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20 Sep 2019

Lack of diversity in British sports leadership 'unacceptable'
BY Tom Walker

Sport England chair Nick Bitel said the picture of diversity is 'completely unacceptable' and 'requires practical action'

Sport England chair Nick Bitel said the picture of diversity is 'completely unacceptable' and 'requires practical action'

First, the good news. Women now account for 40 per cent of board members across Sport England and UK Sport-funded sports bodies.

Then the bad. People from BAME backgrounds account to just 5.2 per cent of those selected to the boardrooms of sport – while just 5 per cent of board members declared or consider themselves to have a disability.

The figures come from the Diversity in Sport Governance report – published today (20 September) by Sport England and UK Sport – which provides a comprehensive picture of the diversity of boards up to the end of 2018.

It shows that good progress has been made to improve gender equality, with almost three quarters of sports boards having achieved the required gender benchmark of 30 per cent, as set out in Sport England's landmark A Code for Sports Governance strategy.

However, slower progress has clearly been made on BAME representation on boards.

The lack of diversity was described as "completely unacceptable" by Sport England chair Nick Bitel, who has now pledged to make the issue a priority for the grassroots funding body and elite agency UK Sport.

"Organisations with diverse boards have a diversity of thought," Bitel said. "That means they make better decisions, are more successful, and crucially are better able to understand and reach the audiences we want to engage in sport and physical activity.

"We believe that sport is for everyone and that sport and physical activity should benefit all sections of society. That’s why it is so important that diversity at board level is a priority and that the rich diversity of our communities is reflected at the highest level of leadership within all sports.

“While the greater representation now being seen of women on boards is welcome, the overall picture of diversity in its broadest sense is completely unacceptable and requires practical action and greater, faster change."

Sport England and UK Sport have now launched a project which will see the pair work together with global executive search firm Perrett Laver.

It will result in the identifying and developing a pool of senior, experienced board candidates from a variety of backgrounds – including Black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), disabled and LGBT+ – to help sport sector organisations to recruit skilled and diverse board members.

The project has a target of finding 140 potential candidates by December 2020, with priority initially given to identifying BAME and disabled candidates.

The programme will ultimately widen to include candidates of different ages, locations and socioeconomic status, with UK Sport committing to extend the programme to a further 20 candidates by mid-2021.

Each candidate will receive a personalised support package – including education, training, development and mentoring from a consortium of expert partners – before being signposted to opportunities and vacancies on sports boards.

Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of UK Sport said: “Today’s report reveals the work still required to make sure talented people from a range of backgrounds have the opportunity to influence the way sports organisations at all level operate and represent their members and stakeholders.

“I’m pleased that all Olympic and Paralympic sports will be able to recruit hugely talented individuals who are already part of this new initiative with Perrett Laver. This is the latest step towards sport boards truly reflecting our diverse and multicultural society."



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