Cricket has a problem with diversity at grassroots level, says Ebony Rainford-Brent
"Some of the elitist sports like cricket, tennis, golf; we've got a long way to go, and so these Black Lives Matter movements have really got to drive some of these conversations and make change," said the former England international
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 11/06/20 3:04pm
Ebony Rainford-Brent says cricket and other elitist sports need to change their structures in order to better reflect the diversity of their communities at grassroots level.
Rainford-Brent, who was the first black woman to play cricket for England and now sits on the board at Surrey after representing the county throughout her playing career, said sports such as football are better at ensuring children of all backgrounds have a fair chance of making it to the top level.
The 36-year-old told Sky Sports News that cricket "structurally has a lot of problems that doesn't allow diversity to come through from the local communities".
"Although at the top level we're seeing a couple of players, Jofra Archer for example and Chris Jordan, they actually came over from the West Indies later in their teens and early 20s, but we haven't seen players coming through from the local community," she said.
"Our borough of Lambeth that Surrey sits in, almost 50 per cent of the kids are from an African-Caribbean background, but yet still since I've come through in the last 25 years, we have not had one story successfully staying in county cricket since I've come through that door.
"That's got to tell you there's a problem, and when you start to look at it and you really start to unpick it, the kids are all coming from the private schools who have more resources, more one-to-one coaching, more investment. There's a problem.
"[Surrey] decided to set up a targeted program to create an academy for all the talented players to make sure they got every opportunity they could. I think it's important other sports now start to take on that model. Whether your community may have different BAME groups that they need to target, it's really important to make sure that you are serving your community in sport.
"Others like football do a much better job and you see that transition all the way through to the international level. Athletics… rugby's improved significantly, but some of the elitist sports like cricket, tennis, golf; we've got a long way to go, and so these Black Lives Matter movements have really got to drive some of these conversations and make change."
The Black Lives Matter protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died on May 25 after a white police officer, who has since been charged with his murder, held him down by pressing a knee into his neck. The protests started in the United States but have reached across the world, and over the weekend a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down in Bristol.
Rainford-Brent says a "valve popped" when she saw the video of Floyd's death, and that it's vital for the momentum of the movement to continue for significant change to happen.
"I've been aware of what's gone on in America [and] the disparities that we have here with our policing system and our justice system, but watching that video for me personally a valve popped and I know a lot of my friends felt the same way," she said. "Anyone who watched that video, realising it's taken the world to protest just to get those people [police officers] arrested, kind of begs the question.
"If you've been to the protests or if you've watched on TV around the globe, there is a definite momentum now that people realise it's too late, things have got to change, and this affects all areas of our lives, whether it be sport or our personal lives.
"Real action needs to happen. In the case of the statue, changing that to a memorial would make a public difference.
"After everyone reflects on the statue, there's a real question: is the foot going to stay on the gas?"
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There has been a wave of support from prominent athletes, with Anthony Joshua marching with his Watford community on Saturday, and Raheem Sterling and Lewis Hamilton passionately throwing themselves behind the cause.
Rainford-Brent says those at the pinnacle who have spoken out are to be applauded, but that organisations from top to bottom need to ask if they are doing enough to change their sport for the better.
"What we're seeing is real athletes who are using sport and their platform to make a difference and well done to them for speaking out," she said.
"It's important athletes continue to speak up. Athletes have such a platform that will force questions to be asked on the big stage, but it's really important that organisations look around at their environment; are they inclusive? Are they diverse? Are they reflecting their community?
"I'm going to be continuing the conversation through my sport, through various areas from broadcasting to grassroots, but it is really vital now that people continue the pressure."