Is Team GB still too white and suburban?

23/08/21

On the eve of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where the global campaign and fight for equality was launched on behalf of its 1.3bn disabled citizens, the Youth Charter reveals its response to the racial inequality concerns raised by Sport England’s Board Member, Chris Grant, who challenged the historic Team GB medal haul successes as being “to white and suburban” with “massive underrepresentation” of the UK’s diverse social and cultural communities.

The YC 2020 Racial Equality Summary Report attempts to provide data analysis on this issue and highlight the policy strategies with the recent Government announcement of a £232m investment to support Team GB Olympic and Paralympic athletes to Paris 2024. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“Team GB showed us the very best of this country in Tokyo - demonstrating sportsmanship, hard work and record-breaking performances. From the pool to the track to the velodrome, our Olympians gave us so many reasons to be proud, and to celebrate their extraordinary success. This increased funding will support Team GB to deliver their best possible performances in three years time in Paris.”

The Youth Charter has completed a longitudinal analysis of Team GB Athletes from Sydney 2000 to Tokyo 2020, which covers the post-Atlanta 1996 period and £1.116billion of public investment from the National Lottery and the Treasury, with another £232million to be invested for Paris 2024 Olympics, which will see a 43% increase in UK Sport funding from £54million per year to £77.4million per year.

During this period (1997 to 2021), socio-economic inequalities, including in education, health and racial disparities, have persisted and/or increased in the UK. The additional socio-economic sport and physical activity inequalities have been exposed by the unequal impact of the Covid pandemic on our most disadvantaged and deprived communities in the UK, and the pandemic has further increased the overall education attainment gaps between the state and independent education systems. Which begs the question:

How many Team GB Athletes attended independent secondary schools?

The Youth Charter has data for this from previous Olympics and we will attempt to find some answers for Tokyo 2020 but this should be freely available and part of UK Sport's public funding criteria.

With regard to Racial Equality, the Youth Charter found there were 195 (12.5%) BAME Athletes out of the 1,562 Team GB Athletes who have competed at the Olympics from Sydney 2000 to Tokyo 2020. Of this 81% of the Team GB BAME Athletes were in 4 Olympic squads:

Athletics 56% (109) of Team GB BAME Athletes
Boxing 9.7% (13) of Team GB BAME Athletes
Football 9.2% (18) of Team GB BAME Athletes
Basketball 5.6% (11) of Team GB BAME Athletes

Whilst 15 (50%) of the Team GB Olympic Squads had 0% to 2% BAME Athletes. These 15 Team GB Olympic Squads had only 5 BAME Athletes out of 880 Athletes at Sydney 2000 to Tokyo 2020. These 15 Team GB Olympic Squads had 56% of All Team GB Athletes but just 2.6% of Team GB BAME Athletes.

However, UK Sport has provided £767million (69%) of the £1.116billion public investment to these 15 sports from 1997 to 2021. This includes:

Cycling. £117million UK Sport Funding 2 (2.3%) BAME Athletes out of 88 Athletes
Aquatics £138million UK Sport Funding 2 (0.9%) BAME Athletes out of 228 Athletes
Rowing £131million UK Sport Funding 1 (0.6%) BAME Athletes out of 163 Athletes
Equestrian £63million UK Sport Funding 0 BAME Athletes out of 40 Athletes
Canoeing £59million UK Sport Funding 0 BAME Athletes out of 44 Athletes
Sailing £106million UK Sport Funding 0 BAME Athletes out of 59 Athletes
Hockey £54million UK Sport Funding 0 BAME Athletes out of 126 Athletes

The Youth Charter has established a rating system for the "Potential for Social Impact of Olympic Sports", which includes four areas and factors: 1. Physical Literacy / Active Lifestyle; 2. Life Skills / Active Lifestyle; 3. Social Skills; and 4. Accessibility.

Out of the 15 Team GB Sports with the least number of BAME Athletes 8 have a Low potential for Social Impact. The Youth Charter calls on UK Sport, along with Sport England, Sport Wales, Sport Scotland and Sport Northern Ireland, to ensure public investment in sport includes Potential for Social Impact as a key criteria for funding.

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