The governing bodies of more than 80 of the nation’s leading sports – including the Rugby Football Union, Lawn Tennis Association, British Cycling, UK Athletics and England Netball – have published an unprecedented statement saying they have not done enough to confront racism at all levels, from grassroots participation through to the boardroom.
The statement, published by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, says sports can no longer solely rely on black role models at elite level speaking out and that systemic change must be made so sport can become more inclusive and “truly reflective of our wonderfully diverse society”.
“There is no easy solution and change will require a consolidated approach both from within and outside of our sector,” it adds. “It is time to face awkward questions, to become involved in uncomfortable conversations and to hold ourselves to account.”
Research published last week showed that the Football Association, Rugby Football Union, England and Wales Cricket Board, Lawn Tennis Association, England Golf, UK Athletics and British Cycling had one black board member between them. The sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, has said he will review the Code for Sport Governance to decide whether boards should have a target for BAME representation.
“The appalling death of George Floyd, the global protests that have followed and the powerful message of the Black Lives Matter movement have made every section of society take notice and confront an ugly truth,” the statement says.
“Sport and recreation has an influential role to bring about meaningful change and this period has rightly led the sector to reflect, listen, question, learn and openly discuss how to take positive action.
“It is acknowledged that up to this point, we have not done enough. It is time to confront racism and inequality that exists across sport, from grassroots participation through to the boardroom.”
The statement also highlights research by the Sport and Recreation Alliance showing that 40% of BAME participants have endured a negative experience in sport or physical activity settings, more than double that of white participants.
It also mentions a 2020 Sport England report that just over 50% of black people in England meet the recommended levels of physical activity each week – and that there is only 5% BAME board representation across Sport England- and UK Sport-funded organisations.
“Constructive work has already been started to address a number of these problems, including a committed effort to increase boardroom diversity, additional funding to tackle inequality and an array of inspiring inclusiveness projects from across the sport and recreation sector,” the statement adds. “This can only be seen as the start.
“We can no longer rely on black role models at the elite level speaking out, we must join together to become better and to support every member of the sport and recreation community. We must become more inclusive. We must create opportunities which are truly accessible. We must do more.”
However, the sports have also called on the government to commit to a “significant increase in resources and funding”, as has been the case to address other areas of inequality. “There is no easy solution and change will require a consolidated approach both from within and outside of our sector.”