|Urvasi Naidoo- CEO, International Federation of Netball|
|Profile of the week|
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 11:40
You're also involved in the Sporting Equals organisation, how does this promote ethnic minority involvement in sport?
It's the only organisation in the UK that is focussed entirely on promoting equal opportunity of black and ethnic minority groups within sport. It's also a research and campaigning body, which tries to promote programmes and work with governing bodies to ensure that they're doing their bit to attract black and ethnic minority participants. Whether it's swimming, badminton, boxing we try to ensure the sports are accessible to everybody.
With black and ethnic minority participation, there are similar problems to women's sport; lack of leaders, role models, coaches, volunteers trying to break down some of the barriers that might exist. People have certain reservations about going into sports because they feel they can't or because they haven't enjoyed the experience in the past.
The organisation itself doesn't run a lot of programmes; it mainly works with other bodies. We've done a project with Age Concern to try to get older black and ethnic minorities to play sports. We've done some projects with football clubs to try to get them to get more Asian kids to go on their junior programmes. That's always been an issue in the UK, we don't see many Asian footballers.
There's quite a big Asian community here and they're playing in Sunday leagues and taking part, so why are they not progressing to professional level?
Our other targets are Asian women. This has always been a group that in our society doesn't play sport enough that's perpetuated from school onwards. Whenever I play sport, I'm almost always the only Asian woman, which is quite sad. We're trying to make it easier for Asian women to participate by running programmes for them, whether it means women only or modified uniforms if necessary so that they feel comfortable and are taking the opportunity to do some form of sport or physical activity.
Why do you think there are so few Asian professional footballers compared to the number playing at an amateur level?
We need to make sure those kids have the same chances that other kids do, that they know about them, that there are some schemes that identify that and work with community leaders so that they know about it and they can speak to the youngsters about it and promote it.
Within UK professional sport, there's a large number of black players and athletes but there's a very small minority in coaching and managerial roles, do you think the Rooney Rule that is in place in the US is a good solution to this issue?
You've got to appoint people on merit and I don't think quotas work, but I think there has to be some way of encouraging people to come forward for those posts. In the UK, people don't put themselves forward and that's part of the problem.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role as CEO of the International Netball Federation?
As international organisation, it's very difficult to be fair to all the members. It's the same as any organisation. If you're trying to run a global organisation from one office it's a matter of how you spread your time. We are a very small organisation.
How do you service somebody who's in Africa or in a small country in Oceania when you don't get to see them every day?
England or Scotland I might be able to visit once a year. It's a case of how you balance that out with a very small staff. We have a staff of five people. We have someone based in Africa full time, it's amazing the difference that one person can make. Our ultimate aim is to have an employee in each of the five regions of the world.
You're also involved in volunteering in sports, how big is the role that volunteering plays in sport and does it get the media coverage it deserves?
Volunteering is my passion and London 2012 will be the fourth Olympics that I've volunteered at. It depends on the sport. Some, more than others, rely very heavily on volunteers. Sunday league football clubs, women's netball clubs are run by volunteers. They're not paid, they do it because they love sport or because they want to do some exercise themselves. Some sports are better than others at recognising their volunteers, rewarding them and thanking them. England Netball, for instance, have an awards night every year just for their volunteers to reward them for the work they've done over the year.
I think the Olympics this year is a different model, but when we had the Commonwealth Games in the UK in 2002 a lot of volunteers wanted to take part. I think is part of our culture; we do volunteer, but maybe people don't get recognised for that as much as they should.
What do you find most rewarding about being involved in volunteer work?
I love the excitement of being part of an event like the Olympics, but my most rewarding moments are related to volunteering at the Paralympics because it's inspiring and really touches you to see these athletes who are absolutely amazing. It really puts things into perspective when you see someone with one limb missing running faster than I could run or skiing down a mountain. It touches me and I certainly value that.
Is there a particular event that you're looking forward to next summer?
They're all great. Wheelchair basketball is very popular and has sold out quite quickly. Personally, I really like the athletics.