The Importance of Inclusivity in Sport

Author: Tom Wilde

Date: 29/03/2022

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“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand.” 

These words from Nelson Mandela remain as powerful today as when they were first uttered in 2000 at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards.

Anyone who has been a participant or fan of sport understands its ability to bring people together in a shared experience, no matter who they are and where they come from. More so than many other industries, sport is held accountable when it comes to representation, particularly in regards to gender, race, age, and socioeconomic status. It's why continued efforts are made to ensure sport evolves and continues to set an example. 

Inclusion in practice

In June 2021, UK Sport published its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy to increase diversity and inclusion across sports, leaders, workforce, athletes and fans, with a particular focus on the Olympics and Paralympics. The strategy focuses on four priority areas: 

  • To power a more diverse and inclusive team that delivers a broader range of champions and medallists than ever before

  • To increase the diversity of leadership on national and international sports bodies 

  • To promote and embed inclusion across UK Sport’s programmes 

  • To drive with pace, ambition and accountability the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda within UK Sport. 

We see many news stories detailing inclusivity efforts across larger organisations and clubs, but what about those yet to embark on their inclusivity journey? Where do you start, and what are the priorities? 

In a project commissioned by Play by the Rules, Peter Downs, manager of the Australian Sports Commission's Disability Sport Unit for 17 years, developed the 7 Pillars of Inclusion. To identify and define the common factors that influence inclusion, Downs developed a framework that offers sports organisations a starting point to help them achieve inclusion. The 7 Pillars of Inclusion are: 

1. Access

Can everyone physically access the place your sport happens? If so, is the environment and culture welcoming to all? Organisations are encouraged to invest time in developing a genuinely welcoming environment for every person entering the premises. 

2. Attitude

Are your people willing to embrace inclusion? There can sometimes be a gap between intention and action, and this needs to close for inclusion strategies to be effective. Being positive and talking about issues is great, but things need to happen for progress to be made.

3. Choice

Is there autonomy in your organisation? By offering options regarding how people can get involved, you are more likely to attract diverse workers and participants. 

4. Partnerships

This pillar examines how individual and organisational relationships are formed. Are you facilitating connections both within the organisation and the wider community?  

5. Communication

Does everyone know about your inclusivity efforts? How do you communicate this information? Look at how this could be done better to reach more people both inside and outside the organisation to encourage wider participation. 

6. Policy

How have you committed to fostering inclusion? Are you taking responsibility? This is about holding your organisation accountable for inclusion by having policies and goals that everyone knows about and are working towards.

7. Opportunities

What options are available for people from different backgrounds? How can they grow their career with you? This pillar sees sports organisations offer everyone the same opportunities to grow and progress regardless of who they are or where they come from.  

Time to take action on inclusion. 

Here at level=, it's our mission to help every sports organisation, regardless of size or scope, bring diversity and inclusion to their leadership and broader teams. Find out more about how we support employers and help them implement effective ED&I policies that take action on inclusion. Connect with us on 020 8392 9959 or email

Connect with us on 020 8392 9959 or email

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