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29 Jul 2022 | 12:12

The sports sector could do much more to break down social barriers and address inequalities in local communities, according to a survey of sector leaders attending the recent ‘Beyond the Games’ conference in Birmingham. 

On the eve of the Commonwealth Games, more than 250 leaders from the domestic and international sports sector gathered at Birmingham’s Villa Park to attend the conference orchestrated by Beyond Sport in partnership with Sport England and UK Sport. The attendees and panelists came together to explore, debate and share insights on sport’s role in addressing the UK’s most pressing social and societal issues, ranging from gender equality to sustainability, while considering the power an athlete’s voice has in this day and age. 

A survey distributed to conference attendees prior to the event revealed:

  • 70% believe sport could be doing more to leverage its position, power and popularity 
  • 93% believe sport organisations and businesses have a responsibility to leverage their platform and generate positive social outcomes 
  • 78% said they have been aware of gender discrimination in the sport industry 
  • 80% believe that sport isn’t taking the necessary action to ensure that it is diversely balanced and representative of society at senior leadership and Board level 

Throughout the day, Beyond the Games featured a series of group panels, inspiring case studies, group workshops, and opportunities for different parts of the sector to meet up and form new partnerships. Discussing some of the topics were world champion boxer Carl Frampton MBE, Commonwealth gold medalist netball player Ama Agbeze, and former Aston Villa FC women’s captain Marisa Ewers (pictured below) who took part in a panel on the power of an athlete's voice and the opportunity they have to use their platform to create change beyond the field of play.

POSITIVE

Talking on the Power of the Athlete panel, Carl Frampton MBE, said: “If you have a platform you should use it in a positive way, and it's great to see so many influential people from the world of sport here at the Beyond the Games conference, all with the ability to help generate positive change in society. 

“Although I have a sports background, I’m an advocate for Ireland and for integrated schools. Just under 8% of schools are of integrated status and this is what I want to change so that generations to come can feel its benefits.” 

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Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth and UK Sport CEO Sally Munday (pictured below) discussed sport’s role in uniting communities through physical activity, and the impact an event like the Commonwealth Games can have on the local area and society in general. 

Talking about the legacy of the Commonwealth Games, Tim said: “The conference importantly touched on many areas where sport can help to engage and unite local communities, and it was brilliant to hear so much willingness from those in the room to work together to bring about change.

IMPACT

“In our commitment to securing a lasting and effective legacy from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, we have very consciously invested significantly in organisations, clubs and local communities who can engage people who might have previously thought sport and being active wasn’t for them. 

“Through our collective work with our many partners, it’s now our job to ensure the Games leaves a lasting and meaningful impact for those living across the West Midlands.”

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Sally added: “Sport has the power to drive positive change in all areas of society, including gender discrimination. It is brilliant sport, not brilliant women’s sport, and we have a massive opportunity to transform gender equity and equality, especially now with the UK hosting the International Working Group on Women & Sport over the coming four years.” 

Away from the panel discussions, guests were invited to take part in a series of workshops looking at some of the key opportunities for sport. Topics included maximising sport’s role in reducing the over representation of ethnically diverse children in the youth justice system led by Coalition partners, the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice.

Read more at beyondsport.org