Having graduated from the MSc International Sport Management programme last year, Grace Otuwehinmi received a distinction for her outstanding Master’s dissertation exploring the relationship between black and South Asian women and participation in sport. Here, the former GIS student summarises her research project and the key conclusions drawn from her work…

In recent years there has been a growth in participation in team sports and physical exercise, yet the level of inactivity for black and South Asian women remains consistent. Sports England’s 2018/19 Active Lives Adult Survey reported that black and Asian women (excluding Chinese) continue to remain the lowest participators in sport and physical activity. Since 2015, inactivity from black and Asian women has remained at 29% and 31% respectively. Increasing team sport, especially for people from a minority ethnic background, remains important because research has indicated through team sport social cohesion can be improved.

Netball and football are the highest played team sports by women, with netball recently overtaking football in terms of participation rates. In 2019 it was reported that 319,400 adults (18+) participated in netball fortnightly (Noble, 2019) with 50,937 members actively registered to England Netball (England Netball Annual Report, 2020). In comparison, The Football Association declared 120,557 women playing football, with 43,934 women actively registered (FIFA, 2020).

A review of the literature in this study indicated that team sport can be used as a way to help integrate minorities into society, therefore increasing social cohesion in communities. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to critically analyse the barriers to participation for black and South Asian women, as well as understand the reasons why these groups of women are more likely to favour playing netball over football. In order to do this quantitative research was deployed, with 167 female respondents answering a questionnaire, with a mixture of open and closed questions.

The results of the study found that social cohesion levels remained higher for women who participated in netball and football in comparison to those who did not. This indicated that there could be a relationship between participation in team sport and social cohesion, therefore meaning participation in netball and/or football could be used as a starting point for integration and social cohesion.

The study found that contrary to previous literature, black and South Asian women want to participate in sport but often feel that they are not given the opportunity. Also, the results showed respondents were more likely to want to play netball than football. Some of the respondents perceived netball to have a certain image (a more ‘girly’, female-friendly sport) which has most likely been conceived at an early age due to most of the participants playing netball at school. Therefore, governing bodies must understand the unique barriers of each ethnic group because the results from this study (especially in terms of barriers to participation in football) were dissimilar to the results found from other literature.