'Sport for all' highlights ethnicity gap in sport

People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are far less likely to be physically active

27 January 2020

A man running on a treadmill

The deep-rooted inequalities that mean people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are far less likely to be physically active have been laid bare in a new report.

Sport for all - why ethnicity and culture matters in sport and physical activity’, which we’ve published today, is the most comprehensive ever picture of how people from BAME communities are taking part in sport and physical activity.

The report considers:

  • Overall levels of activity and the significant differences between different ethnic groups
  • The types of activities undertaken by adults and children from different ethnic backgrounds
  • The impact of overlaying multiple demographic characteristics upon activity levels.

Click on the image below to read the report.

The findings are drawn from the survey responses of more than 100,000 people who contributed to our most recent Active Lives Adult and Children Surveys.

The report shows that people from Asian, Black and Chinese backgrounds are far more likely to be physically inactive than those who are White.

People from these ethnic groups are also far less likely to volunteer in sport and enjoy the benefits associated with it.

Speaking at a special conference to promote the research in Birmingham this morning, our board member Chris Grant will say it's vitally important we work to close the ethnicity gap in sport participation.

“I’m convinced that sport must be a leader, and not a follower,” he’ll add.

“That’s why I want to invite and challenge the whole of sport to come with us on this journey, and in doing so to be clear-sighted and honest about the ways in which we’re currently excluding and letting down whole swathes of our population.

62% of adults in England currently meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity a week

“When it suits us, we’re happy to talk about the leadership role that sport can play; its capacity to inspire a nation or to transform lives. No other aspect of national life has so many column inches and broadcast hours devoted to it.

“But there’s an elevated level of discomfort when talking about race and culture in sport and we need to get beyond this if we are genuinely going to do something about the ethnicity gap.”

Presently, 62% of adults of adults in England currently meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity a week. However, just 56% of Black people and 55.1% of Asian people (excluding Chinese) reach this figure. 

Today’s conference will also explore some of the actions and projects that are already in place to bring about change, and Chris will highlight the role data can play in breaking down equality.

“One of the key ingredients to achieve necessary change at all levels of sport is how we use data," he'll explain.

“If we don’t invest both vigour and rigour in building a detailed picture of the situation as it currently exists, then we stand little chance of coming up with effective solutions that will improve peoples’ lives. 

“And even if we were to stumble across some of those solutions – we wouldn’t be able to monitor our progress and put solid proof behind it. The research being published today is a massive step forward in this regard.”

Also at the event, our director of sport, Phil Smith, will insist the whole sports sector will need to work together to solve this problem.  

“Sport for all is more than a snappy event title, it's a sentiment that cuts right to the heart of Sport England’s vision and ambition,” he’ll explain. “But we must recognise that as a sector and as a system there just hasn’t been the concerted joined up effort to understand and critically address the ethnicity gap in participation.

“We all have a huge opportunity to create innovative new ways of designing sport and physical activity so that many more people can see it as something for them, for people who look like them, for people from their communities.

“We absolutely recognise that there are complex, interconnected mixture of issues at play here and it would be wrong and reductive to think that there is one simple answer.

“And we also recognise there are many others who hold the expertise needed to create real change and we are committed to learning from those experts.”

* We'd love to hear your views about what needs to be done to address the ethnicity gap in sport. You can get in touch by emailing us at SportForAll2020@sportengland.org.