11th June 2020


A message from UK Athletics CEO, Joanna Coates:

Last week I reached out to athletes and staff following the murder of George Floyd in the USA. I wanted them to understand and know that people were here in support of them at this terrible and distressing time, and I also appealed to them to speak to me and let us know how we could be better at supporting them. I wanted them to know that we were there longer than the few days of news coverage, and not just making a token declaration that #blacklivesmatter.

The response I received and the willingness to share experiences was astounding, and also in some ways disappointing that for some this was the first time they felt able to speak to someone about their experiences with a genuine belief that this would be listened to and would drive change.

UK Athletics is currently working towards the Equality Standard for Sport Advanced Level with England Athletics – a significant part of this relates to tackling racism. In recent years, in this work led brilliantly by our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) lead Donna Fraser we are proud of a number of activities where we have made BAME issues a core focus:

COACH – UK Athletics’ ground-breaking photo exhibition of the many black and ethnic minority coaches working within our sport. launched 25 October 2017. The project was exhibited in numerous locations around the country and continues to be exhibited in training locations to this day. https://www.britishathletics.org.uk/news-and-features/uk-athletics-coach-exhibition-heads-to-houses-of-parliament/

Staff training and engagement – we have implemented comprehensive ED&I training for staff, and two of our ED&I staff advocates, are designated to promote and deliver initiatives around Race and Religion or Belief.

Race To Work Charter – In March 2019 UK Athletics were proud to be the first Sport National Governing Body to sign the Race at Work Charter, which outlines the principles we have committed to as a sport: https://www.uka.org.uk/media/news/2019-news-page/march-2019/01-03-19-race-at-work-charter/

Education – We have delivered ED&I workshops to parts of the athletics family and will continue to do so, such as the workshop we delivered at the last Officials Conference on use of language and behaviours, and we are about to roll out a programme of specially devised workshops which will be available for our partners and sponsors.

All the above has been alongside and working with our Home Country colleagues so the delivery truly is UK-wide. The purpose of highlighting these activities so far is not so we can pat ourselves on the back, but to ensure we are transparent on the standards we have committed to so far.

And yet, I will concede – this is not enough and there is so much more to do.

I have given my personal commitment that we will continue to drive change in this area and in the immediate few weeks we plan to deliver the following:

  • A schedule of roundtable seminars and discussion forums – ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ to enable us to hear directly from the athletics family and listen to all issues they want to raise so we have an accurate starting point of the issues experienced.
  • We will shortly be announcing our athlete ED&I Advocate who will strengthen our delivery and help ensure we are hearing immediately of the crucial issues as they arise.
  • We will also be confirming the appointment of our Executive Sponsor or ‘Race Champion’ the role within the organisation that will provide visible leadership on race and ethnicity. – this is a key component of the Race to Work Charter. This position will support change by leading by example and supporting the ED&I Lead with changing policies and practices within UKA

As well as these steps I have already committed through these recent weeks of devising the new strategy for the sport that the various expert panels and oversight committees will be representative of the diversity in athletics. I look forward to sharing this in more detail with the sport over the coming months.

Thank you for all the valuable feedback so far, and we look forward to using the findings from the roundtable forums to really drive change in the sport of athletics.