Birmingham’s black community will be the first outside of London to benefit from the new ‘ACE Programme’ launched by Warwickshire County Cricket Club to reignite their passion for cricket and to provide youngsters with opportunities to play and pursue a career in the sport.

Recruitment of a coach is underway, and the scheme will launch in early 2021, focusing on primary and secondary schools located in the North West of Birmingham. Warwickshire CCC has partnered with Sport England and the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to deliver the ACE Programme in the West Midlands.

Warwickshire Cricket Board Cricket Development Manager (community) Eaton Gordan will work with coaches to deliver new cricket sessions at local schools in the region.  Budding cricketers who come through the programme will also have the opportunity further their game through the Club’s links with Handsworth Cricket Club and in a new timetable of cricket at Holford Drive Community Sports Hub in Perry Barr.  The Club will also stage a Caribbean-themed cricket festival for families at its Edgbaston Community Sports Ground on Portland Road in the early part of the 2021 summer and its official charity, the Edgbaston Foundation, will also undertake wider social initiatives.

“We’re very excited to bring the ACE programme to Birmingham, which we believe can make a huge difference in reinvigorating cricket within the large African Caribbean community in the city,” said Eaton Gordon.

“There has been a large drop in interest and engagement in the game within the black community in recent years and we have probably missed a generation of young people as a result. However, we have the ability to make a change and we are starting this programme with a blank sheet of paper and intend to breakdown any barriers that may have affected participation in the game.”

Eaton Gordon, Warwickshire Cricket Board Cricket Development Manager (community)

Stuart Cain, Chief Executive of Warwickshire CCC, said: “This project builds on the work we’re already doing in the local South Asian communities and will create opportunities for a community that has a proud cricketing history but has unfortunately not had the support that it deserves over recent years.

“The scheme originated in London and has totally rejuvenated interest within cricket and broken down some of the barriers that stopped black youngsters in the capital from playing the game and finding a way on to the talent pathway, which could lead to a place in the academy programme and ultimately a career in the sport.

“Our ambition over coming years is to create a vibrant club cricket scene within Birmingham’s black community which will bring health, wellbeing and social benefits to one of the city’s biggest communities.  I also want to see an Academy where talented youngsters from all of the city’s diverse communities have the same opportunities to pursue a career in the sport and feel comfortable working alongside each other to pursue a place in the professional squad, in the same way that Manraj Johal has this season and previously Recordo Gordon.”

The ACE programme was developed by Surrey County Cricket Club at the beginning of 2020 to address a 75 per cent decline in cricket participation by members of the Black community. Today the programme has been announced as an independent charity, which has secured £540,000 funding from Sport England, delivered over a three-year period, and a grant from the ECB.

“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.

Tom Harrison, CEO England and Wales Cricket Board

“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.”