Sport Northern Ireland alongside UK Sport, Sport England, sportscotland and Sport Wales are working together to tackle racism and racial inequalities in sport in their home countries and across the UK.
To this end, they commissioned the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, to undertake a data gathering and analysis exercise to collate an overview of the disparate data sources that exist across the UK.
The overall project also includes a separate, qualitative strand that is seeking to capture the ‘lived experiences’ of people from diverse ethnic communities in accessing, being involved in, and being excluded from sport.
In 2020, the murder of George Floyd was a catalyst for the five Sports Councils responsible for investing in and growing sport across the UK, to come together to explore racial inequalities in sport and to look at how reflective our sporting system is of UK society.
This led to establishing the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequality in Sport Review (TRARIIS).
This was to help better understand if the Councils were doing enough to understand the context and tackle the issues involved.
The review involved an extensive analysis, carried out by the Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University, of all publicly available data on race and ethnicity in sport. It also involved an additional piece of work led by AKD Solutions, a Black‐led Learning and Development consultancy, to carry out a lived experience research project in which over 300 people across the UK, ranging from grassroots participants to elite athletes and coaches, shared insights into their involvement in sport.
The findings make clear that racism and racial inequalities still exist within sport in the UK and that there are longstanding issues, which have resulted in ethnically diverse communities being consistently disadvantaged.
The review also highlighted the detrimental impact that this has had on individuals, leading to mistrust and exclusion and makes clear areas where we must see change. The review has produced two reports, published today, identifying where there are gaps as well as common themes. They set out recommendations on how to make meaningful progress.
Sport Northern Ireland along with its partners welcomed the depth of the findings and fully accepted that the recommendations should be used to develop and deliver tangible actions to tackle the issues raised.
The Councils also want to put on record their huge appreciation to all of those who shared their personal stories, a process which we know for many, will have been deeply upsetting.
Sport is delivered by a broad range of organisations. We call on them to work with us along with our diverse communities, as we drive racial equality across all nations and in all sports.
While recognising that this process will take time, the Councils are determined to learn from the review. The aim is to bring transformational change across sport, harnessing its huge power to drive equality and ensuring that all parts of the system are fair, welcoming, inclusive, and diverse, so that people have positive experiences at every level.
The Councils have agreed some initial overarching commitments that all five organisations will work on together ensuring that they are aligned to their individual strategies.
These relate to:
Further detail is provided on the 5-common-themes.
Each Council is working to develop their own specific action plans to further deliver on these commitments, considering their own local contexts and remits whilst addressing the recommendations from the review.
This will involve working closely with relevant groups or communities in the coming months to identify potential solutions. The resultant plans will be shared publicly to support the wider sports sector to understand and recognise the issues and collectively bring about change.
All five organisations are committed to transparency and accountability and will continue to report publicly on progress:
We don’t know enough about ‘why?’
Although there are gaps in knowledge relating to quantitative data, there is much less qualitative data about the lived experiences of people from ethnically diverse populations in both participation and the workforce. We do not know for example whether variations in participation and the workforce are the consequences of exclusion and marginalisation or proactive choices made on the basis of individual tastes and cultural preferences.
Research with ethnically diverse groups by ethnically diverse research professionals should help to tease out the opinions and attitudes in an authentic and trusting manner to improve future strategy and interventions.
We need to know more about contexts and latent demand.
There is emerging evidence that people from ethnically diverse groups experience sport and physical activity differently to White people.
Ethnically diverse populations are:
We don’t know why this is the case or whether there is pent up latent demand that could be released if the correct conditions were created.
Sport Northern Ireland has increased its executive and management capacity in the area of Culture and Integrity, establishing a new team with responsibility for this work with governing bodies and partners.
It is taking forward a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy which will include more detailed proposed actions on the five commitments that all five sports councils have agreed with (Structures, Representation, People, Insights, Investment).
In particular, creating inclusive sporting environments for participants and athletes will be part of the terms and conditions of Sport NI future investments, with performance monitored against targets agreed.
A new Policy and Insights team has been established to focus on better data and insights capture to chart progress in addressing racism, sectarianism and all forms of prejudice in sport.
Given the interplay between racism and sectarianism across the sport sector in NI, explored through the TRARIIS “Lived experiences” element of the project undertaken by AKD, Sport NI will be commissioning further research to better understand the impact on minority ethnic communities.
Sport NI has also established a Diversity Panel to inform policy and practice development and to act as a supportive challenge function to its work regarding increasing participation in sport from under‐represented groups.
Sport NI is itself undergoing significant transformation, including culture and strategy change with equality and inclusion as key cornerstones. As a public body operating in a region still dealing with the legacy of conflict and violence, there is much work still to be done in applying the lessons of the past to ensure a better future for everyone who calls Northern Ireland home.
Sport NI is committed to working with sports, partners and stakeholders to ensure we all play a full part in that journey.