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 You are in: Analysis
Participation in sport
Do ethnic minorites get an equal chance in sport?

By Lucie McLean
BBC News Online


Angry exchanges between players, abusive chants by spectators. These are the images most people associate with racism in sport.

But discrimination and inequality affect British sport at all levels.

Mick King, youth trainer:

"What's been absent is willingness on the part of professional football clubs to target young Asian players and meet them on their own terms."

Click here for more

A lower proportion of people from ethnic minorities take part in sport, compared with the national average.

A study by the English Sports Council, Sport England, revealed that many people from ethnic minorities were keen to give sport it a go - but said they did not have access to facilities.

Some also cited racist incidents which had put them off - one in ten men of African or Caribbean origin said they had had a negative experience in sport because of their ethnicity.

Sport England is trying to increase the profile of sport and its health and social benefits in ethnic minority communities around Britain.

The council awards grants of up to £5,000 to organisations which encourage ethnic minority participation in sport. Local athletics groups and organisations like Sheffield's Pitsmoor Somali Club are among those who have already benefited from extra cash.

Successful sports

Some sports have already been successful in achieving a broader racial mix of participants, but there is still room for improvement.

Basketball: Growing in popularity
Basketball is hugely popular with young black players, partly because of its accessibility to those living in inner cities.

Black American role models such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson have also helped to promote the game and make it fashionable.

Two years ago, a fifth of the 4,000 players registered at National League level were from an African or Caribbean background. However only 1.4% were Asian.

The game also suffers from stereotyping.

Researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University spoke to spectators at several league basketball games. They discovered that while 82.3% of spectators though basketball was a ‘natural' sport for African-Caribbeans, only 65.1% considered it a ‘natural' sport for Asians.

The researchers also concluded that the national structure of basketball in the UK was dominated by a white hierarchy.

Sporting Equals, a partnership between Sport England and the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), believes the picture is similar in many other sports.

Their strategy is to tackle inequality in management and club structures to bring better racial equality and less discrimination at all levels.

"The high profile sports obviously get more coverage," says Novlette Rennie, Sporting Equals' project manager.

"But in terms of the internal workings of an organisation we sometimes don't hear about what happens behind closed doors."

Click here to watch an interview with Novlette Rennie

In March, the former head of the CRE Lord Ouseley called on the Football Association to explain why there were no black members on the FA's council.

He claimed that the game was run "by an old boys network," and bemoaned the lack of representation of ethnic minorities on county associations.

Charter for sport

All this could change as the Football Association prepares to sign up to Sporting Equals' Racial Equality Charter for Sport.

By signing the charter, organisations pledge to fight racism and promote racial equality at all levels of their sport.

"We're really pleased that the Football Association is coming on board," says Novlette.

"As one of the most high profile sports in Britain, I think it's really important that the FA demonstrates its commitment publicly. Then when we do hear examples of racism taking place, people will be confident that the FA will be taking action."

Around 30 national associations have already signed up to the charter and are making moves to improve racial equality in their sports.

Another seven - including governing bodies for cricket, hockey, basketball and tennis - are working their way through a set of standards to help them work towards better racial equality.

"Rugby League, for example, has produced and translated an information leaflet that targets a number of ethnic minority communities," explains Novlette.

"Some sports have given coaching scholarships for ethnic minorities and are looking at mentoring programmes for people to go on to committees and management.

"They are also looking at role models and some have actually reviewed their publicity and promotional material to reflect the diversity of our society."

Sporting Equals is also actively promoting the grant scheme to help groups providing sporting activities.

"The success of that is beginning to make a difference," says Novlette. "But we've still got a long way to go."

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