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Elite sport becoming more culturally diverse

12 January 20150 comments
Fawad Ahmed. Former refugee and Australian cricketer

Fawad Ahmed. Former refugee and Australian cricketer

Tennis and swimming are the sports with the most culturally diverse set of participants; AFL is attracting more players with an ethnic background based in North West Europe and cricket is becoming more attractive to people with southern European backgrounds, according to an analysis of cultural diversity in elite sport.

The study found soccer was becoming more dominated by people with Anglo-Saxon or Celtic backgrounds while more people from Arabic, North African and Asian Islamic backgrounds are becoming more common in all sports.

The study, titled Measuring Cultural Diversity of Elite Participants in Selected Australian Sports, was conducted by Market Research organisation Originsinfo.

It used the family names of elite sports people to produce a snapshot of the level of cultural diversity in swimming, AFL, soccer, tennis and cricket.

The study found that since 2007 and following the establishment of policies encouraging cultural diversity there has been increasing participation from non-Anglo-Saxon players in many of the sports.

“Tennis and swimming particularly show signs of increasing cultural diversity over the period from 2007,” the study said.

“At a more detailed level, swimming shows a trebling of the representation from East Asia and South East Asia, and a doubling from Arabic/North African and Asian Islamic communities, while the relative representation of Anglo-Saxons has reduced by more than 9 per cent,” the study said.

“The major change in AFL representation is a slight increase in names originating from north-west Europe and a marked decline in those with names that reflect an indigenous Australian or Pacific island origin.

“FFA (soccer) shows a significant increase in players with African and Asian Islamic backgrounds, partly reflecting the practice of importing players from overseas to promote the game’s development in Australia. Increases have also occurred among people of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic backgrounds from a relatively low base.

“Tennis stands out as the sport showing the greatest growth in cultural diversity since 2007.

Representation from Oceania (indigenous Australian and Pacific islander) has more than trebled and people of African origin have more than doubled,” the study said.

Numbers of people of South Asian or Arabic/North African backgrounds playing tennis have almost doubled and there are marked increases in players with Asian Islamic, East Asian and South East Asian origins.

“Much of this growth reflects the regional status of Australia as the centre of excellence for tennis coaching, attracting young and emerging talent from Asian and Pacific Island countries that are less well-endowed with coaching and playing facilities,” said researcher Michael Dove.

“Cricket shows some growth in names that reveal Italian, Portuguese (including Sri Lankan Portuguese) and Greek heritage, as well as, from a low base, those indicating a South Asian and Asian Islamic heritage,” the study said.

But cricket has also seen a growth in the traditionally dominant Anglo-Saxon cohort.

Several CALD groups show signs of increased participation over the period 2007 to 2014, the study said.

“Names revealing Arabic/North African and Asian Islamic backgrounds show growth across all sports, while South Europe/Latin America shows growth in all sports except AFL.

“On the other hand, people with names of north-west European origin show a decline in all sports except AFL and there is marked reduction of Anglo-Saxon representation in swimming and tennis,” the study said.

Sheree Peterson
AMES Staff Writer