CEO Sporting Equals Statement: Equality of Opportunity in the Sport Sector

After recent events that uncovered the appalling lack of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) presence at a leadership level in the sport sector here in the UK, Recently it was reported there were only 5 black women on sports boards out of 415. We at Sporting Equals felt it key to highlight the lack of equality of opportunity in recruitment in our sector and how it impacts BAME communities.

Equality of opportunity in employment translates to, fairness in which all job applicants are treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences, except when particular distinctions can be explicitly justified. Allowing each viable candidate an equal chance of success in securing employment.

The lack of equality of opportunity is prevalent in the sport sector. With potentially 95% of senior management, board members and the workforce being white. This lack of presence had already been acknowledged with change implemented by the FA to remedy the problem of racial prejudice hindering hiring practices in the sector looking at coaching specifically.

The FA introduced the 'Rooney Rule' – this rule implements a procedure whereby sporting authorities– must interview a BAME applicant when recruiting for senior coaching positions, on the basis that they meet the role specification. There is no quota or preference given to BAME communities in the hiring of candidates the rule simply reinforced equality of opportunity to worthy candidates, while accounting for unconscious and conscious bias against race. This rule first trialled in the USA to aid with similar issues of racial prejudice impacting hiring procedure in the NFL. The FA followed suit and adopted the 'Rooney Rule' in 2018.

We feel it is pivotal to replicate the 'Rooney Rule' across the sport sector at every level from Board and senior positions right down to entry level, to ensure the eradication of nepotism within the sector tackling conscious and unconscious bias and dismantling of racially prejudiced hiring practices by allowing for candidates of all backgrounds who fit the role specifications to have an equal footing. We wish to go beyond coaching and leadership, looking at the sector as a whole. We must extend this rule across the board to create fairer and more equal recruiting practices in our sector. Recently the Minister for Sport Nigel Huddleston highlighted that he is open to looking at targets and reviewing implementing a 'Rooney Rule' structure here in the UK.

There is a severe lack of representation, diversity and equality when looking at race in the UK's sport sector. An implementation of the 'Rooney Rule' across all levels of the sport sector would only positively affirm and ensure we are vetting, interviewing and hiring the best possible candidate – thus allowing for and protecting equality of opportunity. We must now act and commit to making changes that will give real and visible results which we can measure and evaluate, this is a necessity if progress and equality is to be achieved.