Rishi Persad on diversity: Racing is behind the times

Rishi Persad on diversity: Racing is behind the times

It has been my pleasure to interview Rishi Persad. I hope to do so again once day. In depth and about all the very many sports he has covered for several broadcasters.

So often these days television presenters stick to only one sport. Or they get pigeon holed by television stations. What I have long admired about Rishi is his ability to switch from sport to sport and present coverage of each with equal professionalism. One day I hope to talk to him about one of his own sporting heroes, Tiger Woods. Over the years he’s covered numerous sports, including his beloved cricket.

I am always more likely to watch TV coverage of sport, most notably horse racing, if Rishi Persad is involved. Because of his clarity of delivery and his style of interviewing.

What I admire most is his honesty. The fact that he is prepared to offer a personal opinion on issues. Too many television presenters sit on the fence. They’re reluctant to offer an opinion on controversial topics. Too often they are bland or, as the Pet Shop Boys would have put it, being boring.

No such issues with Rishi who only recently attracted both praise and criticism for speaking out about the lack of diversity in the sport of racing.

He said: “Racing is behind the times. How many people in racing have put up their hand to say: ‘I support Black Lives Matter’. Why is that? Is it because they don’t care? Is it because they are afraid to put their head above the parapet?

“People don’t want it to happen because they are afraid. They think it is going to change things for them. It’s not going to change things for them. It’s going to change things for people who haven’t had opportunity. It’s going to change things for people who have been suppressed and we need to remove that.

“People have been put by the wayside because of their colour. People have been put by the wayside because of their sex, or whether they prefer to be gay or not. What I find significant is that since the BHA began the diversity group a few years ago and its become much more of a conversation for people to talk about, I have found that the push back in racing has been unpleasant and unnecessary. People come up to me on the racecourse and say: ‘This diversity thing that you’re talking about. There’s not a problem. Look at the amount of people who work in stable yards.’

“OK. How many people have progressed from working as stable staff to becoming a trainer? Why not? 99% of trainers are white. People of colour, they’re all stable staff and they don’t go on to become trainers.”

Here is his half hour chat with Josh Apiafi from Sky Sports Racing. Watch, listen and learn.

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