ECB's ambitious Action Plan to draw more South Asians into cricket

Cecil Soans Tuesday 15th May 2018 09:31 EDT

On Thursday 10th May the English Cricket Board launched its Action Plan to tap into the unexplored potential and passion for cricket within UK's South Asian community.

Calling cricket a force for good, Tom Harrison, ECB Chief Executive Officer, in a statement to the media, said: “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.”

Quoting Lord Patel of Bradford, the ECB Senior Independent Director, the statement read: “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.”

The ECB, led by Chief Strategy Officer David Mahoney, has put together a South Asian Advisory Group which includes experienced individuals from within and outside the game such as Wasim Khan, Isa Guha, Mark Nicholas, Manoj Badale, Ron Kalifa among many others.

Led by Head of Strategy Vikram Banerjee, a project team conducted the largest ever UK study into cricket in South Asian communities, analysing tens of thousands of survey responses and hundreds of thousands of database records to understand how these diverse groups view cricket.

Based on the findings the ECB has identified 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 locations will be the focus of the first two years of the project. Following this initial period, the plan will expand to engage to being to engage with a further 300 districts that make up the remaining 39% of the audience.

The Action Plan has made 11

recommended actions which include:

• URBAN CRICKET CENTRES-The creation of 20+ new Urban Cricket Centres and the development of 1,000 non-turf pitches and 100 turf pitches by 2024;

• COMMUNITY TALENT CHAMPIONS - Piloting the implementation of ‘Community Talent Champions’ to scout talent previously missed by the scouting system;

• PRIMARY SCHOOLS - The delivery of cricket sessions to 6,000 primary schools in deprived urban communities through Chance to Shine by 2019;

• DIVERSITY IN COACHING - The adoption of the ‘Rooney Rule’ to support the progression of BAME coaches working in the professional game for all future ECB coaching roles; working with the ten ‘core cities’ to train and develop 200 female coaches;

• BURSARIES - The awarding of bursaries to talented young South Asian players.

Manoj Badale, Chairman of the British Asian Trust, added:“This plan represents a real step change from the ECB.

They have invested significant time and energy in understanding how to engage with South Asian communities in the right way. The British Asian Trust fully supports this plan and is delighted to be a strategic partner.”

Gulfraz Riaz, National Asian Cricket Council (NACC) spoke exclusively to Asian Voice

There is a huge South Asian community up and down the country which has had no proper engagement with county boards or the ECB. They are still playing in the parks among themselves and getting changed under trees and in car parks. In Nov 2017 we held a one-day conference in Birmingham where we invited Chairman of cricketing parks representing the South Asian community and debated if we needed a national body that represents the South Asian cricketing community all around the country. Our aim is to integrate the South Asian community into mainstream cricket not segregate it.

Everyone, from the county boards to the media, especially the British Asian media, has a key role to play in our plans to get our message across. We have now gained tremendous goodwill from the ECB who are wanting to engage with us, and to be launching this paper today is a massive achievement for the South Asian community. We also have Asian community members who want to become coaches, umpires, scorers and administrators. This paper attempts to fulfil the aspirations of South Asians and if we can achieve that cricket in this country can only be stronger for that.

Driven by peer and parental pressures, historically, the professions such as accountancy, pharmacy and medicine have been the preferred choice for South Asians for several reasons including economic ones. But that does not have to be the case. If you look at T20, at the top end you could earn a few million pounds. A professional playing county cricket can earn around £100,000 a year, close to what a doctor may earn. Asian parents also have a huge role to play when it comes to their children's fitness, dieting, strength & conditioning and other disciplines of cricket. The bursary side of our programme is also very important especially for families in deprived areas. Our strategy is set over 7 years and in the next couple of years we will have a good idea about where we are going.

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