15 December 2022
The second ever London Youth Sports Networks took place in November 2022! We convened a panel of youth professionals and athletes with experience of running Black-led organisations and working with young Black Londoners.
We had a great panel which comprised:
Chloe Morgan – Solicitor, Professional Footballer, Crystal Palace Women, Goalkeeper Coach, D&I speaker
Pablo Blackwood – Coach, Mentor and Tutor, Race and Ethnicities Lead, Youth and Communities Facilitator
Charlene King – Youth Work Manager, Rathbone, Lambeth
Tony Lazare – CEO, London Basketball Association
“Diversity is filtered out the higher up you get”
Our panel reflected on some of the socio-economic barriers that face aspiring Black athletes seeking access to sport. This is particularly acute when looking at Black representation in elite sport. The panel also illustrated how dedicated youth work, networking and personalised coaching can affect change.
Our panel were joined by over 50 London Youth members from all over the capital, who joined the panel discussion and debated the following questions:
- What are the issues Black youth are dealing with in your organisation/community?
- What more would you like to see done to help more young Black people through their sports journey?
- What can we implement in the here and now to support breaking down barriers for Black Youth in sport?
Several common themes emerged:
The cost of accessing sports opportunities
“Pay to play” means those from lower income backgrounds can’t afford to join in. An additional barrier comes from factoring in the cost of transport and sports equipment which often puts participation further out of reach. All of this is now accentuated by cost-of-living pressures.
There are too few safe spaces providing access to outdoors and sports facilities across London. Access to spaces and sport facilities can cut across the postcode wars and gang violence that are the backdrop for many young Black Londoners. Without sustainable funding many in the youth sector will increasingly struggle to get greater outreach into communities to broaden awareness of the existing youth offer and support.
Barriers to progressing to elite sport
Many training grounds for clubs are based outside of London. Travelling to elite sports training requires support of a family infrastructure to access remote training grounds. This requires significant investment of time and expense. This just isn’t feasible for many families in which both parents are working or don’t have access to a car.
We also heard that getting support from elite clubs is a major challenge; it’s difficult to get scouts to come along to community clubs and work with them. This would unlock more opportunities, particularly over time. And critically it would give a voice to those marginalised in grassroots communities.
Equal access to training just isn’t in place for young Black players. The reality is that promising young players who are boys have elite coaches whereas girls have “someone’s Dad” – unless they get signed to a professional club. Elite clubs need more diverse and inclusive programmes, and should promote scholarships which target those currently excluded.
Breaking down doors
There were inspiring calls to action from our panel. These were directed to young people to believe in their abilities and be bold in their ambitions, as well as to fellow trainers and coaches to be visible and vocal role models.
Finding practical solutions
There was widespread agreement that major sports figures need to speak out when questioned on lack of diversity in their squads. White allyship is an important feature in spotlighting the issue and advocating for change.
We heard that a key consideration as a trainer or coach is the need to develop the young person as an individual first and foremost. This is the foundation for their progression in sports. Having mentors and promoting a sense of belonging are needed to promote inclusion as well as understanding how to progress, and what pathways are available.
“Black people do not play golf” was one example cited where stereotypes are still in place and need to be challenged. This can’t happen without figureheads who challenge the status quo.
Partnership between similar organisations at a local level is a means of creating greater advocacy for equal opportunities for Black youth and a mandate for change. While this is largely around access to play support and progress professionally, it is also about those who don’t want to play but want greater involvement and representation in the industry.
As London Youth we will continue to advocate with policymakers to create a level playing field for our sector, highlighting the changes that are needed for Black youth across the capital, and the need for direct representation of their views in policy formulation.
For more information on our Sports Network, please contact Carl Reid.