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Hockey's diversity problems can only be fixed with collaboration, says Darcy Bourne

England U21 star Darcy Bourne says diversity in hockey affected by access issues; Team GB's Rhys Smith says diverse grassroots talent pool key to tackling under-representation; England Hockey keen to make sport more inclusive; BASPA say diverse talent across sport continues to go untapped

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England U21 hockey international Darcy Bourne discusses the diversity challenges within her sport

England U21 hockey player Darcy Bourne is calling for more solutions and greater collaboration to address hockey's under-representation issues.

Diverse ethnic communities account for almost 15 per cent of the country's population but represent only six per cent of participants across hockey, according to the most recent Sport England survey.

In addition, just four ethnically diverse women are known to have featured for England or Great Britain at full international level.

Bourne hit the headlines last June when a photo of her at a London march in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd went viral. The 19-year-old from Esher honed her trade at Surbiton Hockey Club and has already established herself as a star freshman player in the United States, at Duke University.

"I think the problem of diversity is a problem both in the UK and the US in hockey," she told Sky Sports News.

"There is a huge lack of representation of BAME athletes, both at a lower and the top level. I think it's something that is being worked on but there's loads of room to grow.

Darcy Bourne and team-mates
Image: Darcy Bourne and her Duke team-mates take part in a gesture of solidarity

"Organisations like England Hockey are thinking of ways to do it but they need to put more in place to help improve diversity from the grassroots level up because there is a lack of representation because of the accessibility of hockey. I think if the younger generations are encouraged more to play, it will feed all the way through up to the international teams.

"There's definitely an active change trying to be made and there's loads of organisations such as Hockey Inner City and the Hockey Mentorship Programme which I'm involved with.

"I think more support from the bigger organisations will help this grow, but it's going to take time, and everyone needs to get involved to help with this."

Esher's Darcy Bourne is one of Duke's top field hockey players
Image: Esher's Darcy Bourne is one of Duke's top field hockey players

Smith: Diverse grassroots talent pool needed

Bourne's comments build on Sky Sports News' exclusive interview with Rhys Smith whose Hockey Inner City project exists because his sport, in his own words, "is not a very accessible sport for people within inner-city areas".

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England and GB hockey player Rhys Smith explains why he is passionate about making his sport more accessible and diverse

Former Whitgift School student Smith, who won a hockey scholarship at Durham University, is currently the only black player in the Great Britain senior men's and women's squad.

"It's been like that throughout my whole life - within England U16s, U18s, U21s, there has always been very few people from BAME backgrounds, inner-city backgrounds so I've been normalised to the fact that it's going to be like that," he said.

"You need more of a diverse pool in the grassroots level, in the club level, and that will allow - if players are good enough - to get into and diversify the national squad.

"At the moment if there aren't very many people from BAME backgrounds, inner-city backgrounds at grassroots. Then you can't expect there to be many people in the national team."

Smith added: "Hockey is very much dominated by people from privileged backgrounds and people that have gone to private schools."

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England Hockey chief executive Nick Pink says the sport's reputation for being a middle-class white sport dominated by people that attended private schools 'doesn't really give the reality of the situation' in some cases

England Hockey: Diversity a shared issue of concern

England Hockey chief executive Nick Pink does not think the sport is necessarily deserving of a reputation for being a middle-class white sport, dominated by people that attended private schools.

He points to schemes aimed at broadening the game such as Hockey Heroes targeted at children and Flyerz for young people with disabilities, and says all stakeholders including hockey clubs must play their part in making the sport more diverse.

"The issue is the accessibility to the facilities, the quality of coaching and the environment in which those young people are able to participate in," he added.

"Diversity of representation, absolutely looking at accessibility, an absolute challenge around the socioeconomic status of the sport and how it's perceived, which is kind of linked to the private/state debate [are some of the main issues].

"But it is perhaps a bit broader than that. It's who people see often playing the game, and, therefore, the perception of perhaps being more elitist, and being seen as more classist in that way, so there's work we've got to do around that.

"It would be great for us to see a greater diversity within the make-up of our national teams, but also right across the sport at different age-group levels, too.

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England Hockey chief executive Nick Pink says they need to look at the 'whole system' to support people from diverse backgrounds to take up the sport

"In terms of the sort of the view across the sport, if you like, I think we've got to address some of the concerns that have been raised about the state and private issues that we've talked about. Some of that will take direct intervention with programs and initiatives that will look at, some of it will require clubs taking a bit of extra responsibility."

Pink added: "I'm positive about the future. I can certainly see what we can all do to make it better and make it more visible.

"One of the things that surprised me is the initiatives that's already going on in a number of clubs across the country, those clubs that already have diversity groups already set up to look at specific actions they can take in their local area, those clubs that have focused on disability or wider issues around race and ethnicity,

"That's important to recognise in the debate as you've done I think, at Sky, is the broadening nature of this.

"So it's a really important area. And I do get the sense of where people see the sport. And it's our responsibility to sort of play it back that demonstrates that it is an inclusive sport and that will take some action and it will take some steps that we've got to take. But also it's about shining the light on the good practice that already exists out there."

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England hockey legend Rosie Sykes reveals her concerns at the lack of diversity, highlighting that school rules over needing astroturf pitches is holding the sport back

Hockey needs 'diversity of thought'

Inclusion expert Kash Taank is vice-chair of the board of the British Asians in Sport & Physical Activity (BASPA) network, created to address under-representation and to hold sports organisers and governing bodies to account.

He told Sky Sports News: "The ongoing issue with hockey is a lack of diversity of thought.

"There is a very rich, ethnically diverse talent pool in hockey from senior executive level to entry level - and everywhere in between - but this continues to remain untapped.

"I would encourage not only hockey but all sports to reflect on their internal structures and review how representative they are of diverse ethnic communities and engage more with grassroots organisations who are championing diverse structures."

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