ACE Programme launches in Bristol to develop more elite cricketers from black communities
Over 400 young black cricketers in the city expected to benefit from development and performance opportunities through ACE's grassroots cricket programmes, following successful launches in Surrey and Warwickshire
Last Updated: 16/09/21 4:53pm
England opener Tammy Beaumont says the expansion of the ACE Programme into Bristol is an amazing opportunity to attract new players from different cultural backgrounds
The African Caribbean Engagement programme (ACE) was first launched by Surrey County Cricket Club in January 2020 in response to a decline of black British professional players by 75 per cent in recent years.
Earlier this year in June, the initiative expanded to Edgbaston and now young black people in Bristol will be given the chance to play thanks to a new partnership between Gloucestershire Cricket, Royal London and ACE - the goal being to introduce ACE's grassroots cricket programmes to around 30 schools across the city in each academic year.
Through their partnership with the ECB, Royal London has pledged to help 'level the playing field' by donating £100,000 to the ACE programme over the next two years.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the 'Royal London x ACE One Day International' between England and New Zealand at Bristol - the first game in a five-match series - Beaumont said: "I think it's a brilliant initiative. I love that this series has taken on the name with Royal London.
"They do such a good job bringing cricket to different areas of the country and different cultural backgrounds.
"We're losing talent in those areas, so I think the fact that this programme has now expanded to Bristol, is amazing."
Former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent, now a commentator on Sky Sports, is Chair of the ACE Programme which became an independent charity in late 2020 after receiving £540,000 in funding from Sport England and a grant from the ECB.
That financial support has allowed ACE to so far trial 200 young black people, hand out a total of 65 scholarships and launch its own ACE academy.
"Being able to provide pathways to support young, talented cricketers is essential if we are to develop more elite cricketers from black communities," said Rainford-Brent, the first black woman to play for England.
"Funding like this is helping to empower a new generation of players that otherwise may not have been involved. We are grateful to Royal London for helping us on our mission to inspire the wider game to become more representative of society."
Mark Alleyne, Gloucestershire Cricket's most decorated player and who is now an assistant coach at the club, became the third black person to coach an English first-class cricket team in 2004 when he took on the role of head coach.
He made almost 750 appearances for Gloucestershire Cricket across all forms and captained the club to seven limited-overs titles, as well as a County Championship promotion, between 1999 and 2004.
Speaking to Royal London, Alleyne said: "We want to tap into the catchment of young black cricketers in Bristol through the programme, and then target those who have not aspired to play the game for reasons such as a lack of representation. We are trying to tackle that and move forward, which is a positive thing.
"The aim is to reignite the passion to play the game in the city; the ACE programme has a real opportunity to capture young kids and their parents to encourage them to come and play. We want families and young cricketers to enjoy playing cricket and it would be great if we could increase the catchment of players the club can select from in the county."
During the interval of the Royal London x ACE ODI, 40 'Dynamo' cricketers from Bristol West Indian Phoenix CC will play cricket on the outfield in front of a packed Bristol County Ground.
Clare Connor, Managing Director of England Women's Cricket, added: "We are extremely proud to be supporting the ACE Programme and are excited by this new partnership with Royal London and Gloucestershire Cricket on the back of a successful launch in Birmingham earlier this summer.
"These partnerships have the potential to change young people's lives. With more opportunities and access to the game, more young people from Black communities will have the chance to reach their potential which is critical as we progress on our journey to ensure that cricket is a game for everyone."
Watch the first Royal London ACE ODI between England Women and New Zealand Women live on Sky Sports Cricket on Thursday afternoon.