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Community members gather at seminar to discuss racial discrimination in the field of sport

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Posted 17th August 2021

Bradford based community organisation ‘Sport Campaign Against Racism’ (SCAR), founded by Delroy Dacres (manager of Campion Football club for more than two decades) and Shazad Parvais (first South Asian Football scout), held a seminar on Sunday titled ‘Combatting Racial Discrimination in the Field of Sport’ at Manningham Mills, Bradford. 

The event was attended by local sports clubs, community organisations, members of the public which included an esteemed guest panel, chaired by Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett.

The panel of guests included Saima Hussain, the country’s first Asian female rugby league player, Humayun Islam, CEO of BEAP, Fatima Patel, founder of Inspirational Woman’s Foundation, Pav Singh, FA Regional Coach Developer and Sensei Mumtaz Khan, founder of Onna Ju-Jitsu Club.

The panel shared their experiences of working in the sports industry and discussed how to combat racial discrimination in the field of sport.

Saima Hussain who has had racial slurs shouted at her during a game of rugby said: “Governing bodies need to do more. As a coach it is incumbent on us to understand each other’s way of life, but when this doesn’t happen governing bodies need to step up. It shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet.”

Guest Mumtaz Khan, told the audience how she has been battling to address racism and discrimination faced by her and her club members.

Mumtaz said: “I won’t stop using my voice against racism or discrimination. My own experiences have motivated me to study for my Masters and I am currently submitting my PhD proposal regarding Racism in Sport. Things have to change for the sake of sport.”

Humayun Islam BEM, CEO of BEAP partnership, a community organisation and one of the founders of Bangla Bantams added that, “We shouldn’t shy away and keep challenging when things are not right, but we should do it in a positive way. If someone is shouting racist slurs, we need to shout louder with our positivity and that’s what Bangla Bantams do.”

The audience in the room resonated with the panel and the general feeling was that racism in sport is very much ‘alive and kicking’ which was more recently reinforced with the Euro 2020 final where Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all abused online for missing penalties.

If that’s not enough then the stats on representation from black, Asian and minority communities in professional sports shows an even bleaker story.

Let’s look at the Olympics, despite having the first Muslim, Mohamed Sbihi, being the flag bearer for Team GB, the team is still not as diverse and inclusive. It is a predominantly white squad; 86% of the athletes are white, 12% are black and the remaining 2% are from other ethnic backgrounds. The athletics squad is made up of 47 black athletes and 33 white. When athletics is taken out of the equation the squad is 93% white.

If we delve further, then only seven British Asians competed for Team GB at the last Olympics and Paralympics in Rio in 2016. Seven athletes out of 630, that is just one per cent.

“This is why it’s important to have such seminars” said Fatima Patel, founder and CEO of the Inspirational Women’s Foundation.

She said: “The only way we can tackle discrimination in sports and any other industry is when we are allowed to speak without fear or favour. Often voices are silenced for fear of losing out on work, promotion or being left out. Tokenism should also be called out”

Pav Singh, FA regional coach developer said it’s important we get the right talent through. He believes we need to work on three key areas which are allyship, role modelling and focusing on representation.

Dr Aarti Ratna, independent researcher agrees. She said: “In order to fight discrimination you need to have your allies. Your allies are not only people who look like me. I urge institutions to take accountability and do the right thing”

Tony Burnett, who was the main guest and is the CEO of Kick it Out an organisation formed to eliminate racism from sport, said he felt inspired by the conversations that took place and promised to do more. He said: “I want to see the number moving forward – 15 South Asian players in football is not enough. We’ve not done enough – but we are not going to back down”

Host and organiser Dr Ikram Butt concluded that this is just the start of the movement towards pushing for a more equal and level playing field. The event was sponsored by Regal Foods Group and Zia Logistics. Anyone who wants to get involved can do so by visiting www.scarunites.org.

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