Sport has the power to unite us all, whatever our difference. But prejudice remains a huge obstacle to representation at every level, from elite athletes to grassroots amateurs. Patrick Halkett considers the big issues affecting inclusion in the world of sport.
One of sport’s great strengths is its power to transcend the differences between us and unite people with a shared passion.
But clearly this tolerance isn’t always absolute, as proven by the abhorrent racist abuse suffered by black members of the England football team following their defeat in the European Championships against Italy.
So how can sport play its part in stamping out discrimination and promoting inclusivity – and what can the corporate world mirror?
Allies for underrepresented groups are a powerful component in any inclusivity strategy and this can be seen to great effect in grassroots sport.
Coaches and volunteers who act as allies and take a united stance against injustice show youngsters that discrimination isn’t acceptable in any form. Not only does this address a need to teach acceptance and tolerance to the next generation of fans and future sportspeople, it also sends a message to children from underrepresented groups that they’re valued as much as any part of the team – and safe to be themselves without the need to edit when they’re taking part in sport.
By nurturing an inclusive environment at this young age, we’ll begin to see more diverse players rising to the top of their field, creating role models for subsequent generations of sporting talent.
Role models are paramount. You can’t be what you can’t see and when we look up to someone who looks like us, self-belief blossoms.
Footballers such as Marcus Rashford and Megan Rapinoe are known for their amazing work off the pitch but there’s still space for more elite athletes to use their professional success as a platform to create an inclusive world.
The Premier League, the highest level of football in the UK, for example, has only had one openly gay player in Thomas Hitzlsperger, who actually came out after his retirement. One might surmise that this had something to do with the culture within football but, whatever the cause, it’s clear he wasn’t comfortable being himself in that environment.
Without proper role models, how will the next generation of LGBT+ footballers rise to the top of the game?
So what could this mean for employee engagement? Take a look at The Great Awakening in our World Changers 2021 report. The latest series of events can only build the groundswell of colleague voices and activists. For businesses, this means standing on the right side of history – or risking losing trust – and your people.