Nine clubs have signed a letter sent to England Hockey highlighting issues on ethnicity in the sport. Here we print the letter in full and England Hockey’s statement
The letter was written to EH’s chief executive Nick Pink:
I recently wrote to you regarding the England Hockey “National Report for Player Survey 2020 – All Clubs” in particular highlighting the data that a mere 6% of those playing at hockey clubs from ethnic minorities.
I believe that there are 2 main reasons for this:
First, hockey has now become an elitist sport and is dominated at the top level in particular by those lucky enough to come through the private school system. Furthermore, this has favoured clubs in affluent catchment areas and well-funded Universities.
As a result, inner-city clubs and those from more socially deprived areas are finding it ever more difficult to attract and retain what talent they have. This is in part due to a lack of facilities and support from the governing body.
Seemingly young people from inner cities and non-White middle-class backgrounds no longer see hockey as a “sport for all” and in particular not for them. Similarly, there is no direct positive support from England Hockey to encourage these youngsters to participate in or get exposure to the sport. This is a great disadvantage to them and deprives Hockey of a huge source of potential untapped talent.
Second, as well as a class problem, there seems to be a race issue which is endemic within England Hockey. From the England team down to the club game and to junior levels I have spent a number of months speaking to people involved in the sport about this. The issue lies at many levels. Examples of such below:
- Certain players from BAME backgrounds participating via the Player Pathway system, (from those going to developmental centres as teenagers through to The England set up), suffering both overt and casual racism from other players and, more worryingly, coaches and management. Issues of this nature include and are not limited to coaches involved with the senior squads. The main issue here is that very often players are too scared to come forward to report it in case of their selection chances being hindered or getting an unwanted reputation as being a “troublemaker”. Some of the accounts that I have heard shook me to the core, particularly given that this has been happening over the past 15 years
- Black and Asian players from the lowest junior levels, through seniors and even into veterans being stereotyped as those who are more likely to engage in foul play and are penalised more for the same offences vs their White counterparts. Similarly, we have heard evidence that coaches in The England Hockey system have demonstrated behaviours that indicate they also share a similar stereotype.
- Black and Asian players from the lowest junior levels, through seniors, are stereotyped as those who “dribble too much” by coaches in the Player Pathway system regardless of whether they conform to that stereotype or not.
- A number of Asian players have come forward and expressed how throughout the Pathway system that their fitness is always questioned over their White counterparts. Again, regardless of whether they are more or less fit that the bulk of the group.
- Coaches in The England Hockey set up overtly express that players should not join or should leave, more ethnically diverse clubs as it could be a “detriment to their game”. Contrary to this, they encourage them to join their more “favoured” clubs.
We believe there is strong evidence that England Hockey has presided over a system that has become systematically biased against those from less privileged backgrounds, as well as ethnic minorities.
At a time when all sports bodies are asking themselves how they can be more inclusive and tackle systemic bias and racism we would like to see:
- The formation of an independent body with the specific goal of tackling racism and stereotyping within the sport.
- An independent investigation into allegations of racism that have taken place in the England junior and senior setups over the past two decades.
- A body set up for investigating any future concerns about racism at the England Junior and Senior level which removes the barrier of concern that players have for deselection.
- Coaches in The England Hockey set up to directly and actively engage with ethnically diverse clubs to help address their concerns with playing styles and fitness.
- A pathway for umpires to engage with ethnically diverse clubs about their concerns about playing styles from these clubs.
- Direct support for more clubs nationwide to attract players from socially deprived and BAME backgrounds.
- More education of coaches and officials in The England Hockey set up about diversity and working towards eliminating racial biases, and engagement with more ethnically diverse clubs about what this education should include.
- More education throughout the game about diversity and working towards eliminating racial biases, and engagement with more ethnically diverse clubs about what this education should include.
In conclusion, we have endured decades of tackling verbal and physical abuse both on and off the pitch. We sometimes underestimate that we may ourselves have become accustomed to this behaviour, as it is “just the way things are”. Nonetheless, we can no longer stand by and do nothing whilst England Hockey presides over a system which is out of touch with modern-day Britain and only benefits certain members of society. The lack of mention of BAME related policies, procedures and activities on England Hockey’s own website, only goes to further obfuscate where England Hockey stands on the issues mentioned. Furthermore, it goes to reinforce our point that the governing body lacks understanding and is too far behind when it comes to tackling inequality.
This is something that cannot continue, and it is our responsibility to collectively ensure that hockey is a sport for all, and that equality exists at all levels.
We hope that you work with us to address these issues, and I look forward to hearing back from you.
Gurmej Singh Pawar
Chairman of Barford Tigers Hockey Club
Kingswinford, Leicester Panthers, Nottingham Sikh Union, Plashet, Ramgarhia Derby, Ramgarhia Leeds, Sikh Union Coventry, Tower Hamlets
In response, England Hockey said:
“Our aspiration is for hockey to remain at the forefront of British team sports as a force for good in diversity and inclusion, with regards to race, gender, sexuality, disability and age. To that end, we as the governing body set up a Diversity & Inclusion working group last year, with the aim of creating a long-term strategy.
“The most recent step has been to create an external advisory group, utilising the skills and experience of people from a range of backgrounds within the sport, including the former Chairman of Mr Pawar’s club Barford Tigers, and chaired by the Chairman of England Hockey. One of the key objectives of the external group is to share and ascertain the facts around diversity and inclusion within our sport, so we can create a strategy based on first-hand evidence as opposed to perception or assumption. Only by sharing experiences can we work to help maintain the best possible platform for everyone to enjoy the sport.
“With regards to specific incidents, we strongly urge anybody with concerns to contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a robust process to deal with any concerns. The most complex/serious of those are dealt with by an independent panel.
“We believe that a collaborative approach between us as the governing body, clubs, counties and regions is key to making a sport as easy to access as possible. For a number of months we have been undertaking a review of how talented young people can access our game, with the aim of a talent development system which attracts and develops young people irrespective of their background, and inspires them to be the best they can be.
“As with all matters of Diversity & Inclusion, our commitment is to having a long term, sustainable positive impact on our sport and its people.”