Celebrating diversity this Black History Month with England Boxing

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Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, a month of events which shine a light on the culture, history and achievement of Britain’s Black communities.

This year, Black History Month comes in the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The events that have unfolded during 2020 have magnified the need for more to be done in solidarity with people of colour who are continuing the fight for equality.

Throughout October, the Alliance will be drawing on the fantastic work of its members to engage the sector in an honest, open discussion about diversity and inclusiveness in sport to help facilitate progress and bring about meaningful change.

Since England Boxing became a signatory of our Black Lives Matter statement, the national governing body has conducted a review of all its operations, from board level to grassroots.

We got in touch with Bevis Allen, boxing trainer and the man leading the review, to learn more about the project.

Background on the project

The aims of the review are as follows:

  1. To lead (and document) a review to learn, develop and improve England Boxing’s performance, in order to combat racism and increase diversity and inclusivity in all functions of the National Governing Body
  2. To complete the documented review and submit, with key recommendations and actions to the England Boxing Board
  3. To identify any ‘shorter term’ actions which can be implemented prior to the completion of the review, in a timely and cost-effective way.
  4. To create new educational and promotional materials to help promote equality and diversity within all areas of the sport, including ‘appropriate’ messaging
  5. To benchmark the levels of diversity for signposting progress
  6. To review the Governance code commitments

Achieving the above objectives will improve the trust of the existing England Boxing Membership, particularly those from a BAME background, plus demonstrate that England Boxing truly is a diverse and inclusive organisation.

It can also serve as a ‘blueprint’ to tackle other areas such as increasing female participation and other under-represented groups at all levels, model ‘best practice’ to other National Governing Bodies and overall improve the impact sport can have in tackling inequality.

How did you highlight there was a need for the project?

Despite England Boxing having 25% of Board members coming from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic backgrounds, further down the line, those from a BAME background were vastly under-represented in almost every area.

In 2012, 75% of medals won were by boxers from a BAME background while at the 2016 Games, 100% of medals won were by Black boxers. England Boxing recognised the need that more needs to be done in this area and are committed to making progress and lasting change in this domain.

How did you get it off the ground?

Members across all areas of England Boxing were asked or selected to either become members of the working group or feed their views into the working group. The formation of the Working Group was completed in early July 2020, with the first official meeting taking place on 13 July.

Outcomes of the project so far

  • Completed Diversity and Inclusion training for ALL England Boxing Talent Pathway Coaches and Support Staff (50 in total)
  • 3 x KO Racism Workshops delivered (with request from members to roll out across all clubs in the UK)
  • Child Protection and Safeguarding Course has been updated to include content on Anti-Racism
  • Some high-level recommendations already submitted (and approved in principle) by the England Boxing Board
  • Weekly ‘Good News’ stories being featured on England Boxing website and social media channels

The review is ongoing with the formation of focus groups to look at how competitors from a BAME background can be encouraged to remain in the sport once they retire from boxing and become coaches and officials.

We are also looking at improving the way complaints of racism are handled and will make some recommendations in this area to help improve the process and the confidence of the membership in this area.

The Working Group is also conducting a number of interviews with boxers, coaches, officials and members to understand their experiences in the sport. Some of these interviews will be recorded and form powerful case studies.

How has it been successful so far?

As stated above, work is still ongoing, but the success so far has been in seeing so many people from across the England Boxing membership take on the challenge of wanting to help the sport become more diverse and provide equal opportunities for all, and to tackle the small element of racism which unfortunately still exists in the sport.

Advice for other organisations

There is strong evidence to suggest that the more diverse an organisation’s workforce, the better the organisation performs. If we are serious about tackling inequalities, what better place to start than in-house!