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Representation and portrayal play an important part in society’s assumptions about equality. Who is seen, where, and how, matters. This is particularly true in the public world – our shared spaces of interaction and representation. Each industry’s assumptions - about career paths, power, responsibilities and opportunities – impact on choices people make. Sport is a prime example. Sport is a sector which contributes £39 billion to the UK economy. Historically, sport has been dominated by men – in participation, spectatorship, media representation and business control. But over the last two decades, all aspects of gender-domination in sport have begun to be questioned.
Between 2016-17 the Centre conducted the first piece of research into equality funded by the Horse Racing Foundation in collaboration with Women in Racing. As a business, horse racing employs 85,000 people, and accounts for hundreds of millions of pounds of public and private economic activity – from policing of events, to betting. Horse-racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in the UK - and 40% of those spectators are women. But, as with other sports, power, authority and financial benefits are not evenly shared between the sexes.
The Centre’s research investigated the experiences, career barriers and trajectories of different individuals involved – from racehorse owners, to stable-hands. The research was instrumental in changing the sport’s governance. As a result of the research, the British Horseracing Authority established a steering group on diversity, developed an Action Plan, and appointed a Head of Inclusion and Diversity. The research also received far-reaching media coverage – on BBC and ITN national news, and in the specialised press. The research findings were shared with the Asian racing community, at the 2018 Annual Conference in Seoul, Korea. This work shows the Centre’s innovation and flexibility in research areas. It also shows tangible benefits in improving policy and practice that the Centre’s research has achieved. Even more significantly, perhaps, by mapping, describing and analysing the sport, the Centre has provided a narrative understanding – and critique – of its power distribution and assumptions for wider audiences. Sport matters: what people see – on their TV screens influences what they believe and aspire to.
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