Scottish sport 'lacks diverse role models at the top'

By David MacNicol
BBC Scotland

Image caption,
Raza Sadiq has been working with young people in Glasgow for 20 years

People from ethnic minorities are under-represented in sport governance in Scotland, the BBC has learned.

Research found that out of 459 people on the boards of 50 sport governing bodies who received public money from Sport Scotland, just six were from BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds, or 1.3%.

At the last census in 2011, ethnic minorities accounted for 4% of the population - a figure which appears to be rising.

Charities said the lack of representation in boardrooms of sports governing bodies meant the challenges faced by under-represented groups were not being met.

Only cricket, dance sport, disability sport, football, wrestling and handball had any BAME representation on the board of their governing body.

'Creative avoidance'

Image source, Raza Sadiq
Image caption,
Glasgow charity, Active Life Club, celebrates 20 years

Raza Sadiq has been running Active Life Club in Glasgow for 20 years. It is a sport charity for people from diverse backgrounds.

Mr Sadiq said some mainstream sports organisations displayed "creative avoidance" when it came to diversity.

"They say, 'we have tried and nobody is coming forward'," he said.

"The reality is somebody needs to look into why people don't come forward to get involved in sports governance? They have to ask, are we a closed shop?"

Active Life Club has turned many young Scots Asians on to sport.

Mr Sadiq said it was a grassroots organisation with a very modest public funding grant.

"So if the funded organisations cannot reach out - then the problem comes to the structures and policies of these organisations."

Mr Sadiq said boardroom diversity could help achieve better ethnic minority representation at grassroots level and professionally.

"BAME people don't believe they will progress professionally as they don't see role models being successful in mainstream organisations," he said.

"If you don't have diversity on the board then your thought processes are not diverse. You don't take into account the challenges of those who are under-represented."

"I'm still very disappointed to see not many young people breaking into mainstream sports."

'I do not fit in here'

Image caption,
Kieron Achara represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games and Team GB at the Olympics

"Having positive role models who look like you, are from the same kind of background - I think that's really important," says Scots Nigerian Kieron Achara, the former basketball captain for Team GB.

The 36-year-old, who grew up in Stirling, said a lack of diversity, in certain sports, stopped him from getting involved as a youngster.

"When I grew up there were sports I was really interested in," he said. "I remember walking up to the local club and thinking I'm willing to join.

"I looked about and thought - 'I do not fit in here'. It was intimidating. That was the start and the end of my journey for that sport."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Kieron Achara at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

Kieron said a lack of representation of ethnic minorities in sports governance risked decisions being influenced by unconscious bias.

He said that if decisions were only made within a narrow frame of cultural reference then it could result in people from diverse backgrounds not being taken into account.

Kieron said sports governing bodies needed to "understand people's culture and have empathy towards them" to facilitate better integration into society and sports.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Kieron Achara of Scotland shoots as Nicholas Kay of Australia defends at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

According to Kieron, there are examples of well-intentioned diversity initiatives from Scottish sport governing bodies but they do not connect minorities with local clubs.

"The missing link right now is the club structure," he said.

"We are doing really well with the school system - Active Schools are doing a great job - but I think the missing link is the formal clubs, the club structures. Why is there a fall out of the BAME community, especially there?"

Sport Scotland said they worked closely with governing bodies to develop strategies to improve diversity.

They said they were aware that not everyone felt they could participate but were committed to making sport in Scotland more inclusive.

What about the rest of the UK?

Image caption,
Young people in Glasgow learn football skills

Ethnic minorities are under-represented in sport governance across the UK.

Recent research showed Black, Asian and minority ethnic people account for just 5.2% of board members in 130 organisations.

Statistics show about 14% of UK population is BAME.

This means the whole of the UK is performing poorly when it comes to ethnic minority involvement in sports governance.