No equal access for migrant and ethnic minority volunteers to sports clubs, study says10 January 2017

Anewstudyexploringtheaccessof migrantsandethnicminorities tovoluntaryrolesin grassrootssports hasbeenpublishedtocreateashiftofperspectiveonhowthesegroups,oftenthetargetofsportoffers,cancontribute asvolunteersandholdhonorarypositions.

Looking at the examples of seven European countries (Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Portugal), the study reveals that migrants and ethnic minorities are underrepresented or almost completely excluded in this context. Among these, women are the most underrepresented group, both on what regards their access to sports clubs and the activities they offer and on voluntary commitment.

A number of barriers – legal and administrative, social, language barriers, of biographical nature and sports culture, gender-specific barriers, related to the club culture, and due to discrimination and intelectual openness – play a key role in limiting migrants’ access to volunteer positions in sport; however, the study also suggests that the proportion of voluntary commitment in sports varies strongly from country to country, depending on the significance each society ascribes to it.

The baseline study “Equal access for migrant volunteers to sports clubs in Europe”, produced by the European Sport Inclusion Network (ESPIN), has been prepared within the context of the network’s Erasmus+ project aimed at increasing the volunteering of migrants and minorities.

It also presents a number of successful strategies and good practice examples, including: the assistance from migrant key players and mentors to build bridges between the club and migrant and ethnic minority communities; networking and cooperation at local level; intercultural sports days and festivals; education and qualification of volunteers; campaigns; and, supporting the participation and empowerment of refugees and asylum seekers.

According to the study, “the implementation of national programmes on the degree of awareness that has been developed at the political and at the umbrella organisations’ level. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights finds that national stakeholders are less aware of the underrepresentation of migrants and ethnic minorities in sports than they are of racist incidents.

“Besides, the ‘participation of migrants and ethnic minorities’ is often used with reference to the function of sports as a means to promote their inclusion rather than the active engagement that volunteering involves. (cf. FRA 2010, 45). Moreover, the study notes that the umbrella organisations’ degree of awareness regarding discrimination and exclusion is higher in football than it is in other sports (FRA 2010, 46).”

Alongside the study, ESPIN also launched a handbook on the volunteering of migrants in sport clubs and organisations, which will work as a guide for potential volunteers in sport with a migrant background and for local clubs and sport organisations interested in involving people from ethnic minority and migrant backgrounds. In November 2016, a two-day conference was organised by the network in Budapest under the same topic.