Inclusion and Diversity – What can you do?

Does your club or association reflect the diversity of its community? There are many things you can do to ensure that your club does. Here we give you some specific resources and guidance to help make your club or association diverse and inclusive. 

New Zealand’s population is truly diverse, hailing from, many different countries and speaking a several languages. We’re also sports mad. Not only do we love to support our favourite team, 74% of us participate in sport on a regular basis.

However many sports and clubs all over the country are missing out on entire groups of potential members, players, administrators and volunteers. More importantly, people who want to play sport feel, for a variety of reasons, excluded.

What can we do to make sport in this country truly inclusive and reflective of the wider community? Go to the sections below to explore ways to make your sport or recreation club more inclusive and diverse.

(1) Culture and language differences

A love of sport can be found in people of different races, backgrounds and cultures. Yet this shared interest can raise a number of complex issues that involve balancing a person’s cultural traditions with their compliance with social norms and club rules and procedures.

Information to help you understand the issue:

  • New Zealand is a culturally diverse nation in which people from more than 200 different countries live, work and study.
  • People from multi-cultural backgrounds have a significantly lower level of club participation than those from English speaking cultures.
  • The structure of club sport is unique and it may take time for people from other cultures to understand our sporting system, practices and expectations (e.g., arriving at practice on time, questioning the umpire’s decision).
  • Each sporting club determines its own culture, which means it can be flexible and supportive of people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Tips for the inclusion of culturally and linguistically diverse communities in sport

These tips are designed for coaches conducting sport and recreation sessions with people from migrant, new arrival and refugee backgrounds.

People from migrant and refugee backgrounds are often enthusiastic about sport and recreation, and they enjoy the opportunity to participate in a supported and structured environment. The following information is designed to provide information to coaches, trainers and volunteers delivering sport and recreation programs for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

While this resource is specially directed towards people from migrant and refugee backgrounds the strategies that we have suggested apply to any group and are an integral part of general coaching practices.

Communicating cross culturally

Key points to consider when communicating with others whose English language skills are limited:


  • avoid jargon and slang
  • use an interpreter to assist in communicating your message •explain technical terms
  • keep language simple and use short sentences
  • remember that you are engaged in a dialogue rather than just needing to get your message across
  • make it visual if you can
  • check to see that the message has been understood – ask questions and be patient •listen attentively
  • recognise diverse communication styles and meanings •remember that many languages are structured differently to English and some English terms will not have a direct translation
  • use direct questions – for example, ‘Have you finished signing that form?’ rather than, ‘You haven’t finished that form yet have you?’.


  • shout
  • mumble
  • show impatience
  • speak really slowly
  • replicate the participant’s accent.

The law

Although it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of their race, ethnic or ethno-religious background, some laws permit discrimination in sport (e.g., clubs can be established to meet the needs of particular cultures). You need to check the law to see if any exceptions/exemptions apply.

(2) Gender inclusion

Although people like to think of sport as being fair and open to all, sometimes individuals or groups are excluded or prevented from participating equally; If the unfair treatment is based on gender, then it could be sex discrimination.

Sex discrimination can happen to both men and women, although it is more likely to occur against women. Although women make up more than 50% of the population, they are not equally represented in leadership and decision making positions. It is estimated that women fill less than one third of key decision making positions nationally.

Following are a range of tools and resources to assist you or your club to prevent sex discrimination and to take action should it occur:  Consider implementing a quota for female representation on committee’s and boards. This has proven to be an effective way to ensure gender equity  Harness ‘male champions of change’ at your club. The issue of gender discrimination is as much a men’s issue as it is a women’s issue. Male Champions of Change are the men who are prepared to ‘step up’ and promote gender equity.

  • Support and join gender equality campaigns and place their videos and messages on your social media channels and your website.
  • Ensure your clubs Member Protection Policy and Codes of Conduct contain provisions for sex discrimination and harassment and make sure these policies and codes are easily available to your members.
  • Have your committee, volunteers and club members complete a free online Discrimination and Harassment course.

(3) Homophobia and sexuality

Unfair treatment based on someone’s sexuality – or assumptions about their sexuality – is discrimination and has no place in any sporting or recreation environment. Many sports have now made it unacceptable to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or for spectators to vilify people with homophobic abuse at games, just as they have done for racial, gender and disability-based vilification and discrimination.

But the fact is, homophobia in sport still exists at all levels. And when homophobia is allowed to exist as standard practice in something as mainstream and everyday as sport, it marginalizes gay people and tells them ‘you don’t belong here’. There needs to be a collective effort from all to address this issue.

What can you do?

 Play by the Rules has assembled a range of articles, videos, tools and education resources to help create awareness of gay, lesbian and bisexual issues in sport.

Check out the following:

In 2015 Play by the Rules launched the You Can Play campaign to address homophobia in sport issues. It features a host of sports stars with the simple message ‘regardless of sexuality, if you can play, you can play’. Check out the Videos section and download any of their videos for use on your own website.

(4) Race based inclusion

Racism can have a profound impact on people’s involvement in sport.  It can affect motivation, enjoyment and levels of participation and, if unchecked, may result in inappropriate, potentially dangerous and violent behaviour. Racial harassment, discrimination and vilification have no place in sport Canterbury Rugby’s ‘we all bleed red’ campaign tackles racism and discrimination.

Find out more here

What can you do?

Following are a range of tools and resources to assist you or your club to prevent racism and to take action should it occur:

  • The Play by the Rules Templates section provides basic policies and guidelines your sporting club should have in place, such as member protection.
  • The Quick Reference Guide provides contacts for essential information and services to refer illegal or unlawful behaviour (such as racism).
  • The free Play by the Rules online training teaches you how to prevent discrimination and harassment in your sport.
  • Do the Religious inclusion in sport Interactive scenario to learn how to deal with issues that may arise in your club.


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