“Cricket is our biggest ally in the community right now. It’s helping us engage with young people, win their trust, and steer them towards more positive futures.”

Those are the words of West Midlands Police Sergeant Chris Gallon. He’s come to Edgbaston Cricket Centre to captain a side in a fun tape ball cricket competition organised by the Warwickshire Cricket Foundation.

Teams consist of officers, two paramedics, an Imam at a local mosque, and several under 25s from inner city Birmingham.

The aim is to use cricket to break down barriers between the police and young people in Birmingham. And, ultimately, to help reduce anti-social behaviour and crime.

And according to Sgt Gallon, it’s working.

“Many young people are passionate about cricket in the city,” he said, “so we’re using cricket as a foil to start conversations with them in some of the most deprived parts of Birmingham.

“It’s no good speaking formally to them as police officers, telling them what they can and can’t do. Reaching them through cricket, building relationships, and then offering support beyond cricket – be that in training, health, housing – is working for us.

“Plus it’s great fu, though I’m not in quite the shape I was when I first started playing the game.”

The event was used to launch Warwickshire Cricket Foundation’s Ramadan League season which is now in its fourth year at Edgbaston Cricket Centre.

The league gives people from local communities the chance to play cricket after dark during the Holy Month. It’s particularly important for anyone observing Ramadan who would otherwise struggle to play sport during the day while fasting.

Warwickshire Cricket Foundation Community Officer Mohammed Arif has organized the event – and he also runs the Foundation’s Street Cricket programme, in association with the charity Chance to Shine, at clubs across the region.

“Cricket can be an important influencer and enabler in societal change,” said Mohammed. “It can play a unifying role across communities and bridge divides, that’s exactly what our relationship with West Midlands Police is all about.

“We run Street Cricket tape ball sessions every week in Sparkhill, Nechells  Aston and Lozells, plus Coventry, and the response has been fantastic from the children and young people.

“It’s helping to build bridges, giving them a focus, and improving physical and mental health. For us it’s about cricket without limits. Everyone should be able to access the sport we love. And who knows, we could find some stars of the future.”

Click here to discover more about Chance 2 Shine Street Cricket in Birmingham and how to get involved: edgbaston.com/foundation/street/

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