Inclusion initiatives at Sky Sports are helping raising awareness around diversity in sports media and improving metrics of LGBT content in the process.

"Sports newsrooms echo the sports climate of the time, so when I began there was no real awareness of the lack of female representation in sports media industries or the fact there are very few BAME people in the industry," said home page editor Jon Holmes. "Certainly, LGBT would not have even been discussed."

Recalling when British Olympic diver Tom Daley came out as gay on YouTube in 2013, Holmes said this provides a good before-and-after impression of inclusion initiatives.

"I remember being in the newsroom,” he said. “There was a feeling in the room that this wasn’t sports news and we shouldn’t report it. That’s changed hugely now.

"We are able to have journalists that understand that people coming out in sport is going to have a huge impact on their environment and individuals that read their stories."

One particular initiative that has gained lots of traction is Sky Sports media partnership with LGBT charity Stonewall for their Rainbow Laces campaign. As part of this, they offer dedicated content on their digital platforms, as well as support on linear and on social. Holmes said that the audience appetite for this content indicates that general awareness and attitudes are heading in the right direction.

Rainbow Laces-related content on Sky Sports Digital produced 45 articles in and around the three-week campaign period between mid-November and early December 2018. This reached an average of 30k unique views for each item, with a notable feature on a Zimbabwean football referee finding asylum in the UK reaching 270k views. All in all, this pulled in over 1.4m unique views across online and app platforms, compared to 840k for the same period in 2017.

Elsewhere on social media, the Watford fans’ rainbow mosaic produced their biggest audience reach and engagement of the day on social, collecting a combined 1.7m impressions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Networking within Sky helped to spread understanding through the organisation and work closely with other partners. Holmes is the founder and network lead of Sports Media LGBT+, but also on the steering committee of InterMedia UK, a network of media organisations which he said is a big step for the sports industry.

"Sport is relatively new addition, we haven’t had the drive to have sport represented at this kind of committees before and that’s changing, and the visibility of Rainbow Laces has enabled us to do that," he explained.

He underlined the importance for organisations to show their staff that these are conversations taken seriously. With other networks for people of multicultural backgrounds, parents and women in leadership, Holmes said this helps all employees, including editorial, relay and address any issues in their working environment, so they can work to their fullest.

"When I started, I found the newsroom a difficult environment. There was a feeling that I needed to conform and that stifled my creativity because I didn’t feel like that I could be myself fully in that environment."

While working closely with MAMA Youth, Sky Sports were able to reach more people from under-represented groups. The LGBT@Sky employee network has also invited middle managers and senior leaders to LGBT events to help them learn more about the importance of inclusion and what experiences might be like for employees.

"There was a conscious interest in how Sky Sports could be a force for change and shine a light on the issues related to LGBT inclusion in sport," he said. "LGBT inclusion is much more about the culture we create in workplaces.

"I want to see an industry where people feel valued for who they are, and within that environment, they can come out if they want to. That is slowly happening, we are creating more inclusive environments in newsrooms but we still have a long to go."

Moving forward, Holmes said he hoped to take their key learnings into schools, universities and colleges in the near future as part of Sky Sports News' strategy to diversify their newsroom.

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