With the need for greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) across all areas of society slowly being realised, four Sport Industry NextGen Leaders have taken matters into their own hands through the creation of Playbook For Change, an online resource for individuals and organisations looking to embark on their own D&I journeys.
Ashanti: I’m Ashanti, I work at Refresh Sports, which is a small company that spans across talent management, events, production and consultancy.
Dan: I am Dan. Ex-Sport-tech founder now turned FinTech. Working for a hyper-growth scale-up, Railsbank.
Giulia: I’m a third culture kid from Italy, now based in London. I’m the Commercial Strategy Lead at FACEIT.
Jonathan: My name is Jonathan. I'm currently working for the sportswear brand Umbro as Head of Sports Marketing.
What is Playbook for Change?
D: The Playbook was designed to help anybody educate themselves about diversity and inclusion.
G: We don’t claim to have all the answers to the systemic issues society presents, but we want to offer some guidance for individuals that do not know where to start.
J: It should be a base for understanding where you or your company are in terms of the D&I journey, and should provide some clear steps that can be taken to progress.
How did the four of you come to create this resource?
A: Dan, Giulia, Jon and I all had the pleasure of meeting as part of the Sport Industry NextGen 2020 programme and after meeting and discussing things that we feel are important and close to our hearts we found that we all had a passion to make the industry as inclusive as possible.
G: After the murder of George Floyd, we really wanted to work on something that could shed light on the issues there are in the sporting world, and find actionable insights that could help our surrounding community.
How diverse is the sport industry currently?
A: In my personal opinion I think that unfortunately the sports industry isn’t particularly diverse. As a mixed-race person myself, I am often in large rooms whether speaking to brands, sportspeople and their management teams or at an event and there aren’t a great deal of people that look like me
D: We should be careful to talk about diversity without also including inclusion. Being diverse on paper is so limited, without creating an inclusive supportive environment for all. If anything, inclusion should come first, as how can you expect to retain, support and recruit diverse talent if the workplace isn’t inclusive. That being said I think we all know that sport has a long way to go on both diversity and inclusion.
G: The BAME community is still heavily underrepresented in companies, especially in more senior positions, and this is often reflected in the poor choices that many organisations have made in the past. With lack of gender, ethnic, orientation etc. diversity, we lack diversity of thought, and therefore lack progress and opportunities.
J: I think we tend to think D&I has a high representation due to ‘on-pitch’ or the athletes themselves, which is important of course, but this needs to filter right through organisations.
What are some the barriers to greater D&I in the sport industry?
D: The lack of easily available materials and appetite of people to learn. This tool hopefully goes some way into removing some of those barriers as material is free, tailored to you and free of charge.
G: Mainly for me it is the lack of interest shown by senior leaders, especially white males, when it comes to the importance of Equity in a business. We need senior leaders to be more proactively involved in D&I conversations, allowing for candid and transparent conversation, support on better recruitment practices and actually walk the walk rather than just talking the talk. D&I needs to be a priority, and no longer something that is on the side-lines that can be a “optional” task.
J: Historical hierarchies and processes. A lack of education, lack of opportunity or people not seeing representation in industries and jobs which they may have in interest or desire to go into.
Why should companies start their D&I journey?
A: I think at its core because it is the right thing to do, but in a very matter-of-fact way because studies show that more diverse companies are more efficient, have a more productive workforce and ultimately this leads to a more economically successful company.
D: It’s never too late to start. The benefits are huge to ensuring you have a diverse and inclusive workplace. Use the tool, see the art of the possible and I am sure any leader will want to implement a change and improve their existing workplace, culture and productivity, irrespective of where they are on the D&I journey.
What are some simple steps that organisations can take in order to become more diverse and inclusive?
A: Holding events whether in-person or virtual to understand the benefits of having a more diverse organisation and speaking to D&I consultants about how they can take the first steps on this journey would really help. I can attest there are some tremendous D&I consultants out there who can assist the first step of this journey.
D: Start by educating themselves and then supporting change in their organisations. This tool is a great first step on that journey.
G: Check out the playbook and you will find out
J: Look inwards and find out your current D&I state of play. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest about where you are, and what needs to be done. Create clear and achievable D&I KPIs so you can track your progress.
What is the appetite for change amongst organisations you speak to, is it increasing?
A: I believe there is serious will to make the industry more representative and that is wonderful to see and hear. I think if you see how many more women there are in senior management positions and on boards within the sports industry in comparison to a decade ago, it shows that change can come and it should be seen as a positive.
G: There is definitely more interest in D&I, however a lot of it seems to stem from PR efforts or commercial efforts. I would love to see companies invest in D&I because they realise that that is what is right to do, and how society can improve as a whole.
What do you hope to achieve through Playbook for Change?
A: My aim has always been that if we can help or assist one person or one organisation along their D&I journey then it will have been worthwhile.
That is ultimately it, to give organisations and those who believe in D&I, something they can use as a resource within their workplace and to help advocate for an increase in diversity then that’d be great.
G: We hope that it will make more people curious and aware of the small steps that they could start taking to improve the community around them. Hopefully people will come across the Playbook and realise that they don’t necessarily need to change the world all at once, but there are certain behaviours that can really help move us forward.
J: For me, I’d like it to spark thought and action for companies who are starting their D&I journey. I’m not naive to think that this Playbook solves everything, far from it, and that’s why we choose to be quite specific. Personally, I already see this as successful as I myself, have broadened my D&I knowledge through building this tool and engagement with different people and experts.
What message would you give to a young person from a minority background who wants to embark on a career in the sport industry?
A: If I can do it you can certainly do it!
D: People deal with people. Networking your way forwards is a great tool and be authentic throughout.
G: Throw yourself into it because you are capable and the industry needs you. There are incredible individuals in the industry that will support you, so find that network and keep going!
J: Don’t give up, find avenues which could lead to a career in sport, if not directly linked, and network. If you can find mentors who represent you within the industry, reach out and ask them about their journey.
For more information on how you can start your D&I journey, visit Playbook for Change.