On 1 March this year, at a time when the world was still trying to resolve what next for a global pandemic that continues to decimate lives, livelihoods, businesses, sport and so much more – I took up post as Sport England’s first director of equality, diversity and inclusion.
When coronavirus (Covid-19) first hit, we responded quickly to help retain critical provision and support our partners to repurpose their everyday offers to ensure they stayed connected and engaged with the very groups who have so often felt abandoned, unheard and underserved.
We may be now be almost free of restrictions in the sport and physical activity sector but we as an organisation continue to innovate, operate outside our comfort zone and move quickly to flex our own systems and processes to try and stop inequalities in our sector from worsening.
From a personal perspective, I’m now six months into my role and we’re now reframing our equalities activities and investments around key pieces of work that inform and frame everything we’ll do in the coming years – thing such as the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequalities in Sport review, the review of the Code for Sports Governance and our Uniting the Movement strategy.
Working around these three key pillars of work will help us to really concentrate our efforts to redress the inequity we know has been longstanding for so many audiences.
We must think about diversity, equality and inclusion not in isolation but as an approach to solving the many problems we have around inequality and exclusion in society.
Disabled people, LGBTQ+ communities, women and girls, young people, culturally diverse communities, lower socio-economic groups and people with long-term health conditions are all important to our plans and strategies. All require equal attention.
We accept that these groups often face persistent barriers to participation and layers of disadvantage, and we acknowledge that people are not just one characteristic, they are diverse and different.
We know that discrimination and exclusion exist and that it makes people feel hurt, unsafe and as if they don’t matter; when in actual fact people do matter, and so does how they feel about being active and how they participate and engage with sport.
The problem we’re trying to solve is therefore not singular and our solutions will not be based on a one size fits all approach.