RYA reaffirms its commitment to equality of opportunity

08 Jun 20

Over the past two weeks, people and organisations across the globe have come together in peaceful protest to speak out against racism. Many of those voices have come from the world of sport.

As the first UK National Governing Body to achieve the advanced level of the Equality Standard for Sport, the RYA is today reaffirming its commitment to equality in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Tangible progress has been made in supporting a much more diverse group of people to reach their full potential in our sport, whether as recreational boaters, club members, competitors, instructors or volunteers. These role models are already inspiring the next generation and building better links between schools, community groups and clubs to increase BAME participation.

But we know much more needs to be done, before our sport is as inclusive and diverse as we would like it to be.

Asher Robinson, RYA Senior Instructor at Westminster Boating Base (pictured above), says: “Sailing is a sport that has affected my life in so many positive ways. I have made many lifetime friends from this amazing sport. Although when it comes to certain environments, it happens where you can be treated differently just because of the colour of your skin. It saddens me greatly that I was punished for things in my childhood that were only based on word of mouth.”

RYA Chief Executive, Sarah Treseder, adds: “We are acutely aware that people from BAME backgrounds are still under-represented in our sport, despite the strength of our commitment to inclusivity. Policies need to be brought to life by the actions of every one across our network – and we need to take even more proactive steps to ensure that the opportunities boating offers are available to everyone on a fair and equal basis.

“The onus is on all of us to ensure that our sport, and especially our clubs and training centres where most people have their first taste of boating, are welcoming to all and offer an encouraging experience. It is these actions, rather than words, that ultimately determine if our commitment to equality of opportunity is successful.”

This focus on action is a sentiment well-articulated by Sport England Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth in his latest public blog, commenting on what the sporting sector has learnt from the Black Lives Matter movement and how we can all play our part to build a better society. Chris Grant, one of the most senior black administrators in British sport, has also written to UK Sport and Sport England urging them to establish a forum where people can talk frankly about historical and present-day issues without criticism or prejudice. 

The RYA supports the proposal of such a forum to shine a light on these longstanding problems – and ultimately to change them. We would warmly welcome input from the BAME community about your experiences of boating – positive or negative – and your views on where improvements can be made, or successes can be shared with others. Please email ask@rya.org.uk, or contact the RYA Safeguarding and Equality Manager at equality@rya.org.uk.

Asher concludes: “Moving forward, I would love it if we all talk openly more. Education and some sort of level of understanding on all levels is essential for racism really to be eradicated. Otherwise this will just always be an issue.”