The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced a wide-ranging action plan to transform the way it engages with South Asian communities and draw more players, fans and volunteers.
The Action Plan, which includes the adoption of the Rooney Rule, will launch with a series of events in three ‘core cities’ including a Chance to Shine Street Tape-ball competition at Sparkhill Park in Birmingham, a schools’ cricket competition at Bradford Park Avenue Cricket Ground in Yorkshire and a women's and girls’ cricketing session at Leyton County Ground Sport Centre in East London.
A South Asian advisory group was put together by chief strategy officer David Mahoney and includes experienced individuals from within and outside the game such as, Wasim Khan, Isa Guha, Mark Nicholas, Manoj Badale, Ron Kalifa among many others.
The ECB has set out 11 recommended actions, which includes adopting the ‘Rooney Rule’ to support the progression of BAME coaches as well as working with the core cities to train 200 female coaches.
Other recommended actions include; the creation of over 20 new urban cricket centres, 1,000 non-turf pitches, and 100 turf pitches by 2024; awarding bursaries to young South Asian players; delivering cricket sessions to 6,000 primary schools in deprived urban communities through Chance to Shine by 2019; and piloting the implementation of ‘Community Talent Champions’ to scout talent.
The plan started by working in collaboration with University College, London to produce an interactive ‘heat map’ of all South Asians living and playing cricket in England and Wales on a street by street basis (www.southasianheatmap.ecb.co.uk) to fully understand demographics, cultures and preferences.
The team then spoke to more than 600 people in a series of forums across England and Wales in order to get a better understanding of some of the barriers that are preventing more South Asians from participating in organised cricket or engaging more with the governing body.
Using all of this data and insight, ECB worked with Sport England to identify ten ‘Core Cities’ where the majority (61%) of the South Asian population live: Birmingham, Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds, Leicester, London, Luton, Manchester, Sandwell and Slough. These ten areas will be the focus of the first two years of the project. Following this initial period, the plan will expand to engage with a further 300 districts that make up the remaining 39% of the audience.
Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive officer said: “Cricket is a force for good in society and our job is to ensure that it makes a positive impact on as many people’s lives as possible. Whilst we’ve long acknowledged the passion for the game in South Asian communities in the UK and had the best intentions, we have never fully understood how to engage with South Asian communities. This report gives us a road map to change that.
“How can we ensure the level of South Asian participation in the recreational game, often outside our own programmes, is reflected throughout cricket? We now have a much deeper understanding of how cricket can play a part in multi-faith, multi-lingual, multi-cultural communities, whether that’s creating a match-day experience which respects everyone’s customs, renovating derelict council buildings into cricket centres in urban areas or putting the game’s talent scouts into more diverse communities.
“Ultimately, we want more people picking up a bat and ball, the best talent getting opportunities to play at the highest level and attendances which match the UK’s passion for cricket. Whilst this Action Plan is about South Asian communities, in developing it we have learnt a great deal about how to reach other communities too. Cricket has a wonderful opportunity to grow and become a sport that is truly diverse and representative of its broad fan base.”
Lord Patel of Bradford, the ECB senior independent director, who has driven the development of the action plan, added:
“As a British Asian who grew up playing cricket in the streets and on the pitches of Bradford in the 1960s, I have first-hand experience of the enormous benefits of our sport. Cricket gave me the confidence, connections and opportunities to meet new people outside my community, as well as develop life-long friendships.
“The passion South Asian communities in the UK have for cricket remains high but, over 50 years later, there is still so much untapped potential. This plan will help to change that – starting today.”
ECB also worked closely with key partners including the National Asian Cricket Council, the British Asian Trust, cricket charity Chance to Shine and principal partner NatWest. These partners will work closely with the ECB to deliver the report’s recommendations.