In this guest blog, Routes2Success volunteer role-model and a Senior Data Strategy Director, Greg Bonsu, takes a close look at one of his passion areas: the power of sports, and what it means to have an industry that supports, nurtures and rewards young Black people in a meaningful way.
How many Black Football club owners are there in the English Premier League? How many mainstream Black promoters are there in the world of boxing? How many Black Managers or Head Coaches are there across sports such as football, rugby, tennis or cricket?
You’d struggle to think of one to answer each question, but if I were to ask you to name Black sports stars across these sports, the list would be endless.
Football is the UK’s most played and covered sport, but, with its scale, it is also the best platform to highlight the underrepresentation of Black people in senior executive, leadership and ownership positions.
A report commissioned by the Black Footballers Partnership (BFP) found that although 43% of Premier League players were Black, they represent just 14% of all known UEFA Pro License holders who have graduated under the Football Association. As you work your way up the footballing hierarchy, the numbers don’t get any better with only 4.4% of managerial positions occupied by Black former players, and just 1.6% of ownership positions held by Black people.
If it is this difficult in football, where the pool of talent is larger and gets the most TV coverage, sponsorship deals, funding and platform, then imagine how difficult it must be for Black people in other sports to progress and get to their senior positions.
Yet, if we take a deeper dive into the issue of underrepresentation, are we and our glorified sports stars part of the problem?
We celebrate Black sports stars internationally and domestically, but we only focus on their sporting prowess: how many goals have they scored? How many championships and cups have they won? How many multi-million pound endorsement deals do they have?
What initiatives beyond being a footballer, a basketball player or an American football star, exist to get Black people into professions such as coaching, media, PR or operations? What are we, and our sports stars, doing to show that there is an alternative route to success through networking and development programmes that can be equally rewarding and career defining?
One person using their platform to create opportunity and drive change is UK rapper Stormzy who with Adidas, recently announced a partnership with 10 leading brands to come together on a mutli-year initiative, Merky FC – a programme committed to improving diverse presentation by supporting opportunities in operations, creativity and marketing within the football industry.
Prior to this, in 2019 Sir Lewis Hamilton formed the Hamilton Commission alongside the Royal Academy of Engineering, to address the underrepresentation of Black people in UK motorsport, as well as the STEM sector. Between them, they have amassed over 34 million followers on Instagram and highlights one of the unique properties of sport, in that its social reach and impact far outweigh its significant economic impact.
We not only need inclusion and development programmes to be a forefront of organisations, but we also need to continue to role model and mentor young people through organisations such as Action for Race Equality to expose them to a variety of industries, different possibilities and create more focused action.
This, coupled with the social presence that influencers, musicians and athletes have in being catalysts for societal change, is what will bring about change and level the playing field. It’s not enough to be a physical or lyrical superstar within your sport or artistry – it’s what you do with it and how you do it that matters.
Remember: for the average person, the lack of diversity at the top impacts their ability to be included and welcomed in the given sector. You cannot be what you cannot see – representation matters.
Author: Greg Bonsu
Greg Bonsu, Senior Data Strategy Director, has worked in the investment and wealth management industry most of his career, progressing from an entry-level analyst through to senior managerial level. He is cares deeply about developing and empowering people of all races and ages. Greg’s main passions are fitness in general and sport, in particular, boxing.