Confronted by the numerous ills facing international sports, a Task Force chaired by T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis was established by the Sports Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) and earlier this week, the group revealed its recommendations to combat the raging issues.
This followed a week-long online "Sports Integrity seminar hosted by SIGA, where open and honest conversations were held among some of the notable people in sports. The intense event closed on Friday and the council unanimously approved the set of recommendations on race, gender, diversity and inclusion in sport.
The recommendations of the Task Force composed of sports executives, thought leaders and athletes from different backgrounds and varying parts of the world, were broken down into four main areas: 1 Research and Evidence Base; 2 Amendments to 3.3 of the SIGA Universal Standards on Good Governance; 3 Development of a Toolkit for Sports Organisations to facilitate the implementation of recommendations in this area; and 4 Identification and Engagement of Commercial Partners and Funding Mechanism.
"The work of the task force and the recommendations are a start point," said Lewis on Wednesday. "Race and gender relations in sport are a microcosm of society. It is a thorny issue with deep-seated complexities."
According to the SIGA council, the amendments, that are to be incorporated into this year's edition of the SIGA Universal Standards, include the bold step of setting a new “Gold Standard” for sports organisations to achieve targets for gender and race diversity in the board room, on an incremental basis, for example, a gradual percentage, year one, 25 per cent, year two, 35 per cent, year three, 50 per cent.
Other proposals also included specifically referencing disability in its "Universal Standards", as well as also making it a “Gold Standard” for all employees at sports organisations to receive unconscious bias training to install a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the governance structure of a sports organisation.
Lewis said:"I believe that a collaborative approach is important. SIGA commitment is resolute. The reality of discrimination be it race and gender and all forms of discrimination is undeniable.
"Cultural and religious values contribute both as a plus and minus in certain countries. People try to characterise it as political or sport but it's about human rights."
For these guidelines to yield positive results, Lewis is adamant that it requires a commitment from all parties, honestly declaring: "It's not going to be easy."
According to Lewis, SIGA has to work alongside the respective international federations; look at constitutions, policies etc and where there are gaps highlight them and work together in creating change.
"We have to continue pressing for cultural change and reform," said the head of the Caribbean Association National Olympic Committee (CANOC).
The focus of the Task Force was on international sport with the aim of it having a trickle-down effect from international federations, which control National Federations and Continental Federations, down to clubs and individuals.
By no means the Task Force entered this venture blindly and in its research found that there is a need for an increase of visible data on Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) participation and leadership in international federations.
Also in its findings, SIGA survey or research project that focused on the issue of racism and racial discrimination and inequalities across international federations, identified that race is currently not a criteria under Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) self-assessment although gender is addressed.
To eliminate the pitfalls within in sports, SIGA has committed to continue to raise awareness and be a unifying universal voice on these issues.
"It will take persistence and perseverance. SIGA has to stay the course," said Lewis.
The Task Force recommended which level some of the amendments to the SIGA Universal Standards as set out below:
Sports organisation to have a mechanism in place for staff and other relevant personnel (including members and volunteers) to provide anonymous feedback, such as an annual survey, thereby facilitating inclusion and allowing all voices to be heard.
Sports organisation to have a quality management process in place whereby their diversity and inclusion policies and practices are regularly reviewed to make sure they are current, appropriate and in line with any new legislation.
Sports organisation to have a robust system in place for handling and dealing with all discrimination complaints. There needs to be an investigation followed up by appropriate action if necessary.
Sports organisations to put all their employees through EDI/unconscious bias training so that a culture of diversity and inclusion is filtered down through the organisation from the top to bottom.
Sports organisation to procure recruitment firm with specialised in diversity and inclusion.
Each organisation shall:
a) Adopt a target of, and take all appropriate actions to encourage, a minimum of 30 per cent of each gender on its Board
b) Demonstrate a strong and public commitment to progressing towards achieving gender parity and greater diversity generally on its Board, including, but not limited to, Black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) diversity, and disability.