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Views From The Chair: Black Squares Aren’t Enough – Action Is The Key For Change

By Drew Christie

I was chosen as BCOMS’ first-ever Chair in the Spring – and I think we can officially categorise things as being a madness since then.

Global tragedies have conspired to put the issues of racism and inequality front and centre of debate in the UK. And while there is no simple answer to centuries of injustice, it is important that we all try to change the little bits of the world that we inhabit for the better.

That’s why BCOMS (Black Collective of Media in Sport) was pleased to see so much of the sports media come out in public support of the Black Lives Matter movement. And that’s why we know that we have to take a lead in ensuring that the black squares on social media are followed up with measurable action to deliver real, meaningful change in our industry. BCOMS has been fighting the good fight for ten years, all the while as a voluntary, unfunded organisation.

Down the years, we’ve been quietly advocating for change at the highest levels through friendly coffees and warm conversations. And while we are happy to have helped move things in a more positive direction, change has simply been too slow. The UK sports media is still male, and way too pale.

That’s why we decided to see who in our industry is ready to do the hard work that transformation requires. BCOMS sent out a letter to 25 of the UK’s biggest sports broadcasters, publishers and production companies, setting out a manifesto for industry-wide change.

We are excited to engage with the organisations that have responded to our call, even if we’re a little surprised that some are still yet to reply. There is no major player in the UK sports media that can look at their workforce and say it reflects the makeup of modern Britain – let alone comes close to matching the diversity of athletes seen on our pitches, courts, tracks and fields. Things have to change, and we’re looking forward to developing a new formalised relationship between BCOMS and sports broadcasters, publishers and production companies.

From the start of my media career nearly 20 years ago, the issue of improving racial and ethnic diversity in the media has been met with the same responses: circular conversations, chin-stroking and underwhelming entry-level access schemes. This approach has failed. And it’s time for the leaders in our industry to acknowledge that they don’t have the answers.

Rather than hoping a solution will magic itself into existence, companies who really want to change are going to have to do things differently. They are going to have to invest time, effort and resource into transforming their teams at all levels. And they are going to have to work with people who know more about where the problems lie than they do themselves.

It won’t be easy, and there will be stumbling blocks along the way. And as the economy opens back up and we develop a new normal, BCOMS are ready to provide our industry with a fresh pathway to help solve its long-standing diversity problem.

BCOMS has the track record in this field. We have the experience and the expertise. Now it’s about entering a new era, of formalising our relationship with the UK sports media and developing structured, measurable steps for success with those who are serious about working with us.

The time for talking is done. Only meaningful action will do in this new age. Who’s ready for change?

Drew Christie is the inaugural Chair of the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS). Now a freelance producer, Drew has worked for the BBC, Endemol, Abu Dhabi Media and Sport360 in his 20-year career. You can follow him on Twitter @MrDrewChristie.

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