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30 October 2023

‘I want to establish where the energy is in the D&I space and where are the opportunities,’ says the BHA’s new Head of Inclusion, Lyndon Roberts. Read on to know why.

My first impression of horseracing is that there are lots of positive things happening across the industry, many of which I was unaware of, as a casual racegoer! That immediately makes me think that the sport should do more to celebrate the success of Racing Pathway, Racing Together, Racing with Pride and Riding a Dream Academy (among many other projects) and not be fearful of shouting about their impact. I also think there are a lot of opportunities for the sport in the D&I space. The  launch of research into the experiences of ethnically diverse communities working in racing and a review of racing’s D&I industry commitment are key objectives. These pieces of work will help set out a clear plan for the next few years, in terms of where we spend our energy.

Tell us a bit about you and your background with Welsh Rugby?

I have worked in the D&I space, almost exclusively in the sport sector, for about the last 10 years, across governing bodies, charities and professional clubs and leagues. Most recently, I worked with Welsh Rugby Union on their first activity in the D&I space, who went through some very public challenges. What my experiences have highlighted are that a sport’s inclusivity can be measured by the worst behaviour that people are willing to walk past. Effectively, you can have some nice activity and some exciting projects, but it is worthless if people at all levels of your organisation are not willing to show up and do the work in the D&I space. And by work, I mean being proactive, demonstrating positive behaviours and rewarding and recognising those within the sport that exemplify what everyone should be striving towards. ‘The work’ isn’t words on a page, press releases or social media posts. None of this can be achieved without people who get it, at all levels of the industry and that is why I enjoy working in this space, as there is always a new challenge.

What inspired you to work in D&I and can you give us examples of some of the most rewarding initiatives you have worked on so far?

My inspiration is drawn from the transformative power of sports. Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed countless instances where sports have been at both ends of the spectrum, in terms of inclusivity. From attending football matches as a child and seeing and hearing racial discrimination, to seeing the unprecedented success of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in raising awareness for gender equality; these moments exemplify how sports can transcend differences and advocate for social justice. These experiences have instilled in me a deep belief that inclusivity and diversity are not only values worth upholding but also the keys to unlocking the full potential of any sport or business.

I am committed to fostering environments where individuals of all backgrounds can thrive, but there is so much more to D&I than everyone feeling safe and welcome because it’s intrinsic to a positive culture where people can perform at their best. As a result, my favourite projects have been working with young people to help change sport for the better; this involves setting up a Young People’s Board at a National Governing Boady and also working on early career and internship programmes, targeting underrepresented groups, to bring different voices into the decision making of the sector.

What does your role with the BHA involve and what are your priorities?

We have a couple of projects in progress that are industry wide (EDC research and industry commitment review) however, my first few weeks have really been trying to establish where the  opportunities lie. There will also be a link with the work the Industry People Board is doing around their strategy work and also the Diversity in Racing Steering Group has also been refreshed, ready to relaunch in the Autumn. In the meantime, there will be lots of conversations with stakeholders and these will provide a great opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper and put some ambitions plans in place for 2024 and beyond.

How do you see racing’s D&I work and community/charity engagement supporting each other?

The community engagement work that is happening is amazing; things like ARC apprenticeships and Step on Track are incredible. I also think that Racing to School is not only a fantastic initiative but is a great thing for the broader industry, attracting the next generation of jockey, stable staff or fan. The challenge for my role is ensuring this type of programme isn’t seen as a charitable act by the industry but things that people see as critical to the future of their business. The best way I can describe this is that we want every stakeholder, racecourse and employer to have a fear of missing out by not wanting to get involved with d&I and community engagement projects.

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