Surrey's ACE Programme begins to re-engage south London's African-Caribbean community with cricket
"If we come together and work together we could see accelerated change" - Ebony Rainford-Brent
Last Updated: 16/09/20 6:57pm
Surrey hope that the early success of their ACE programme will lead to a UK-wide increase in black British youngsters playing and experiencing cricket.
The county launched the initiative in January to try and re-engage 11-18-year-olds with sporting potential with cricket in a range of roles from players to physios, from umpires to scorers.
"It's important now more than ever that we drive change," said former England Women player and current Sky Sports pundit Ebony Rainford-Brent, who earlier this summer spoke up about her support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
"We only launched this initiative a few months ago but we are already seeing early signs of its success - a thriving academy programme with 25 graduates and a community programme about to roll out.
"We did not even realise the potential at our own gates; there are 33,000 young black British kids walking past the Oval gates every day. Just imagine the potential in other areas around the country. If we come together and work together we could see accelerated change."
Earlier this year a study by Leeds Beckett University found a 72 per cent decrease in black players between 1995 and 2019, while just one English-born black player has played Test match cricket since 2004.
Jeremy Greaves, ACE head coach and Surrey performance manager, said that he has had first-hand experience of the changing cricketing landscape.
"The number of black players playing cricket is decreasing and not just at the county level, at recreational level as well.
"I grew up going to cricket, watching my Dad play - he played for a team that was all black at the time but there was nothing in that - he would play against other teams that were all black. We used to play in competitions but that just isn't the case anymore."
Earlier this year in March, around 70 children attended the five ACE trial sessions, including seven girls, while there have been 24 scholars in the programme's first intake, including two girls.
Nico Reifer is a Surrey Rookie Contracted Player who says the programme has been nothing short of inspiring.
"Being from Barbados it's completely different; a lot of kids grew up playing cricket but coming here and seeing that the majority of the kids who play cricket come from a white background; even during school cricket I see the odd one black guy."
Chevy Green, Surrey Cricket participation manager, added: "We've taken big strides to get 24 young people that we didn't really know about and they've had a chance to play here and train at the Oval and we've seen them develop over a short period of time.
"We've had one player in particular who has come through and been seen by our academy performance manager and is going to get an opportunity to play for the Under 18s. That wouldn't have happened without this programme."