CIMSPA responds to the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequality in Sport Review

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You can read the report and a summary of its main findings here

Below, CIMSPA’s CEO, Chair and a Trustee give their responses to the report.

Tara Dillon, CEO, CIMSPA:
“This is an extremely important piece of work which highlights, in quite stark terms, that racism and racial inequality are still very much present within sport and physical activity. The nature of the problem may have moved on from overt racism to more subtle forms of inequality, bias and microaggression, but we still have a major challenge to address in sport (as we do in society as a whole).

The sport and physical activity workforce - from grassroots volunteers and coaches through to elite coaches, administrators and leaders - has a crucial role to play. Put simply, we need a more diverse workforce at all levels, and we need to ensure that everyone working in the sector is helping to create a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for all participants.

People from ethnically diverse backgrounds account for 14% of the general working population, but are only 7% of the sector’s workforce. Representation is even lower among leisure and sports managers (6%) and lower still for sports coaches, instructors and officials (5%). Fitness instructors have a better level of representation (11%) but there is work to do in all areas to create a more diverse and representative workforce, which will in turn help to engage and encourage more participants from diverse backgrounds.

As the report highlights, we at CIMSPA need to get better at collecting data about the ethnic diversity of our own membership. This is something we will do, and we will commit to publishing this data on a regular basis.

There is also evidence in the report of coaches themselves feeling excluded, and having their career opportunities limited because of their race. We must do more to ensure that people of all ethnicities feel welcomed in every sport and are given opportunities to develop their careers and access the top jobs.

Coaches can have a powerful and lasting influence on the people they work with, especially young people. The report highlights that, sadly, this influence can be a negative one, with some coaches displaying various levels of conscious and unconscious racism. These acts - even if unintentional - can have a lasting impact on a participant’s experience and enjoyment of sport, and on their wider self-confidence and sense of worth.

We must ensure that all coaches receive the education and support they need to eliminate this problem, creating safe spaces and enjoyable experiences for all. We also need to create an environment where participants, parents and other stakeholders can report instances of racism or racial inequality, confident that appropriate action will be taken.

Some of these challenges connect to ongoing pieces of work (such as the Workforce Governance project that we are undertaking with Sport England) but I am determined that CIMSPA will do everything we can to address these issues and to enable everyone to enjoy the benefits of sport and physical activity.”

Marc Woods, CIMSPA Chair:
“This report provides uncomfortable reading for anyone who is involved within the sport and physical activity sector. Quite frankly, if you don’t find it uncomfortable then you are part of the problem.

Our sector should cater to all parts of society and to do that we cannot - and must not - continue to marginalise ethnically diverse groups. The absence of representation at all levels - but especially at a leadership level - has clearly led to decision-making that exacerbates inequality and division.

No longer should we enable unwelcoming and exclusive environments, where people are unresponsive to complaints of racism and inequality; where the validity of skills and expertise are questioned based on someone’s skin colour; or where access to coaching and career opportunities are limited.

I welcome the call to action within the report, but this cannot be seen as something that someone else will handle. Everyone in the sector has a role to play and we at CIMSPA are determined to take the lead.”

Rowena Samarasinhe, CIMSPA Trustee
“This report is a very raw take on the state of our sector, and one that is not only uncomfortable but also a little traumatic to read at times.

Racism has no place in society and certainly no place in a sporting environment and the whole sector needs to play its part to stamp this out.

On a personal level, the report has made me reflect on a number of my own experiences and question whether I chose to see the good in a situation that was far from good; and whether I should have been standing up for a cause that I wasn’t even aware of for some time (or one I perhaps chose to hide from).

The numbers speak for themselves, and for as long as they do not change for the better, we cannot expect marginalised groups to view our sector any differently.

The most important thing that we need to do, in my view, is to rebuild trust within these groups, so that they (we) truly believe that we are fighting for them (us).

I also believe that we need to be doing much more at a leadership level, to change cultures and perceptions and ensure an environment of inclusion. I do not believe this is something that can happen overnight but the intention and action needs to be there and, personally, I still see (and experience) our sector falling short.

We all have our part to play in changing things and encouraging sport for all, and that has to start “yesterday”. For too long, too many of us have been complacent and I recognise my own role in not calling this behaviour out more often.

CIMSPA is at the heart of the workforce of this industry and we believe not only do we need to ensure our workforce is inclusive for all, but we also need to protect it from micro and macro aggressions.”


Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity

CIMSPA's work enhances the career opportunities and professional development of the workforce operating in sport, fitness, exercise, leisure, gym, coaching, health and wellbeing. We achieve this through sector-wide engagement, membership, networking, events, directories and professional standards.

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