England Hockey has racism problem and must admit it, says hockey club chairman
England Hockey admits there is 'work to be done', in response to Sky Sports News interview with Gurmej Singh Pawar
Last Updated: 06/08/20 5:17pm
England Hockey must publicly admit it has a racism problem if it wishes to create real and positive change in the sport, says Barford Tigers HC chairman Gurmej Singh Pawar.
Pawar wrote a letter to England Hockey, co-signed by eight other clubs, accusing the governing body of having an issue with "endemic racism".
His letter said hockey has grown to become an "elitist sport" in Britain, dominated by people from affluent areas while those from more socially deprived backgrounds are left behind due to a lack of funding and support.
England Hockey responded with a statement, saying it hopes to "remain at the forefront of British team sports as a force for good in diversity and inclusion, with regards to race, gender, sexuality, disability and age".
It added that a Diversity and Inclusion working group had been formed last year "with the aim of creating long-term strategy" as well as "to share and ascertain the facts around diversity and inclusion" in hockey.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, Pawar said he thinks the governing body need to "publicly admit that there is a problem", while also revealing the stories of racist abuse young players had suffered in the England set-up.
Responding to Sky Sports News' interview, England Hockey said it is "in the process of formally contacting those clubs who co-signed the letter, in order to fully understand the details and take the appropriate next steps".
The governing body added that it believes there is "much to be proud of in our great sport", but also acknowledged there is work to be done.
'Someone needed to call them out for this'
In his interview with Sky Sports News, Pawar revealed he felt compelled to write the letter after seeing England Hockey release a statement, giving their support to the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I thought to myself, how can you be for that movement - which is fine - when you've built a system that is completely non-diverse and non-inclusive," he told SSN.
"In the end, I just thought someone needs to call them out for this."
'Why can't someone be proud of where they are from?'
Pawar said he has been "shaken to the core" by the stories of racist abuse suffered by young players coming through the England set-up.
"There was one lad who wears a turban and he was given a unicorn as a Secret Santa present," he said.
"There was another lad, whose loyalty to England was questioned while he was playing for England against India, the country of his parents' origin.
"And there was Navraj Degun, who spoke in the newspapers this week. He was asked if he had a bomb in his backpack while he was on an England camp.
"It just makes me wonder why some of these guys weren't happy to speak out about it back then.
"I don't understand why someone can't be proud of where they are from, their origin, ethnicity, religion but still feel part of an England squad and be made to feel welcome.
"You look at what Eoin Morgan did in and around the Cricket World Cup. He had a really diverse squad, people from all sorts of backgrounds, and he did everything he could to make everyone feel included and they went on to win the Cricket World Cup."
'We're not on a level playing field'
Pawar's club Barford Tigers play in the Conference North division, the third tier of the Men's Hockey League in England.
The Tigers chairman believes inner city children have less of a chance of playing for England or Great Britain because of the lack of facilities and opportunities.
"If you're from a private school, lucky enough to go to a top-funded university or from a southern club in the leafy suburbs, you are going to have a greater chance of playing hockey for England and Great Britain," he added.
"But if you are from Birmingham, in the inner city, where our club is in Hansworth, you're going to find it harder to access facilities.
"For example, during this pandemic, we haven't had a pitch that we can play on because the school has closed down on us. That's the equivalent of Sunderland not being able to do pre-season training.
"Whereas a club in a leafy suburb would have access to their own pitch and facilities - we are not on a level playing field here."
How to contact England Hockey if you have concerns
England Hockey says it is committed "to having a long term, sustainable positive impact on our sport and its people" and wants anyone with concerns about the issues discussed in this article to reach out.
Anyone with such concerns can contact England Hockey at email@example.com.