Club Cricket Conference

Tuesday, 19th June 2018

ECB's race targeting could take politics too far

Personal view: Charles Randall 

12 June 2018


The ECB's recent announcement about cricket scholarships for selected south asian youth players  gives cause for concern.

The scholarships form the second part of the major project that was launched in May as the South Asian Action Plan. The ECB are seeking  to improve the way they engage with asian communities, aiming to draw more players, supporters and volunteers into every level of the game.

One has to hope that grand plans for 'urban cricket centres'  include satisfying the existing need for proper playing facilities, especially the large number of cricket grounds neglected or under-prepared by councils. The CCC have been encouraging clubs to rent out unused facilities, but everyone is powerless to deal with local authorities who preside over poor-quality, even dangerous, park cricket strips with sparse bumpy outfields.

The race targeting has been justified by the disproportionate interest in cricket among the  asian communities. This initiative must be applauded, especially as the Club Cricket Conference have been working hard behind the scenes for many years to bring ethnic cricket communities into the mainstream with significant success, helping to set up the National Asian Cricket Council.

The CCC have not been give much credit in the media, but at least the ECB have taken action with something positive, and the MCC this week announced a series of matches against  sides selected by the National Asian Cricket Council.

Targeting communities is fine, but targeting individuals on an ethnic basis makes one uncomfortable. There are plenty of deprived young people of, say, white or caribbean ethnicity who would benefit from sport scholarships. So a project helping only asian youngsters is not really logical. It might make sense politically, so one must hope the ECB wish to do more than make political gestures.

The ECB say they have formed a partnership with the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation to run a pilot cricket scholarship project in 2019 that will "identify and connect" four young asian cricketers with schools that have a strong cricketing ethos.

The Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation offers young people from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds bursaries in state and independent boarding schools. It seeks to increase social mobility by widening educational opportunities for young people. Currently the organisation claims to have placed than 500 children in schools, though ethnicity ratios are not specified. Maybe there are already a good number of asian youngsters on their books.

Pending a successful pilot, the ECB intend to expand the scheme to give young cricketers from inner-city areas "life-changing" bursaries while also supporting their cricketing development.

The ECB's main projects  include the creation of 20-plus urban cricket centres and the development of 1,000 non-turf and 100 turf pitches by 2024. Primary schools in deprived areas will be targeted for cricket sessions through Chance To Shine, and the training of ethnic coaches is to be stepped up. In the first two years the ECB project is to target 10 'core' Asian-majority areas identified as Birmingham, Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds, Leicester, London, Luton, Manchester, Sandwell and Slough.

The ECB said they had worked closely with institutions such as the National Asian Cricket Council, the British Asian Trust,  Chance to Shine and the principal sponsoring partner NatWest.

Following on from the ECB initiative the MCC announced this week a fixture list of 10 matches  against National Asian Cricket Council teams at various  club grounds in the 'core' areas. The 11 best performing Asian players will have an opportunity to play against Cross Arrows on the Nursery Ground at Lord's on September 24.

MCC said they were determined to address the issues preventing more asian players from participating in the game. The asian sides will be selected from players not currently participating in traditional club cricket.

Guy Lavender, MCC chief executive, said giving asian players better playing and watching opportunities was "high on the agenda". He added: "My hope is that these matches will assist in building relationships and creating new opportunities for everybody concerned."

Gulfraz Riaz, the Club Cricket Conference’s cricket development manager, said: "On behalf of both the National Asian Cricket Council and the Club Cricket Conference, I would like to thank Guy and MCC for this generous offer.  Along with the ECB’s recognition of the NACC, the support from the world’s leading cricket club means we are pushing ahead with the development of Asian cricket in the UK."

MCC versus National Asian Cricket Council

Tuesday July 10:  Bristol & Cardiff at Bristol West Indian Phoenix CC
Thursday July 12: Derby at Derby Congregational CC
Tuesday July 17: Birmingham at Edgbaston Foundation Ground
Sunday July 22: Crawley at Crawley Eagles CC
Wednesday July 25:  Luton at Lutonians CC
Tuesday July 31: Leicester at Hinckley Town CC
Tuesday August 7:  Bradford at Bradford Park Avenue
Tuesday August 14: Slough at Slough CC
Tuesday August 21: Manchester at South West Manchester CC