Your sports club should be a safe, happy environment that promotes physical and mental wellbeing amongst your staff, members and supporters. However, without a deliberate focus on diversity, inclusion equality, member protection and governance, this might not be the case for all who attend your club.
Everyone should have an opportunity to be actively involved in whatever sport they choose, in whatever capacity they choose. Ensuring that your club promotes diversity and inclusion is imperative to make your members feel safe, valued and supported - and that’s why it should be a key focus point for all staff to help create this environment.
This article will explain what it means to be inclusive, how you can adopt a strategy of diversity and inclusivity and how to open up communication about diversity within your club.
What does it mean to be diverse and inclusive?
Diversity is a mix of individual attributes and backgrounds, i.e race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability and ethnicity. A diverse club is one which reflects your local community, with a mix of people with different personal characteristics.
Being inclusive is to proactively take steps towards ensuring that diversity is supported and welcomed within your club environment, ensuring that individuals from all ages, backgrounds, abilities feel welcomed, involved and able to enjoy the opportunities your club presents equally. Inclusivity is an atmosphere where everyone feels like they can take part, and there are a number of ways that your club can be inclusive.
The benefits of inclusion
Ensuring that your sports club is diverse, inclusive and actively communicating those factors will bring with it a host of benefits.
For starters, all of your members will feel supported and valued, but also you’ll:
- Attract new members of the community who are looking for an inclusive environment
- Increase your brand awareness and build a positive reputation within your local community
- Meet your regulatory obligations in sport
- Decrease legal risks by improving your governance and risk management
- Increase participation opportunities for all of your members
- Increase sponsorship opportunities, offering the club more chances to raise money
- Increase public support and potentially benefit from an uptake in volunteers
- Help break down barriers and promote inclusion within sport
- Contribute towards a more diverse sporting community
How can you encourage your staff to be inclusive?
Use education to make sure your management team is on board with your club’s diversity and inclusion values and can proactively play their part in demonstrating them. We’ll go into this education more in a moment.
Here are some ways that you can support your staff to understand and embrace diversity and inclusion within your club.
1. Treat every club member as an individual
Assess each person’s individual needs on a personal basis and allow them to advocate for themselves, as opposed to defining them by their personal characteristics. Encourage staff to view each member as an individual, and avoid singling anyone out when it comes to making plans or strategising.
2. Use inclusive language
The language we use is incredibly important, and it can be a make-or-break factor for creating inclusivity. It’s important that we learn about the effects of our language choices and how they can go against supporting inclusivity. For example, using gender-specific language can compromise gender equality, while only acknowledging two genders is discriminatory to those who have they/them pronouns. Adopting inclusive language needs to be a conscious and consistent effort for everyone at your club. Milton Keynes College has a great inclusive language guide, which covers useful terms across age, gender, religion, sexual identity, and disability, amongst others.
3. Detect and avoid discrimination and unconscious bias
Make sure that any instances of discrimination or unconscious bias are dealt with immediately and effectively. There are a number of free unconscious bias training courses which can help your staff to identify ways in which they could be unconsciously biased. It’s a great idea to get all staff members to complete the course for their own education and for the benefit of the club.
4. Create a culture of safety and support
Encourage both your staff and club members to report any instances of discrimination or unconscious bias that they come across. Your team should feel supported and empowered enough to be able to escalate instances which threaten your inclusive atmosphere, and should be encouraged and supported at every turn to feel like they’re able to speak up. The NSPCC has a Child protection in sport and physical training course which can help you put the right policies and procedures in place.
5. Understand and avoid sexual harassment
Sexual harassment and gender inequality can be particularly prevalent within sports environments, so it’s important to ensure your staff understand what sexual harassment is and how to avoid it. You could invite an expert to raise your club’s awareness of the issue and how it can be prevented. Sport England’s Uniting The Movement strategy is a useful starting point.
How can I educate staff to be inclusive?
Education is the most powerful tool for promoting inclusion. This means that as a club, it is your responsibility to help to educate your staff as much as possible.
1. Provide resources
Are there any free training modules on diversity and inclusion you can share with your staff? We shared an unconscious bias module from Microsoft above - what other educational resources which would be beneficial?
2. Invite guest speakers
We’re not all going to be immediately fluent in the world of diversity and inclusion - but there are plenty of motivational speakers who specialise in education that you could invite to your club to speak to your members. It’s important to consider speakers of all backgrounds - and you could even invite some of your members to talk about their experiences and why inclusivity is so important to them, should they feel comfortable of course. You could raise funds for payment or even make a special event to support your guest speaker.
3. Participate in special days
International Women’s Day, Pride, Diwali - be sure to participate in as many days which celebrate diversity as you can, to both educate your staff and support your members who might celebrate these special occasions.
The Chartered Institute for Professional Development publishes an Inclusion Calendar. Here's their CIPD 2022 Inclusion Calendar.
What can I do to support inclusion?
There are a number of steps that you can take to ensure that you are actively supporting inclusion within your club.
1. Appoint a diversity and inclusion officer
Ensuring you have a staff member who is directly responsible for ensuring the club is doing all it can to uphold a diverse and inclusive environment at the club is a great way to support inclusion. By advertising for this role (on a voluntary or paid basis), you will be creating an opportunity for someone who is passionate about inclusion to contribute something incredibly beneficial to the club - while helping all staff and members feel included too.
2. Add diversity and inclusion to the agenda on your club meetings
The best way to support inclusion is to talk about it, and how you can ensure it’s happening, often. Make diversity and inclusion a regular item on the agenda of your club meetings - this will create a consistent and open dialogue around these important topics.
3. Review your club's accessibility
Is your club accessible to those with disabilities? Are there designated parking spaces? Are there accessible toilets? Are your meetings or events held in accessible venues? Is the time of your meeting appropriate for everyone who you’d like to attend, and is this something you could vary in future?
4. Make your club's information accessible
Is your information accessible to everyone? Consider those who might not have access to a mobile phone or a computer - is there a way you can ensure they are receiving any important information?
5. Think about any financial barriers
Are there any costs which might prevent certain individuals from attending events? Can you try to ensure there are a variety of menu options to suit all dietary requirements and budgets? Can you collect your membership fees on a monthly or quarterly basis instead of annually, to give those on a lower income more flexibility?
Payzip helps you record sensitive admin notes like these against a member’s invoice, so you can track what you’ve agreed. You can also turn off automatic reminders for their invoice, so members who’ve already made payment arrangements with you won’t receive reminders. Learn more
We hope this article has shown you the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive environment within your club - but not only that, we hope that we’ve equipped you with the tools to create that environment for your club members. Let us know if there are any courses, guides or articles that you’ve found useful and we’ll include them here.