Representative image    Getty Images
Representative image Getty Images

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) today launched an Action Plan to draw the South Asian community into every level of the game, hoping it produces more players, fans and volunteers. The initiative is backed by Prince Charles’ British Asian Trust (BAT) as a strategic partner and is based on the recommendations of the ECB’s South Asian Advisory Group.

Whilst we have long acknowledged the passion for the game in South Asian communities in the UK and had the best intentions, we have never fully understood how to engage with South Asian communities. This report gives us a road map to change that, said ECB CEO Tom Harrison.

We now have a much deeper understanding of how cricket can play a part in multi-faith, multi-lingual, multi-cultural communities, whether that’s creating a match-day experience which respects everyone’s customs, renovating derelict council buildings into cricket centres in urban areas or putting the game’s talent scouts into more diverse communities, he said.

The ECB advisory group comprising former cricketers Wasim Khan and Isa Guha looked at the challenges facing South Asian communities at every level of the game to devise an Action Plan.

The project includes creating new urban cricket centres and turfs, launching Community Talent Champions to scout talent, engaging at primary school level, backing more Asian coaches and awarding grants to budding British Asian cricketers.

This plan represents a real step change from the ECB. They have invested significant time and energy in understanding how to engage with South Asian communities in the right way, said Manoj Badale, Chairman of the British Asian Trust and South Asian Advisory Group member.

The group’s research found that South Asian participation in recreational cricket stands at 30 per cent and identified the single-biggest barrier to their participation in cricket in Britain as access to facilities in urban areas.

Other challenges identified included lack of scouting in urban areas, the cost of travel and equipment for county age group cricketers, a lack of female coaches, access to cricket at school and a lack of cultural considerations within the match day experience.

While cricket is overwhelmingly popular with British Asian communities, only 3 per cent of domestic, non-international, ticket sales are from these audiences compared to 40 per cent in the Champions Trophy held last year, the research found.

The passion South Asian communities in the UK have for cricket remains high but, over 50 years later, there is still so much untapped potential. This plan will help to change that starting today, said Lord Patel of Bradford, the ECB Senior Independent Director who has driven the development of the Action Plan.

A project team, led by ECB Head of Strategy Vikram Banerjee, conducted the largest-ever UK study into cricket in South Asian communities, analysing tens of thousands of survey responses and hundreds of thousands of database records to understand how these diverse groups view cricket.

The plan started by working in collaboration with University College, London (UCL) to produce an interactive heat map of all South Asians living and playing cricket in England and Wales on a street by street basis.

Using all of this data and insight, ECB worked with Sport England to identify 10 Core Cities where the majority (61 per cent) of the South Asian population live Birmingham, Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds, Leicester, London, Luton, Manchester, Sandwell and Slough. These 10 areas will be the focus of the first two years of the project.

Following this initial period, the plan will expand to engage with a further 300 districts that make up the remaining 39 per cent of the audience.