Aspiring young black cricketers in the north of England will receive unprecedented support in pursuing a professional career thanks to a Sheffield-based scheme which launches on Monday.
The scheme is a partnership between Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club and the African Caribbean Engagement (ACE), a charity launched by former England cricketer and pundit Ebony Rainford-Brent to increase the representation of blacks within the sport.
Andre Jackson, the new ACE development manager for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, will lead the Sheffield operation, which he hopes will follow the success of iterations in south London, Birmingham and Bristol.
He said: “It is vital that every young cricketer is provided with targeted opportunities and support so they can reach their full potential.
“In my role I want to help young black cricketers get passionate about cricket and have that love for the game because that’s what my coaches gave me, and I still have that passion today.”
ACE was initially launched by Surrey in January 2020 in response to alarming research which revealed black players accounted for less than 1% of the recreational game and uncovered a 75% decline in black British professional players.
Now an independent charity, ACE has expanded into Birmingham and Bristol with the help of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and, in the latter’s case, Royal London.
It has so far welcomed over 6,000 young cricketers to its programs and has proposed over 200 players for trials, resulting in 109 scholarships to its ACE National Academy for elite talent.
The ECB funding will also facilitate further expansion plans in Nottingham and Manchester, with over 10,000 young cricketers expected to go through ACE’s Talent ID scheme each year in the new areas.
Clare Connor, interim CEO of the ECB, said: “The work that ACE has carried out to date is truly inspiring and we are thrilled to support their continued expansion.
“This new funding ensures that more young people from the black communities of Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester have the opportunity to play and hopefully thrive in our game. Working in this way is vital to ensure cricket becomes a game for all.”