Levelling the playing field: how will sport become more inclusive?

Pause for a moment and picture yourself on your pitch of choice. Or perhaps you’re in the crowd beside it. How are you feeling? Why are you there? What do you love most about your game? It’s important to remember this, to counter those times of aggression and repression in sport we’ve all either experienced or witnessed. And when the stands are spewing racial torrents, or management hasn’t done enough to create a more inclusive, level playing field of equality for their players.  

We don’t play and watch sport for the racial abuse that gets hurled on and off the pitch. And we don’t want to see a homogenised team where everyone looks the same, sounds the same and prays to the same god. We come for the thrill of the sport, the teams(wo)manship and the connection it gives us to others. We want to see or play a great game of skill and determination, and it takes a variety of people to make that happen.

As even your eight-year-old nephew would probably recall – “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” So why on earth would we want such a positive experience to be littered with fear, hate and uniformity? 

Diversity isn’t just a buzzword 

It’s saddening to believe, but it’s easy for equality and diversity to become throwaway terms in these times. Progress is being made, but we’re not out of the woods yet, even remotely. Diversity isn’t just a buzzword. Equality is not a trend.

These things are very real, much needed, and the time has come to put our money where our mouths are. Recent events have thrown diversity into the spotlight again, both locally and internationally, as well as outside of the sporting arena with the murder of George Floyd. 

Following the missed penalties of that final Euros game against Italy, Rashford, Sancho and Saka have suffered a lengthy online racist bullying spree. And then some. Even at the time whilst sitting in the pub garden watching those final moments, comments could be heard around the tables from those who knew what was to come.

The attack has sparked a rise in how many people believe that professional football has a serious problem with racism, with one in three English people who previously didn’t think racism was a serious problem now doing so, following that tournament final. The same survey also revealed that 60% of fans support taking a knee before each match.  

In Pursuit of Progress, the Football Association’s three-year equality, diversity and inclusion plan, focuses on how to increase the diversity of people playing, officiating, coaching, leading and governing English football, as well as how to promote equality. eCoach client, The Football Association of Wales, is currently conducting a mass audit of players, coaches, refs and supporters to identify and tackle areas of under-representation and inequality. Their aim is to ensure as many people as possible across Wales can take part in the sport. 

The gender gap 

According to longstanding charity, Women in Sport, 1.5 million fewer women than men participate in sport at least once a month. Inside the business, they make up just 18% of qualified coaches and 9% of senior coaches. The pressures which women report are leading to less of them participating in sport are a mix of practical and emotional. A lack of time due to greater childcare responsibilities, fear of ridicule or abuse from their male counterparts or those in their community, tighter control over their finances through the gender pay gap, ‘female invisibility’ in media coverage and so on. 

The great news is, if we take a look at the Tokyo Olympics 2021, 49% of the 11,000 athletes were women, which according to the IOC was the first “gender-balanced” games since its inception. But there is still a long way to go, with uproar over embedded discriminatory policies and sexist media coverage still rife. 

Skill doesn’t observe diversity boundaries 

But what does diversity actually mean? And how does equality play out in our favourite sports? It’s about protecting and celebrating the unique talents of a wide range of people from all backgrounds, orientations and body types. It’s about tearing down barriers to participation and saying ‘yes’ to a beautiful mix of races, genders, sexual orientations, physical and mental abilities, religious beliefs, socioeconomic statuses and so much more. It’s about addressing positive recruitment and equal ops for existing players and taking a firm stand against abuse.  

Whether it’s a person who uses a wheelchair, Black, Asian, transgender, queer, straight, male, female or any label we or others use to define ourselves, everybody deserves a chance, just. Skill, knowledge, and commitment to the sport doesn’t discriminate by how someone looks or what their personal lives look like. If they’re committed to the game, they deserve the same chances as everyone else outside of minority categories. 

Equality in Sport 

So, something needs to be done. No more lip service. And it can start with you.  

At eCoach, we firmly stand up to inequality and discrimination of all kinds and have done since we began our own eLearning journey, working proudly from the outset with Show Racism the Red Card to create a Promoting Equality and Tackling Racism in Schools eLearning course in 2019.  

And so we simply cannot contain our excitement to reveal our brand new course, Equality and Diversity in Sport, in association with Show Racism the Red Card and Racing Pride, which covers in a neat little nutshell all of the basics you need to know about inclusivity in your sporting environment. 

By the end of the course, learners will:

  • Understand what equality is
  • Identify and understand the benefits of embracing equality
  • Understand their legal requirements under the Equality Act and apply this to their environment
  • Apply this knowledge by starting to create an organisational equality policy
  • Comprehend what acceptable terminology is and demonstrate good practice to colleagues
  • Differentiate between protected characteristics and apply this to their own circumstance
  • Distinguish between different forms of discrimination and apply this to their own situation

After all, the course can be taken wherever you are, in your own time, you’ll learn something essential, and life-changing. So, what’s holding you back?

Levelling the playing field in sport is achievable and it can only start when we choose to educate ourselves on what’s right, wrong and how to make things better. 

Our Equality and Diversity in Sport eLearning course is priced at just £20 (with bulk purchase discounts available) – but for September’s launch, there is an additional 25% off! Get your course today for just £15 whilst the offer lasts!

To find out more about the course visit – accelerate.sport – today!

Written by Alexia Weeks