CEO Statement: Racism in the Sport Sector

The issue of racism in sport is not new to us, our organisation has been advocating and campaigning for racial equality for over 20 years. The recent survey we launched was as a sense check so we could check in with our Black Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and get their insight and experiences on the matter.

We regularly take input from our network and lead on initiatives such as the British Asians in Sport and Physical Activity Advisory Board to promote inclusivity of British Asians in sport. As we are mindful of the barriers that BAME communities face when engaging with sport here in Britain.

40% of BAME participants said their experiences of local sport or leisure clubs had been a negative one in terms of the customer service received, compared to just 14% of White British (Sport and Recreation Alliance, May 2018). Two years on the issues still persists and the question everyone is asking is why?

The issue we are currently dealing with is a society that is systemically racist with sectors that are consciously and/or unconsciously systemically oppressive. What does it mean to be systemically oppressive? Systemic Oppression is when the laws of a place/body/sector create unequal treatment of a specific social identity group or groups. Is this an issue in the Sports sector? Yes. Our recent survey into BAME experiences of racism within the Sports sector found that 83% had experiences of racism in the sector and even provided examples reinforcing the clear and apparent oppression of BAME communities.

“A senior manager (on a Diversity Course) expressed his opinion that Black people have a "chip" on their shoulder. In his experience too many black people complain about how bad life is. I was appalled by his statements and poor examples. As the only BAME member of staff and relatively new I wanted to avoid confrontation and had to take some comfort in the fact that no one else verbally agreed.” (Black Caribbean Male, 45-54)

“Having applied for a post at a sporting National Governing Body I was denied the role after interview for South Asian Women's coordinator, the post was given to a white female, as no South Asian women had applied. I complained and received a reply of sorry it was human error.” (Pakistani female, aged 45-54)

“NGBs are well placed to make a difference, but sadly they are the ones in charge of their sports and decide how things will be. It is the same in England and wales to be honest. I cannot speak for Scotland. Institutional racism amongst most NGBs is a huge concern and I have coached across many sports for almost 20 years, at all levels and by view can be backed up with robust evidence and examples.” (Male BAME coach)

These are direct quotes from our open survey on Racism in the Sports Sector and it clearly highlights issues around systemic racism and oppression. There are engrained attitudes in this sector that privilege and prefer white communities over BAME. With potentially 95% of senior management, board members and the workforce being white, we truly wonder how even at a basic physical activity level BAME viewpoints are acknowledged or taken into consideration. There needs to be an encouraged, embraced and enforced disruption of the current state of play within this sector.

We need the sector to commit to changes in culture, policies and practice – once these changes have been implemented, measured and maintained; only then will we see tangible change. We encourage anyone from BAME communities to contact us with their experiences of racism within the Sports sector by answering and sharing our survey. We will continue to advocate for change, supporting BAME communities and their allies until the change is achieved and maintained. – Arun Kang OBE, CEO Sporting Equals