Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Ethnicity Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to ethnicity.

14 Sport

14.1 This section addresses levels of participation in sport, and barriers to increased participation.

Participation in sport

14.2 In the Scottish Health Survey 2012132, Pakistani respondents were the least likely to achieve the recommended physical activity levels (27% did so compared to the national average of 38%) and were also the least likely to participate in sport (30% compared to 49% on average). This finding corresponds with other research (2010)133 that found that, in Britain, Pakistani individuals and south Asian ethnic groups generally, are less likely to be sufficiently active. An earlier study (2007)134 highlighted gender differences in the levels of physical activity within ethnic groups: Pakistani respondents were found to be less active overall, but also with a gender difference most prominent in the younger age groups. No other ethnic groups in the Scottish Health Survey were significantly different from the national average in relation to physical activity or sport participation.

14.3 In a summary of sports equality research in the UK covering a period of 15 years135, the EHRC reports that:

  • The overall participation rate for ethnic minority people in sport was 40%, compared with the national average of 46%; and
  • The lowest participation rates were among Indian (31%), Pakistani (21%) and Bangladeshi (19%) women (citing the National Survey of Ethnic Minorities and Sport, 1999).

Barriers to greater participation

14.4 Research carried out for sportscotland (2001)136 aimed "to provide direction for increasing access to sport amongst people from ethnic minority communities in Scotland", by gaining an understanding of the barriers faced by people from ethnic minorities, providing examples of good practice, and listing key indicators of good practice. In exploring the barriers that the research participants faced in accessing sport, clear divisions emerged: these tended not to be related to which ethnic community the individual was from, but to how strongly they identified with their ethnic culture. The strength of the individual's relationship to his/her culture and beliefs was found to influence their potential to participate in sport. The study observed that future research should explore the participants' attitudes and the reasons behind non-participation.

14.5 Guidelines on health and sport published by the Health Development Agency in 1999137 were based on a 1995 study by Rai et al, exploring attitudes to physical activity amongst selected ethnic minority groups. Most of the major barriers to physical activity identified by African-Caribbean and South Asian people were no different from those of the general population in England, i.e. lack of time, energy, or an appropriate companion, a desire to relax in their spare time, or a self-perception of not being sporty. However, some particular barriers were identified that differed from these, and that may still be applicable now:

  • being unaware of availability, cost and opening hours;
  • fears for personal safety in public open spaces;
  • absence of other people from one's own community using facilities; and
  • actual or potential experiences of racism.
  • further barriers identified by South Asian respondents were dress codes, lack of privacy in changing areas and lack of single gender provision.

14.6 A literature review for Sporting Equals (2009)138 concludes that in Scotland, it is fear of racial discrimination - real or perceived - that is the core issue keeping ethnic minority groups away from sport. Based on numerous UK studies from the early 2000s, the review recommends that racism be more explicitly tackled in sport, as it is frequently ignored both by players and by organisations.


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