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How inclusive is your club?

Does the make-up of your club’s membership broadly reflect your local community?

Are you confident that the club complies with the Equality Act and is not vulnerable to claims of discrimination, perhaps simply because the impact of a policy or procedure hasn’t been fully thought through? How well could you respond to the needs of, for example, a transgender sailor or a Muslim family wishing to join the club?

The annual RYA Affiliated Club Membership Census is now in its fifth year and in 2017, for the first time asked clubs to estimate the number of club members with a disability, or from a Black or minority ethnic group, in addition to asking for the male/female split.

Male / Female

The 2017 Census suggests that proportion of female club members has increased by 1% point, from 36% in previous years, to 37%. Over recent years we have seen a number of clubs focus on activity for women and girls, with initiatives such as ‘This Girl Can’ sessions and ‘ladies that launch’. There is still more that clubs can do attract and retain female sailors, and ensuring that changing facilities are large enough to accommodate more women is one obvious one, alongside these targeted activities.


Almost one in five people in the UK have a long-standing limiting disability or illness and 75% of disabled people have more than one impairment.

The 2017 Club Membership Census found that clubs estimated 4.4% of club members in England have a disability, which is obviously considerably lower than the national average. There may be many reasons for this difference; clubs not asking members for this information, members not disclosing their disability, hidden disabilities, or possibly that the club does not represent the community in terms of people with disabilities.

With demand for boating increasing in the over 55 age group it is important for clubs to appreciate that 70% of disabled people are over 50. Increasing accessibility for disabled people and creating more opportunities for regular and continued participation is therefore an important issue for clubs to address.


Census results suggest that the overall proportion of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) members within clubs is small. Calculations show that similarly to many other sports, membership of affiliated clubs is low.

  • BAME membership varies across the UK, but does not exceed 4% (12.8% of UK population are BAME according to the ONS 2017)
  • The England average is 2.6%.
  • Representation of BAME members is perhaps not as high as might be expected according to the population demographics of each region.
  • London & the South East, and the South regions have the highest proportion of BAME members within clubs.

Our Equality and Diversity web page has been expanded to include a range of resources and links to support clubs: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion The pages will be further developed over the coming months. Please take a look, and if you have any comments or examples of good practice that you would be happy to share, e-mail the RYA Safeguarding and Equality Manager, Jackie Reid, at

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