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Sport: Discrimination

Volume 628: debated on Thursday 14 September 2017

It is a good job I am fit, Mr Speaker.

There is no place for discrimination of any kind in sport. All forms of discrimination are unacceptable, and the Government are committed to tackling it.

Following the successful “This Girl Can” campaign, which encouraged an extra 250,000 women to play sport, it remains disappointing that those from working-class backgrounds are 13% less likely to take part in sport. Do the Government have a strategy for tackling that? If so, what is it, and is it properly funded?

There is a stubborn gender gap in sports participation. We are addressing it through a variety of initiatives, including the “This Girl Can” campaign—although that is not the only thing; there are a number of excellent initiatives out there—and we are helping to shift the gender gap through investment in not only grassroots sport but in elite sport, in which we saw several successful women’s teams during the summer and beyond, which will inspire other women and girls to get involved in sport.

Will the Minister congratulate the people who organised the International Mixed Ability Sports rugby tournament in Spain this summer? As she knows, the first of those tournaments was held in Bingley in my constituency. The organisation wants to expand mixed ability sport, so that it covers many more sports, but it needs much more funding to do so. The Minister has given the organisation great support, but will she give it more support to get the funding it needs, so that more people can play mixed ability sport?

That is a question from my hon. Friend that I can agree with.

It was a pleasure to meet the mixed ability sports rugby team about 18 months ago to discuss their tournament in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and I was pleased by their success over the summer recess. I would, of course, be happy to meet them again, and him, to discuss taking this forward.

18. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the England team who took part in the women’s rugby world cup in Ireland over the summer? I watched them play and they were magnificent.The organisation Sports Coach UK has said that one reason for lower participation rates in physical activity among black, Asian and minority ethnic women and girls, and women and girls in general, is that women are under-represented in coaching. What further steps are the Government prepared to take to provide tailored and targeted support to help to develop women coaches from BAME communities? (900851)

I am happy to join the hon. Lady in congratulating the England women’s rugby team, and also, of course, the England women’s cricket team, who won the world cup as well. I was a coach in an all-girls football club, but I was the only female coach at that club, so I completely understand the point that she has made. The sports strategy sets out, very carefully, our wish to see more female coaches. We need to ensure that mums who take their kids to sports events become involved, rather than just cheering the kids on in the background, and we have tried to address that through the implementation of the sports strategy.

14. Yeovil Town ladies football club has achieved great success. It has reached the Football Association’s Women’s Super League 1, and is inspiring girls and women throughout the south-west. What more can the Minister do to help it to continue to inspire? (900847)

Yeovil Town is indeed an example of great success in women’s football, and I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the club on what it is doing. I also congratulate other female football clubs around the country that are doing their bit to inspire the next generation of girls to get involved in football.

While we are on the matter of congratulations, I hope that the whole House will want me to join me in congratulating Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis on winning the mixed doubles title at the US Open.

It has been a successful summer for British women in sport, and I hope that the Secretary of State and the Minister will join me in paying tribute to all the women who took part in sporting events on behalf of our nation. However, in recent months, a senior football manager has threatened a female supporter, the body that governs English rugby has refused to extend contracts to the women’s national team, a high-profile radio presenter has questioned the nationality of one of our own Wimbledon stars, and serious allegations have been made of racism in the England women’s football team. At this delicate time, women in sport need to know that discrimination will not be tolerated. Will the Minister update the House on what she and her Department have done in response to the four incidents that I have outlined?

It is great to see the hon. Lady back after the summer recess. I know you will be shocked to learn, Mr Speaker, that, owing to a conspiracy, she and I were disqualified from the three-legged race during the parliamentary sports day. Thankfully a full inquiry is under way to relieve the shame on Parliament.

The hon. Lady raises some extremely serious issues. Obviously, I have been keeping abreast of them. I talk regularly to all the national governing bodies. We need to have best practice in place to ensure that there is no discrimination in any of those bodies and that such issues do not deter other women from participating in sport at either grassroots or elite level.