMMITMENT

Wesport, the Active Partnership for West of England, outlined in this blog the steps that it has undertaken so far to tackle racial inequality, including around work programming, staff training and through funding opportunities such as the Tackling Inequalities Fund. “Race equality has been added to our operational planning so that the whole team can continually feed in the work they are doing that contributes to our commitment to being an anti-racist organisation. This is an important way to ensure a shared ownership and commitment is achieved and maintained. It encourages all team members to see how their work areas impact on this segment of our operational planning.” 

Sport England announced this month the Tackling Inequalities Fund, which was launched as part of its initial response to Covid-19 last year to help tackle inequalities in physical activity levels, will become the new ‘Together Fund’ following further £20million investment of National Lottery funding. 

Another Coalition member, The Sporting Memories Foundation, published an oral history collection as part of its contribution to the ‘London Together’ project – supported by Comic Relief and the Mayor of London – which aims to increase the physical and mental wellbeing of older people across diverse communities through sports reminiscence and physical exercise. The charity explained: “By raising into focus people’s memories of sport, recreation and play – including childhood games, places, social practices, events, traditions, teams and local icons – we hope to build a fuller, more diverse picture of London’s sporting and social past, and to illuminate the ways in which this landscape has changed over time.” 

England Hockey
England Hockey highlighted the role of Black mentors in its national game

Looking back over past year since Black History Month 2020, Sport 4 Life CEO Tom Clarke-Forrest said his organisation had made some “important strides” and the annual milestone remains an “important reminder and opportunity for us to continue to educate ourselves, to join national and local celebrations, and to honour the too-often overlooked accomplishments of Black Britons in every venture through history. And to continue this all year round.” 

Further afield, England Hockey CEO Nick Pink spoke about the role of Black mentors within his sport and how the governing body is in the final stages of appointing its EDI advisory group, while England Roses netball player Geva Mentor highlighted how 39% of the squad are of Black or mixed heritage in this ESPN article. You can also read more of BBC Sport’s highlights compiled for Black History Month here

In a blog published on Sport England’s website to mark the month, the co-founder of the Black Swimming Association (BSA), Seren Jones, described how the charity had unveiled a five-point strategic plan since being launched last year. It was set up because 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England do not swim, and is aiming to work towards a 20% increase in the number of Black and Asian people in the aquatic workforce by 2024, with a 20% decrease in the number of drowings from African, Caribbean and Asian communities. 

The charity works to identify and remove barriers to participation, and support and work with people from African, Caribbean and Asian communities who are involved in aquatics, from grassroots level to Boardroom. “We’ve held the aquatics sector to account and have set ambitious goals to tackle the exclusivity that surrounds the world of aquatics, making the life-saving skill of swimming accessible to everyone,” said Seren, who also revealed the BSA is working with the University of Portsmouth on groundbreaking research. 

“For the first time in history, a body in the aquatics sector will conduct adult social research, and will therefore gain real insight into whether the barriers preventing people from these communities from engaging in aquatics are cultural, faith-based, community-influenced or based on individual circumstances.” 

REPRESENTATIVE

Twelve months ago the Coalition marked Black History Month by announcing a new long-term commitment to collective action around diversity, and to the reform of its Board governance. Chair of the Board, Andy Reed, revealed that procedures had been implemented with the aim of it becoming more representative and reflective of the sector it serves, and indeed of society.

This resulted in the appointment of three new Board members in August 2021, including Bradley Pritchard (below). Sporting Equals, which works to drive ethnic diversity across the sport and physical activity sector, supported and advised on the governance reform, and its CEO, Arun Kang OBE, said: “We at Sporting Equals have been campaigning and advocating for such approaches to be adopted and it is wonderful to see the Sport for Development Coalition embrace and entrench this approach through these appointments. Reflecting the communities we serve at all levels in organisations is instrumental for delivering greater equality and success and we are hopeful that more organisations will also embark on this path.” 

In his ‘Thought Leader’ blog written for the Coalition in July 2021, Arun explained: “It is absolutely vital that greater lived experience and diversity is reflected at Board and leadership level because senior levels of decision-making have an impact on the entire sector, including all of the communities that we serve, and seek to serve. At Sporting Equals, we feel that much more can be done to engage ethnically diverse communities across the sport and physical activity sector - at all levels from the playing fields to the Boardroom. We know that engagement levels and issues of inequality can be reduced by diversifying the leading decision-making bodies within the sector.” Read more and sign up to Sporting Equals’ Race Equality Charter, which seeks to drive diversity at Boardroom level, here

Over the past year the Coalition has also implemented processes to monitor the diversity of its network, those attending Coalition events or organisations engaged in collective action. These diversity monitoring processes have further confirmed the need to ensure proper procedures are in place and continue to evolve to ensure the Coalition is becoming more representative and reflective of the sector it serves, and indeed of society. Supporter organisations are encouraged to engage in the Coalition's diversity monitoring by completing the following survey.

Click here to take the survey.