‘The Include Summit is the place to be’: Jamie Hooper on groundbreaking ED&I in sports conference

With panels and workshops focused on trans and non-binary inclusion, allyship, mental health, tackling online abuse and many more areas of intersectional interest, the Include Summit in Birmingham on March 8 and 9 is an essential event for our LGBTQ+ in sports communities, says co-founder Jamie Hooper…

By Jon Holmes

The Include Summit will bring together hundreds of sports leaders, experts and other professionals working in ED&I

Excitement is building ahead of a landmark event focusing on equality, diversity and inclusion in sport, to be held in Birmingham on 8 and 9 March.

The Include Summit, co-organised by Inclusive Cultures’ Jamie Hooper and Meji Media Events Group CEO Gurmej Singh Pawar, boasts a packed and multi-faceted agenda of keynote plenaries, panel discussions and workshops with a focus on driving greater engagement across the board.

Denise Lewis OBE

Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis, who is the president of Commonwealth Games England, is among over 80 speakers announced so far, including other well-known personalities such as Judy Murray, Anton Ferdinand and Darren Lewis.

Sports Media LGBT+ is one of over 20 supporting partner organisations, alongside the likes of Sport Birmingham, the Women’s Sport Collective, Beyond the White Line, and Law In Sport.

The event has a mission statement to help get one million underprivileged and underrepresented young people taking part in sport.

Jamie Hooper

“The Summit will be a monumental moment for sport,” says Hooper. “Never before have we had a distinct discussion space in the sector focused purely on ED&I – and there has never been a more important time to provide that space.”

The event will highlight the distinct and defined inequalities that still exist in sport from grassroots to international level participation, as well as across the workforce, the executive, and the boardroom.

The Summit will also feature interactive sport showcases, a partner exhibition area, and networking opportunities.

“This is a chance for the sports community to come together and share ideas in a fun and engaging environment,” says Singh Pawar.

Gurmej Singh Pawar

“But more importantly, it’s for us to work together to take action on how we can get more underprivileged and underrepresented young people into sport.

“If we can give more young people sporting opportunities, we are giving them more life opportunities and that can only be a good thing for society.”

The event will be held on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 March 2022, at Unique Venues Birmingham, in the city centre’s Centenary Square, and tickets are on sale now with an Early Bird discount.

We asked Jamie to tell us why the event is particularly relevant for LGBTQ+ people in sport and those working in that sector of inclusion…

Jamie, why is the Include Summit so exciting?

Jamie: Firstly, for anybody who has an interest in taking an intersectional view around ED&I, this is the place to be. For LGBT+ inclusion, Lou Englefield from Pride Sports is going to be chairing a panel discussion around the wider intersectional perspectives of that, with brilliant speakers such as Verity Smith from Mermaids UK, and Joanie Evans from the Federation of Gay Games.

Pride Sports are also going to be delivering a workshop that will be focused more on non-binary inclusion, based on the guidance they released a couple of years ago, and there’ll be many more points of interest across both days of the Summit.

Tuesday afternoon features a discussion titled ‘Inclusive Venues’ for example, with James Swanson from Harlequins Rugby on the panel…

Yes, James will be talking about what he’s been doing at Harlequins to develop their Pride matches, and increase fan and customer engagement related to LGBT+ inclusion in sport. We’ve got lots of LGBT+ representation throughout the Agenda, such as the ‘Role of the Media’ panel on the Wednesday featuring yourself and Jo Currie, the BBC Women’s Sport reporter.

That first day of the Summit is also International Women’s Day. Tell us about the importance of that…

We’re going to be bringing a really strong presence around women’s engagement in sport on both days. Judy Murray will give an introductory plenary and the morning session will include a panel titled ‘Blowing Up the System’ with an aim of determining how we can be more inclusive to all women. We’ll close Tuesday with a fantastic panel chaired by Sue Anstiss talking about the progress of parity in women’s sport compared to men’s sport.

Trans and non-binary inclusion in sport has been a difficult, often fractious topic in recent years. How do you see that progressing?

We want to move this away from it being a debate – this is about taking trans and non-binary inclusion in sport as read. This conference is about creating a collective movement, so that we can all make progress. The reason why we wanted to pull together this event in the first place is to bring everybody with an interest across this space together, to really create that movement. There is little to no strategic leadership in this area and we want to drive that. We know that this is so big for everybody in sport at the moment, and in society more generally.

Like it or not, the topic of minimal LGBTQ+ representation in men’s professional football is a frequent topic of conversation in the UK. How do we find productive ways to move that forward?

This event is not specifically going to target the conversation about why there is no out male footballer, but there is a panel that will bring together all of the EDI leads across the major footballing organisations for the first time. That may be something that can be posed as a potential discussion point – we’ve got the FA, the Premier League, the EFL, the PFA and Kick It Out on that panel.

We’ve also got a workshop around tackling toxic masculinity that’s going to be delivered by Angus Malcolm who is the founder of Worldwide Roar – his vision for that movement is to create something as big as Movember that tackles toxic masculinity directly. I think a lot of that stuff we see particularly around male sport has these issues around masculinity at its core. So again, we’re starting to open up that conversation a bit more and trying to make that more accessible and easier for people to talk about.

And there are other touchpoints of particular significance for LGBTQ+ people, such as online abuse and mental health…

That’s right. It’s important to mention as well that the audience we’re going to have there is going to be so diverse across the sector – from those working in traditional sports, those working more on the commercial side, and a real mix of people who are interested and who want to make a difference.

Anything else to note?

We often seem to have these conferences where strategy leaders, budget holders, execs or board members sit in a room and talk about ED&I topics but then there’s no representation from the communities themselves. That’s why we’re also giving away free tickets on both days for community leaders and for young people, to make sure that they are present and part of the conversation. That’s something else that’s never been done before.

Our thanks to Jamie! Be a part of the Include Summit on 8 and 9 March – tickets start from just £50 for virtual attendees, with an Early Bird discount still on offer for those wanting to be there in person in Birmingham. Head to the website for ticket sales and further info.

Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies in sport. We’re also a digital publisher. Learn more about us here.

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