Race Council Cymru call to boost grass roots sports

By Michela Riva
BBC News

Published
Media caption,
Ikran Hersi plays in the basketball team established by her sister Ayan

Ethnic minority groups in Wales have claimed they are not being listened to when it comes to increasing sport participation in their communities.

Race Council Cymru (RCC) said the body responsible for participation, Sport Wales, should engage more with grassroots organisations.

Sport Wales said a £540,000 programme had supported community groups and trained 150 new volunteers.

But it accepted that more needed to be done.

Its research in 2015 showed a complex picture with a "stubborn inequality" still existing; Asian men participate more in sport than white men, but Asian women far less than white counterparts.

It also surveyed school pupils and found half of black children were "hooked on sport" compared with 36% Asian and fewer than half of white children.

RCC, which represents more than 30 Welsh grassroots organisations, said funding needed to be more widely available.

Chief executive Uzo Iwobi said: "I think they've done a number of programmes that have worked in parts of the country, but not overall.

"I think we need to think again about how we engage because there's this concept of trying to fix people, of trying to provide solutions without people."

A two-year, £500,000 BME Sport Cymru project has led to nearly 3,500 people taking part and is due to be extended until March 2019.

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Tom Overton, head of community sport at Sports Wales, said: "I accept that we can always do more but... I don't think it's just the role of Sports Wales.

"When we look at the benefits of sport and physical activity, there are social, health and economic benefits - there's a real opportunity for collaboration between different organisations, be that in the health and education sectors."

Image caption,
Ayan Hersi thinks women-only sessions will help improve participation in sport

Ayan Hersi set up the basketball team Butetown Dragons after realising there was nothing in her community for BME women and girls who did not feel comfortable making use of conventional sports facilities, but still wanted to be active.

"We have nationalities from everywhere you can think of.

"Basketball is the reason why we come together, because basketball has this culture and this vibe of bringing people together irrespective of what your religion is, what your race is, what your ethnicity is," she said.

She received some funding from Sport Walesbut said more needed to be done to reach out to grassroots organisers.

"It's a female-only basketball team. We have qualified [female] basketball coaches who have been brilliant and understand all the barriers we've faced."

She would like to see more council-run sports facilities offering women-only sessions, including time slots in the evening to allow more working mothers to participate.

"The most important thing is to create an environment where woman can be themselves and be as active as they can be in whichever sport."