Rainford-Brent welcomes ‘significant moment’ as ECB helps ACE programme expand

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The England and Wales Cricket Board will expand its investment in the African-Caribbean Engagement programme to four new locations.

Chaired by Ebony Rainford-Brent, the independent charity was first established by Surrey in 2020 to engage with children and young people from more diverse communities in the south of London.

An expansion to Birmingham and Bristol proved successful last year and now the ECB has committed to helping the programme launch in Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds and an additional London borough.

The governing body is also set to fund a national operations manager role at ACE.

Rainford-Brent, who became the first black women to play for England in 2001, said: “This is a really significant moment for ACE.

“Although we started small in south London, we always envisaged this programme was going to have a big national impact. To be in six cities and on both sides of the Thames in London within two years of existence proves that our model is starting to change the game.

“ACE is focused on connecting the dots to help under-represented groups from the grassroots to the elite. We know this programme will help open up new pathways to do exactly that and are excited to partner with the teams at all these different counties to have an impact.

“We’re really grateful to the ECB for this meaningful support, allowing us to build on our initial backing from Sport England and start taking ACE to the next level – a truly national organisation.”

Over 10,000 young cricketers are expected to pass through the charity’s talent ID programme this year in the new areas.

Clare Connor, the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket, added: “The team at ACE are doing brilliant work creating opportunities for young people from Black communities to play cricket and develop their talent.

“After their early impact in south London, Bristol and Birmingham, we are really excited to be helping ACE to increase access to cricket in more urban centres across the country.

“We know that targeted opportunities and support are vitally important in making cricket a game for everyone and ensuring that every young cricketer can fulfil their potential.”

A key part of its effort to eradicate discrimination in cricket will be the findings of its dressing room culture review, with EY Lane4 set to conduct the review throughout this season with recommendations to be shared in September.

Increased Board diversity was another key part of the game-wide plans, with a 30 per cent target of female and local ethnicity representation at county level set for the end of April, and the governing body anticipate this will be met.

Assistance from Sport England and Perrett Laver has helped 90 per cent of the 15 appointees so far be female while 20 per cent are from an ethnic minority. Meanwhile, Norfolk has become one of the first counties to exceed 40 per cent gender balance on its board.

Further investment in talent identification and scouting will occur through the expansion of the Community Talent Champions programme, which was successful in Lancashire, Leicestershire and Yorkshire in 2021 but will reach a further 10 urban locations.

The ECB will also commit an initial amount of £1million to reduce financial barriers for young people at age-group level, with dialogue set to begin with counties over how best to use this funding during the next cycle in the winter.

In the wake of Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations, a new game-wide reporting system was produced at the end of 2021 to help with reporting incidents of discrimination with the intention an independent third-party would eventually operate the system.

This has not occurred yet due to an issue with a preferred supplier and the ECB’s new anti-discrimination unit – once established – is now expected to assume responsibility for the reporting system.

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