Azeem Rafiq: How does cricket deal with its diversity problem? – To world

Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq has referred to this as the “watershed”

Azeem Rafiq’s statement about racism in cricket has led to a period of soul searching within the sport – which, according to Tom Harrison, CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), must now create a “sense of belonging” for everyone.

Rafiq’s evidence has inevitably led to a particular focus on the South Asians’ experience and progress in cricket.

One of the ECB’s attempts to address the well-known problem of underrepresentation of this group of players in professional sport was the South Asian Action Plan (SAAP), launched in 2018.

The ECB saidexternal link There were roughly a million South Asian cricket fans across England and Wales – but the plan was to get more of them to play, support, and care for the sport.

However, while some in the game see it as just a “tick boxing exercise”, is this a real base to build on for the future? And how much progress has been made in the three years since it was introduced?

BBC Sport parses the stats to see what has changed and at the same time hears what people think or not of the success of the SAAP.

What are the most important statistics?

One statistic that has been cited repeatedly over the past few days – by Rafiq and others to highlight the issue of diversity in the game – is that Third the recreational cricketers are South Asians, this only goes down to 4% of those who play cricket professionally.

Here are some more details about those numbers.

South Asian players were represented in 2018

  • 30% of recreational players
  • 15% of the circle players of the age group,
  • 11% of the players in the Kreisakademie and
  • 4% of the top-notch circle players.

Since then, the proportion of South Asian recreational players has dropped to 28%. 33% of recreational gamers now come from different ethnic backgrounds.

In response to questions from BBC Sport, the ECB says it has “started” seeing an increase in South Asian players in the county’s academy systems, from 11% in 2018 to 17% in 2019-20.

And it said that roughly 10% of top-notch county players are from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The PCA said its latest membership survey found that 13.44% of contracted professional players in county cricket were ethnically diverse and 5.17% of contracted professional players in women’s football during the 2021 season.

However, neither organization was able to provide an up-to-date figure for the South Asian representation in professional sport.

Why was the plan launched?

The rationale for the action plan was to address a perceived mismatch cricket had with the South Asian community.

ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison said at the time, “Although we have long recognized the passion for the game in South Asian communities in the UK and had the best of intentions, we have never fully understood how to interact with South Asian communities a roadmap to change that. “

Yorkshire’s new chairman, Lord Patel, helped launch the plan as senior independent director of the ECB.

He also added at the time: “The passion for cricket in the UK’s South Asian communities remains high, but over 50 years later there is still so much untapped potential. This plan will help change that – starting today. “

He called it a golden opportunity to engage Asian communities, focusing on four ambitions.

  • Create more opportunities for South Asian communities to engage in cricket, be it playing, supporting, or working in the game
  • Remove the barriers to engaging and participating in cricket for South Asian players and fans
  • Build strong relationships between South Asian communities, the ECB, counties, clubs and the cricket network
  • Use cricket to make a positive difference for the communities

An 11-point action plan has been created that includes facilities, formats, children and schools, women and girls, talent identification, development and retention, financial support, elite coaching, matchday experience, communication and cricket workforce.

Here’s more on some of these areas:

Talent identification and retention

Research that was done to support the South Asian Plan of Action found that 50% of respondents felt that more “scouts” are needed to observe non-traditional cricket environments such as parking leagues.

The ECB said it has started piloting a program for “Community Talent Champions” in collaboration with the National Asian Cricket Council.

Three counties – Yorkshire, Lancashire and Leicestershire – participated in the pilot.

The ECB told BBC Sport: “Five community talent champions have been recruited across the three counties to test new ways to identify the English stars of the future – by identifying and developing potential players from different and non-traditional cricket paths who may there is no opportunity to be seen in traditional clubs and league structures. Our plans are to expand to other cities and regions based on the pilots’ insights. ”

Additionally, it states that the County Partnership Agreement requires all prime counties to put in place a scouting system to help identify players along the way. In addition, a new framework for promoting talent for boys and girls’ football has recently been introduced and the T20 City Cup has been redesigned to serve as an identification tool for young people from urban areas.


Research has found that the main barrier to participation in South Asia is access to facilities in urban areas.

For 2018 and 2019, the ECB has set itself the short-term goal of creating between one and three urban cricket centers, installing 100 non-grass pitches in urban areas and installing or modernizing 25 grass pitches in urban areas.

The first two of these have been achieved. However, the ambitions related to grass pitches have not been met.

In Yorkshire, planning permission has been granted to build an urban center in Bradford at the Parkside Sports Center in West Bowling, due to open in the summer of 2022.

20 Urban Cricket Centers are to be built by 2024, 1,000 non-grass pitches are to be installed and 100 grass pitches are to be installed or modernized by 2024.


In 2018, less than 5% of the coaching staff in first-class counties were South Asians, with the ECB unable to provide the latest data on this.

The ECB said a lot of work is being done to support more coaches from South Asia and other ethnically diverse backgrounds to achieve their advanced and specialist level qualifications through scholarships and mentoring programs.

It added that “28% of our newest Specialist course (Level 4) and 21% of our Advanced course (Level 3) were ethnically diverse” – in addition to mentoring and educational programs.

Antidiscrimination service

In 2018 and 2019, all employees of the district academy were offered training on unconscious prejudice.

In cooperation with the PCA, an anti-racism education program was provided for professional cricketers, academy players, coaches and supervisors in 2021.

The ECB said “another training tranche will be developed with the PCA to test the application of learning”.

Cricket staff

In 2018, less than 10% of the cricket workforce was of South Asian descent and a top notch district manager was of South Asian descent.

The Rooney Rule was introduced for ECB coaching appointments, and scholarships and fellowships were introduced to support coach development.

The ECB’s own workforce consists of 7% from South Asia, compared to 3% in 2017-18.

The governing body said it was doing “a game-wide census to understand the demographics of the cricket workforce” and will have updated information in early 2022.

A new county governance code is also being implemented to “ensure adequate representation of underrepresented communities in decision-making positions in first-class and recreational gaming”.

What do they say in cricket?

Cricket’s South Asian Action Plan is “an expert talk”

Ijaz Khan, a Bradford cricket coach, told BBC Sport: “I’m going to be brutally honest.

Khan, who recently attended a meeting on the Action Plan, said, “I’ve been to open workshops and we’re talking about things, we seem to be talking about the same things 12 months later, and 12 months later there is no progress, I can “I’m not even saying it’s one step forward, two steps back, I think it’s a bit symbolic.”

Vikram Banerjee, the ECB’s chief strategy officer who leads the South Asian Action Plan, told the BBC Sports Desk Podcast: “The last few weeks have revealed some really nasty truths about where cricket is today and how long the work is and the way we have to go.

“There are some really good people in cricket and all sports who are doing a really good job in that area. That shouldn’t be forgotten.

“While the next few weeks, months will be uncomfortable, I see it as a real opportunity. The silver lining is that there is a chance for us as a sport to use the power that sport has to really accelerate it, learn from it. “

Former West Indian bowler Tino Best, who played for Yorkshire and Hampshire, told BBC Sport that more work across the board was needed to improve diversity.

“The mere fact is how many black players do you see in county cricket? You hardly see any, ”he said. “There are so many stories of black cricketers in England who have suffered.

“I think the ECB needs to go back to these neighborhoods in Brixton, Croydon and these players and make the game more inclusive and understand that it is not a boys’ club who are the only ones who play cricket and small boys should play football and so forth.”

Last week, officials from the ECB, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the Marylebone Cricket Club, the National Counties Cricket Association and the First-Class and Recreational County Cricket Network committed to “tangible action” to make cricket “more open and inclusive and effective governance, ”according to Rafiq and other victims of racism.

Harrison was asked what distinguishes this action plan, which is to include 12 areas, from the previous ones.

“I think the proof will be in how we deliver it. This will be the first time the game has come together to take such urgent and direct action, ”he replied.

These latest plans will be added to the 11-point South Asia Action Plan, which sets long-term ambitions through 2024, and the six priorities of the Inspiring Generations strategy, launched in 2019, to “cricket in England and Wales between 2020-24 ″.

But Harrison said what happened in the past few weeks “clearly shows the distance we need to travel to really make cricket the inclusive sport we want”.

The English cricket racist crisis has fueled the game’s new ambitions to better reflect broader society, but it has also fueled increased scrutiny of how effective its existing plans have been to improve inclusivity and diversity.

“It’s important that we don’t let this moment pass” – Azeem Rafiq speaks to BBC Sports Editor Dan Roan

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