By Michael McCann
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The Sports People’s Think Tank (SPTT) hosted a pan sport discussion on Athlete Activism last Thursday at Arbuthnot Latham, London, addressing a range of issues.
SPTT member Kelly Sotherton opened the evening with an overview of what the think tank has achieved in football and how the initiative can benefit all sports people – before former 400m runner and broadcaster, Katherine Merry, hosted a panel discussion with British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and television presenter and former GB wheelchair basketball player, Ade Adepitan.
Those attending included a multitude of other past and present sports people from a range of disciplines – with many offering very open views from the floor.
Merry described the event as, “enlightening, insightful and genuinely really exciting”, and praised the occasion for enabling honest discussion.
“I don’t think I have been in room where I have felt that amount of passion and drive from people, of all different sports, really trying to make a difference.
“It was a raging success and I was delighted to be asked to host this by my good friend Kelly Sotherton.”
Ade Adepitan said the event showed him that an independent body across all sports could be a catalyst for positive change.
“It is about all sports having a voice and somewhere to go if there is a burning issue. Most athletes are naturally quite outspoken through their burning passion for success.
“In the UK we are too disparate. Athletes and footballers speak individually currently but if we come together we will be stronger.
“People think we exist just to run really fast, score a goal or throw a ball in the net. We have opinions and our opinions can make a difference. In the past, I don’t think we have even realised how important and powerful our opinions are.”
Meanwhile 19 year-old Asher-Smith, one of the most exciting current emerging talents in British athletics, enjoyed the chance to soak up the expertise in the room.
“It has been a productive evening for us as sports people and I hope there are more of them to come.
“It was great to hear other opinions from all sports and also people at different stages in their careers, particularly those who had a retrospective look on their sports.”
Olympic bronze medallist and SPTT member Kelly Sotherton felt the event was a success and most importantly, a starting point for future change.
“The great thing is that even now, having long since finished our panel discussion, there is so much energy in the room! People realise the importance of the evening they have been to.
“They realise this could be the start of something that sports people have needed. So I am pleased because so many people have so many exciting ideas.”
British 400 metre runner Martyn Rooney was also very enthusiastic about the role the SPTT could play across sport.
“I felt like there was a lot of like-minded people within and outside my sport that had similar ideas, grievances and beliefs on how to fix things.
“It was exciting to be involved in this. I learned a lot from attending, such as that for us as athletes to go forward, progress and save our sport – we have to come together and share the load.
“It cannot be one person trying to change the whole sport alone. There was enough there this evening to suggest that we can make things happen – which is really positive.”