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Birkbeck academics' help address lack of diversity on sport boards

A new project involving the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre has been launched by UK Sport and Sport England to improve the diversity of board members in the sport sector.

A recent report from Diversity in Sport Governance, prepared by Inclusive Boards found that, while women now take up 40% of board seats across sporting bodies funded by Sport England and UK Sport-funded bodies, diversity in areas such as ethnicity and disability remains a challenge.  The report found that just 5.2% of all board members identified as BAME and just 5% declared or consider themselves disabled. Dr Richard Tacon and Dr Geoff Walters from Birkbeck Sport Business Centre have collaborated with UK Sport, Sport England and Perrett Laver on a project that aims to improve the lack of diversity in board members in the sport sector. 

Executive search firm Perrett Laver has been appointed to find diverse candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic, disabled and LGTB+ backgrounds. Each of the selected candidates will receive support, training, development and mentoring opportunities from a consortium of partners including Birkbeck, RimJhim Consulting, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Women on Boards, Activity Alliance, and Stonewall.

Dr Tacon and Dr Walters have been developing a series of online modules for candidates that introduce them to governance in the UK sport sector and to the role of the board. The Birkbeck academics draw on their research into sports boards to ensure candidates are armed with a greater knowledge and understanding of critical board issues. 

By March 2021, the aim is for 140 potential candidates to have been recruited to the programme, with priority given to candidates who identify as BAME and disabled. As the project progresses, it will widen to include candidates of varying ages, locations and socio-economic status.

Katherine Grainger, Chair of UK Sport, commented: “I’m pleased that all Olympic and Paralympic sports will be able to access the hugely talented individuals who are already a part of our new initiative with Perrett Laver. This is the latest step towards sport boards truly reflecting our diverse and multicultural society.”

Dr Tacon and Dr Walters said: “The lack of board diversity is an issue that has been recognised across the sport sector and one that needs to be addressed. This project is therefore vitally important and we are very pleased that we, as individuals, and Birkbeck, as an institution, are contributing.”

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