The British Diversity Awards will be held on 20 March, a celebration of organisations and individuals championing diversity across the UK. This year we are delighted to confirm that two of the short listed nominees are affiliated with Sporting Equals. Pro Touch SA, one of our London based Associate Members, are nominated for the Community Project of the Year sponsored by Centrica and Ziana Butt BEM, a founding member of British Asians for Sporting Excellence (BASE), and finalist for our 2023 Sporting Equals Rising Star Award, is up for the Hero of the Year sponsored by Boots. We spoke to Ash, the CEO of Pro Touch, and Ziana earlier this week to see how they felt after being short listed.
How do you feel after being shortlisted for the award?
Ash: “I honestly didn’t expect that we would be, when we got the email about being shortlisted, I couldn’t recall us being nominated so this was a good start to the new year. Despite it being a big shock and surprise, we were overwhelmed to be shortlisted with other incredible organisations, being nominated alone is a massive achievement.”
Ziana: “It was very unexpected yet delightful to receive the email notifying me I had been shortlisted in the Hero of the Year category. When I saw the announcement and all the inspirational individuals named, I felt very proud to have been recognised in this way.”
Why is diversity and inclusion important to you?
Ziana: “We all have our own journey and lived experiences, mine brought the need for diversity and inclusion to the forefront from a young age. I first presented in a school in assembly on unconscious bias when I was just 12 years old. I have continued my journey through sport, highlighting the importance of and need for change, all children and adults should feel welcome and have the same opportunities.”
Ash: “For us, based on lived experience and the fact that many of the founding members come from diverse backgrounds we’ve witnessed first-hand the lack of opportunity within the heart of London. Over 60% of workforce at Pro Touch are ethnically diverse, it’s a relatable experience when the work force engages with the communities in deprived areas of London which have a high percentage of diverse communities including Southwark, Camden, Westminster.”
How do you feel more organisations can help to promote racial diversity within sport?
Ash: “In recent years there have been issues around tokenism and tick box exercises at board level within many sports organisations. Too often we have seen individuals who haven’t got lived experience across diverse communities leading the discussion on issues which concern these communities. We need to have intersectionality across diverse communities to increase engagement, people who are open–minded and looking to drive change with a mixture of ages, genders, races and religions. Executive boards often do not demonstrate diversity. The lack of diversity and inclusion at board level across some sports is a challenge considering that there is fair quantity of ethnically diverse individuals playing these sports. Board members need to be more transparent to openly promote and encourage diversity.”
Ziana: “It is important to have good policies and a code of ethics everyone is signed up to and believes in. Organisations need to move beyond numbers and what can be perceived as a tick box exercise. There has to be a genuine desire for equity, implemented in an open, transparent and structured manner, allowing those who will be affected the opportunity to contribute and challenge along the way.”
What is your proudest achievement to date?
Ziana: “This is a tough question, my temptation is to say Aisha’s Netball or the Netball Inclusion Event I ran at the Copper Box, over a year on I received an email from one of the parents about the positive impact it had on her daughter. That said, it probably has to be the honour of being awarded the British Empie Medal as it really has been a bit of a whirlwind.”
Ash: “From the beginning our aim was to nurture young people to be professional footballers, you’re not going to be able to get everyone pro. We want children and young people to be able to succeed in life and make their own way. We’ve seen many young people be part of Pro Touch and through us gain qualifications which have opened doors leading to them working NGB’s, as teachers and Youth Workers. Some of the contribution Pro Touch has made to personal development has helped them with these massive achievements.”
Finally we asked Ziana about what she hoped to achieve by joining the BASE Group?
Ziana: “The creation of BASE is recognition there is work to be done in creating an equal landscape in sport. Working with a group of like-minded individuals all passionate about sport and change will allow us to challenge professional bodies, and I hope we share good practice encouraging unity for change across all sports.”
As you may recall Sporting Equals was shortlisted for the British Diversity Awards Charity of the Year in 2023. We hope that both Pro Touch and Ziana can go one better this year and wish them the best of luck on the night. For more information on the British Diversity Awards and to view the full short list head over to britishdiversityawards.com