Representatives from national governing bodies, local authorities, charities and clubs came together to share best practice on tackling discrimination in sport. ConnectSport was official media partner for the Public Policy Exchange event at a London hotel.
Speakers included prominent figures and academics from the world of sport, especially those fields which suffer from under-representation in both participation and media coverage – for example disability, BAME, women’s sport and the LGBT community.
Michelle Moore, a former athlete and sport for development consultant, was Chair for the conference. She spoke about how structures and traditional practices in sport can preserve old habits, and how those engaged in tackling discrimination – particularly from the sport for social development sector – need to keep asking “awkward questions” and challenging the status quo where necessary.
Michelle said: “There are lots of organisations out there which engage with huge sections of our community, but they engage on an outputs basis, and actually there are organisations which really look at how can we address those social outcomes, how we can we look at sport for social change?
“That is much more nuanced, it’s much more about looking at the holistic approach of understanding the barriers in sport and looking at areas of discrimination.
“So what does it mean if you are from an ethnic minority, you are female, or you are poor? How do you access sport? How do you engage with sport? And how does sport for change, whether sport for development organisations or the national governing bodies, understand those issues and how those issues really intersect in terms of multiple levels of discrimination.”
Dr Carrie Dunn, Programme Leader for Sports Journalism at the University of East London, focused on gender, media and sport, and described the ‘chicken and egg’ situation which women’s sport faces. It needs more coverage to drive participation and grow competition, but cannot always provide a mass market for paid media, such as national newspapers. This, in turn, means the media is still slow to provide a level playing field when it comes to gender discrimination in sport.
“It’s really difficult to ensure equality in the coverage of women’s sport, to be honest,” she said. “Lots of newspapers and editors are being driven by commercial considerations, which is completely understandable – that’s how they get their money and advertising.”
He said: “We can encounter disability at any point in our lives, whether it’s for financial issues or mental health issues, health problems or the ageing process. I think we just need to recognise that people have the right to be an equal member of the community. There is so much provision of disability sport where people are segregated; they are classified, they are labelled, with so many different names, different tiers and codes – and that doesn’t work towards inclusion.”
Dr Dan Kilvington, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, spoke about his work with ‘Kick It Out’ and posed the question – has discrimination migrated from the terraces to social media?
“The issue with discrimination in sport is that it is so widespread,” he said. “There are multiple forms of discrimination, from sexism to racism, to able-ism etc. It’s embedded within the fabric of sport. A lot of people think that because the overt discrimination in physical spaces might be reducing, that it’s gone away – and it hasn’t.”
She said: “We need to look at how sports is run in this country, and the culture within sport, to make an impact and make those changes within a shorter amount of time and make sure everyone is included.”
Examples include the Sporting Equals Leaderboard which aims to create wider BAME involvement in the governance and leadership of sport, and projects involving faith-based organisations situated within local communities.
He said: “We must take sport to the community, not wait for the community to come to sport”.
She said: “I think the campaign against homophobia is a younger campaign, that we are standing on the shoulders of campaigns around racism. So we have seen some quicker progress around homophobia – but there’s still loads of work to do around transphobia and access for transgender people to sport.”