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London Mayor backs BCOMS at City Hall launch of Diversification of the Sports Media programme

Young people on the programme join the Mayor of London at City Hall

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has given his support to an exciting new generation of sports journalists from underrepresented backgrounds by launching a new partnership with the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS). 

Forty aspiring journalists, aged 18-25, from groups who are currently underrepresented in the industry (BAME, LGBT+, disabled people and people from disadvantaged backgrounds) have been selected to attend a series of masterclasses and networking events with some of the biggest names in sports journalism. The Mayor’s office and London Sport will then work with BCOMS and The Football Association to provide a range of opportunities for the group to practise their newly learnt skills and gain real-world experience. This will include developing content throughout the EURO 2020 men’s football championships in London; interviewing players, documenting the fan experience and reporting from matches.

The young journalists met for the first time at City Hall yesterday evening, to network with some of the biggest names in sports reporting and celebrate the opportunities that EURO 2020 will present for young people across London. The event was hosted by former Team GB sprinter – now a leading broadcaster – Jeanette Kwakye, alongside guest speaker, Watford FC captain Troy Deeney. 

BCOMS board members join the Mayor of London and Troy Deeney

Speaking at the programme’s launch at City Hall later the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m delighted to join forces with the Black Collective of Media in Sport. London’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths and this should be reflected across all sectors, including the media. 

“The participants of elite level sports are exceptionally diverse but it’s clear that there is a stark underrepresentation in our television studios and in the press. 

This programme presents a unique opportunity to identify, support and develop the next generation of sports writers and broadcasters from all backgrounds and to help to shake up the status quo within an industry that for too long has been unrepresentative of modern Britain. “

BCOMS is a network made up of both black professionals in the sports media and talented newcomers, established by former BBC and ITV sports broadcaster Leon Mann in 2009. BCOMS believes that African, Caribbean and mixed-race people are significantly under-represented in the sports media despite disproportionate interest in, and achievement from, the community on the field of play. 

Leon Mann, founder of BCOMS, said: “BCOMS is delighted to be partnering with the Mayor of London on this important programme, to help diversify the sports media. We are hugely grateful for the support.

“It is vital we challenge the glaring under representation of groups that bring greater diversity to the sports media. A diverse sports media, is a better sports media.”

Former Team GB sprinter and BCOMS board member, Jeanette Kwakye said: “We are all excited to see the young people on this programme grow in confidence, build a strong professional network and make the most of the opportunities we will put to them. I wish I had this growing up!

“It’s an important moment for BCOMS and we are delighted to be working with the Mayor on this.”

Tove Okunniwa, Chief Executive of London Sport, said: “As someone who spent a significant number of years working in media, I’m passionate about the importance of greater diversity, and its crucial both to the media and to the sport industry.

The partnership with the Mayor of London and BCOMS will support efforts to enhance future media diversity. It is a fantastic opportunity for young Londoners to build industry specific skills and experience the excitement that EURO 2020 will bring to the capital.”

The lack of diversity in the sports media industry has been brought into stark focus by research carried out by BCOMS in 2018. This found that of the 63 sports journalists sent by the mainstream national press to the World Cup in Russia, there was only one black sports writer and three women. There were no BAME women accredited for national UK press at the tournament. 

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, addresses hundreds of BCOMS supporters at City Hall launch

Of the onscreen broadcast talent and visible writers covering Wimbledon, the World Cup, Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Commonwealth Games and European Games:

  • Only 5 out of 338 roles were fulfilled by black sports journalists who didn’t have a professional sports background

                  – Only 32 out of 338 roles were fulfilled by BAME men and women.

Key findings from the 2016 Activity Alliance’s Media Report show that the way the media reports on disabled people in sport has a societal impact and has wider effects on people’s perceptions of disability. The report also recommended that journalists and sports providers need more support and guidance on how to cover disability sport appropriately.

Additionally, Scope’s Disability Perception Gap report found that 25% of people think there is a lot of prejudice in Britain against disabled people in general and recommended that money should be ring-fenced in existing Government or Lottery-funded schemes to improve diversity in the creative industries, especially to get more disabled people on our screens.

Findings from a survey conducted as part of the Out for Sport (2012) report revealed that:

  • 62% of LGBT respondents have witnessed or experienced homophobia or transphobia in sport.
  • 79% of respondents think there is a problem with homophobia in sport.
  • 66% of respondents think there is a problem with transphobia in sport.

This underrepresentation has led to a number of issues – these include, misreporting on people from diverse groups, the absence of stories of importance and relevance to many underrepresented communities and the promotion of harmful stereotypes.

These instances can lead to communities feeling excluded from the sports media, elite athletes becoming disengaged with the media and feeling uncomfortable in their working environment, vital messaging not making an impact at the grassroots level and communities not engaging with sport. Ultimately, a sports media lacking diversity does not fulfil its potential and lacks the competence to deliver a high-quality service.

The Diversity of the Sports Media programme will do the following:

•          Identify BAME, LGBTQ+, Deaf or disabled, lower socio-economic talent with an ambition to work in the sports media industry

•          Build confidence and enhance the skills of a diverse group of young people

•          Create a network of industry experts to support this talent

•          Specifically develop the numbers of BAME female talent

•          Connect this talent with industry seniors and suitable workplaces

•          Identify suitable work experience and volunteering opportunities in partnership with the GLA, London Sport, The FA and UEFA

•          Highlight job opportunities for young talent in London

•          Welcome new and diverse talent into the BCOMS network to be connected with mentors, news on events and jobs, as well as a permanent ‘safe space’ in the industry to use as a sounding board

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