The Afro-Caribbean Engagement (ACE) Programme, has officially relaunched in ‘second-city’ Birmingham following the overwhelming success of its inaugural launch last year.
Delivered by Warwickshire County Cricket Board (WCB) on behalf of the ACE Charity and the ECB, the programme focusses on increasing awareness and access to Cricket through Black communities and grass-root cricket clubs.
Following a 75% decline in participation from Black cricketers since 1995, the ACE Programme was set-up in 2020 by Surrey’s Director of Women’s Cricket, Ebony Rainford-Brent to not only address the issue, but also open up pathways to under-represented groups through from grass-root clubs to the elite. With ECB funding, the programme was able to launch last year in Birmingham as the first city outside of London to launch the programme.
Taking place over Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend, the 2022 programme was launched at Handsworth Cricket Club and saw 60 children aged between 8-18 years old from six local schools across North West Birmingham, attend for bespoke taster sessions including catching and striking balls, throwing and diving training and mini cricket games. The whole team then rounded off the day with traditional home-cooked jerk chicken, fish and burgers.
Hosted by Warwickshire County Cricket Board and specifically, Eaton Gordon, ACE Birmingham Lead and Community Cricket Development Manager for WCCB, the afternoon saw engaging and inclusive sessions delivered which aimed to inspire children of all ages to consider Cricket as a sport to get involved with.
“To be involved again with ACE for a second year is just testament to the hard-work put in by the team and overall success of the initial Birmingham launch back in 2021,” said Eaton Gordon, ACE Birmingham Lead.
“Since our launch, we have had over 100 local kids join us across taster drop-in sessions and enrol for further sessions every Friday at Handsworth Cricket Club which has been amazing to see. There is a lot of love for the game and to see children either re-engage or engage with the sport for the first time has been amazing to see and be a part of.”
Stuart Cain, Chief Executive of Warwickshire CCC, said: “ACE has been the catalyst to re-igniting the love of cricket through grass-root community clubs and specifically Birmingham’s African Caribbean community and to see it take-off again for its’ second year is great to see.”
“The foundations that the programme is establishing is presenting clearer pathways from community club to elite for those younger generations and potentially the next Bears players of the future that could have previously easily been missed.”
“We must represent the communities we serve and for us to do so, we must address the deficit in African-Caribbean engagement. From this, we hope to open up a new chapter in the history of the region’s cricket club scene and continue to build stronger community connections; creating a new narrative for our next generation of cricketing heroes”.
The ACE Programme will be continuing to run community cricket sessions at Handsworth Cricket Club every Friday, 6.30pm-8pm.