Surrey County Cricket Club’s ACE Programme – a project designed to increase cricketing opportunities for members of the Black community – is to be set up as an independent charity after receiving significant backing from Sport England.
The funding, £540,000 delivered over a three-year period, will enable the programme to employ four full time staff and create opportunities for far greater numbers of young people. It will be Chaired by Ebony Rainford-Brent, a broadcaster, Surrey CCC board member and the first Black woman to play for England – who inspired the project’s initial creation earlier this year.
The ACE Programme Charity was originally setup by Surrey earlier this year, aiming to address a 75% decline in cricket participation by members of the Black community. After 70 young players – male and female – attended trials shortly before the lockdown in early March, the programme this summer delivered a coaching and match programme for 25 cricketers, including a forty over game at the Kia Oval alongside members of Surrey’s Emerging Players Programme. One young player has already graduated from ACE to feature in matches for Surrey U18s.
ACE’s strategic aim will be summed up by a new strapline: ‘Supporting Diverse Talent from the Grassroots to the Elite’ and the charity will focus on three main aims:
- Building grassroots programmes, talent pathways and better talent ID within Black communities
- Providing elite academy programmes and scholarships to talented players, allowing them to fulfil their potential
- The development of a diverse coaching and volunteer scheme through targeted training and mentoring programmes
As well as Rainford-Brent, the ACE Programme Charity will be championed and supported by four newly appointed Honorary Patrons: former West Indies fast bowler and now Sky Sports commentator Michael Holding; veteran journalist and broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald; the first Black cricketer to play for England, Roland Butcher and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis
On top of the Honorary Patrons will be a number of ACE Ambassadors. For the launch these are: England all-rounder Sophia Dunkley; former Surrey and England batsman and Sky Sports commentator Mark Butcher; former Surrey and England fast bowler Alex Tudor and former Surrey player Lonsdale Skinner, who is also current Chair of the African-Caribbean Cricket Association.
In addition to the Sport England funding, the ACE Programme has also received a grant from the England and Wales Cricket Board, allowing a programme to be launched in Birmingham in 2021. This will be delivered in association with Warwickshire County Cricket Club and be overseen by ACE’s first Director of Programmes, Chevy Green – who becomes ACE’s first full time employee.
Ebony Rainford-Brent, Chair of The ACE Programme Charity, said: “I am absolutely honoured to become Chair of The ACE Programme Charity and create opportunities for the Black British community and talent to access the game.
“Launching at the end of Black History Month is important to us, as it serves as a reminder that although the month is over there is a lot of work to do. This summer shone a spotlight on our game in light of the Black Lives Matter movement which made clear the barriers, decline and disconnection faced by the Black community. Our focus as a charity is to accelerate change, and the early signs of the ACE Programme show success is very possible with focus and investment.
“I am really pleased for Chevy who not only possesses very strong sports development skills, but also the passion and drive needed to take on this exciting challenge. I would also like to say a huge thank you to Surrey CCC for continued support, Sport England for our new partnership and our esteemed Honorary Patrons and Ambassadors who are lending their voice and support to the cause.”
Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England, said: “Research shows that Black, Asian and minority ethnic people face more barriers when it comes to both accessing sport and being active on the whole – this is a deep-rooted issue that requires the right approach in the right locations, such as the ACE Programme. We are delighted to be able to help fund and support the programme over the next three years as it works to engage young people from African and Caribbean backgrounds with cricket while positively impacting under-represented groups and communities.”
Richard Gould, Chief Executive of Surrey County Cricket Club, added: “When we looked at this problem last year, we wanted to be able to make a difference as quickly as possible and were impatient for positive results. I am therefore delighted that ACE proved itself as a concept so quickly and I am grateful that Sport England has acted so promptly to reinforce and expand the programme to reach more people in more areas.”
Tom Harrison, CEO England and Wales Cricket Board, said: “The ACE Programme has done a fantastic job opening up opportunities for young people from Black communities to play cricket, and I’m really pleased that the ECB can help fund its expansion. I’m excited to see what can be achieved for communities in and around Birmingham.
“We are absolutely committed to making cricket a sport for everyone. In order for that to happen we recognise that as a game, and an organisation, we have an enormous amount of work to do. We have to offer more access and opportunities for young people to play and be part of our sport. Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not, and programmes like ACE play a crucial part in creating opportunities for talented young cricketers to grow and fulfil their potential as players and as individuals.”