Josh Apiafi: it's time for action on commitment to diversity and inclusion

Kanane Francis, an aspiring jockey, Elijah Michael, a law student hoping to break into the sport, and Great British Racing's Callum Helliwell discuss ways racing could be made more accessible.
Josh Apiafi: alongside (from left to right) Elijah Michael, Kanane Francis and Callum HelliwellCredit: Sky Sports Racing

Josh Apiafi has said British racing must adopt clear and measurable aims as part of its industry commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The Sky Sports Racing presenter was speaking on Tuesday after the broadcast of his documentary, entitled 'The Uncomfortable Race', in which he speaks to three young people from diverse backgrounds.

The documentary marked the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, whose death in the US energised the Black Lives Matter movement and led to widespread protests around the world.

This month, leading industry representatives signed a commitment to formalise the sport's approach to improving its accessibility.

"We have been talking but nobody was listening," said Apiafi. "The advent of George Floyd's murder made the world wake up. Racing was darn slow at picking up the mantle, but it has started to listen and it's great we now have an industry commitment in place.

"After Floyd's death, racing was quiet for fear of people pointing their finger at the sport but I believe if you aim to be better, nobody can shoot you down. For some peculiar reason, racing decided not to put its head above the parapet while the rest of the world chose to.

Josh Apiafi: has campaigned for initiatives to make racing more diverse
Josh Apiafi: has campaigned for initiatives to make racing more diverseCredit: Dan Abraham

"We felt left out as part of the family as we thought the sport didn't understand us. Racing lives in a bubble and it has to understand there are important issues in the wider world that can't be ignored and Floyd's death was one of them, which they have realised."

Asked about the sport's industry commitment, Apiafi added: "The time is for action. What does the commitment mean and how will it be judged? We must work out what it looks like on a granular level."

In the documentary Kanane Francis, an aspiring jockey, Elijah Michael, a law student hoping to break into the sport, and Callum Helliwell, who has completed placements with Goffs and Great British Racing, discuss their views on diversity and inclusion.

Francis, who is hoping to take out his amateurs' licence soon, said: "I felt a lot better after the documentary and I have so much hope that people in the sport will see it and consider their view on things.

"Hopefully racing continues to open its doors and encourage more people to engage with the sport. Ideally when we look in ten years' time there will be more diversity in the racing industry."

Kanane Francis: an aspiring jockey
Kanane Francis: an aspiring jockeyCredit: Nyrae Lawrence (Norah Shoots)

One of the themes of the documentary was racing's response to the protests last year, and Francis added: "A lot of other sports pushed the message and racing didn't seem to. The fact they are supporting it on the anniversary makes me feel good. It means they're listening and recognising the significance of the movement like other sports."

The first anniversary of Floyd's death was marked by several racing organisations on social media, including the BHA, whose chair Annamarie Phelps was also interviewed by Apiafi on Tuesday.

A statement from Phelps read: "George Floyd’s tragic murder continues to have a huge impact and has changed the narrative and understanding around racism and discrimination globally. It led to black communities all over the world sharing how racism and discrimination affects them, opening many people’s eyes to this issue.

"Racing is no less impacted, and we have seen the likes of Josh Apiafi, Sean Levey, Rishi Persad, and Sulekha Varma open up and share publicly their personal experiences of working in our sport.

Annamarie Phelps: 'We made the best decision'
Annamarie Phelps: 'Ultimately the sport will be judged by the actions we take and not the words we use'Credit: Edward Whitaker

"In November 2020, the BHA Board invited Rishi to share his experiences and views on racing’s approach to diversity. We agreed the need to have an open, progressive and respectful debate about diversity, for moral reasons and in the interests of the long-term health of the industry.

"Following this, industry leaders, through the Members’ Committee, agreed there is no place for discrimination in racing and that the sport must unite in standing against it in all its forms. This led to the signing of a unified commitment to improve diversity and inclusion in our sport by industry leaders from the BHA, RCA and horsemen and women.

"The sport marked the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder through the sharing of a clear message that there is no place for racism in society, sport or racing, and by taking part in a discussion on the issues around diversity in racing as part of Sky Sports’ coverage of the day. Ultimately though, the sport will be judged by the actions we take and not the words we use, and the industry commitment will ensure that the sport is held to account on delivering that action."

Read more:

Rishi Persad: 'racing is behind the times' on racial diversity and equality

Stakeholders combine in bid to improve diversity and inclusion across the sport

Rishi Persad intervention leads to racing leaders making pledge on diversity

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Published on 25 May 2021inNews

Last updated 17:49, 25 May 2021