An invite from a Facebook connection Jug Johal saw me heading to Leicestershire’s Grace Road to attend an event organised by the Asian Sports Foundation, the aim of the evening was to talk about Asians in Sport.  Having been at Old Trafford to watch Moeen Ali play an innings for  which would contribute to him being the Man of The Series for England against South Africa the event was very timely.

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Jug introduced the Foundation before handing over to a Commander (I think) from the Royal Navy who’d sponsored the evening.  As an organisation they’re keen on attracting  people from all communities.

Before I go into what we heard, a few details about the Asian Sports Foundation

The Asian Sports Foundation (ASF) is a UK registered charity with the primary aim of increasing participation and engagement of minority ethnic groups in sports and physical activity. Established in 2015, the ASF’s primary objectives are to:

►   Increase participation and engagement of minority ethnic groups with sports across all levels.

►   Support sports clubs, NGOs, CSPs, committees and bodies to recognise and deliver on responsibilities for equality and inclusiveness of minority ethnic communities.

►   Inform local Government of innovative models to deliver inclusive sports programmes through insight and experience which are replicable on a national scale with repeatable models.

►   Provide a physical and digital support system for communities and participants alike through mentoring and coaching to ensure a pathway of regular physical activity and sporting success.

►   Deliver effective solutions that promote and impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of communities, improve individual development, social and community development and economic development.

►   The Asian Sports Foundation is a UK Charity campaigning for equality and inclusion for Asian communities in SPORT.

The Foundation feel that cricket more than any other sport can help deliver some of their objectives

Wasim Khan MBE was thé first keynote speaker, he was brought up in Small Heath in Birmingham.  He came to the attention of a teacher at 12 and played in the Warwickshire Under 13’s team, impressing with his leadership as well as cricketing skills.  He was made captain, unusual as the only State School boy in the team, and top scored that year.

A dream was formed and at 19 he became the first Muslim of Pakistan heritage to be offered a professional contract in England, he was a part of the double winning Warwickshire team in 1995, averaging 49 in the championship winning side.  In his first year he scored 3,000 runs across all formats and explained how he has always felt that to succeed he had to be better than anyone else, that racism is a fact and that ways have to be found to get around it.  I found those words shocking to hear and admired this man who was prepared to stand in front of an audience and say them.

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Wasim was standing in front of us as CEO of Leicestershire CCC, how did he get there?  At the age of 30/31 he started to look to the future, he took up coaching, he knew cricket could change lives and wanted to lift the aspirations of those he met.  In 2005 he received a call from Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England.  He invited Wasim to the Bank of England, he wanted to get cricket back into State Schools and he felt Wasim was the man to help him do that.

They would look to raise 50 King explained, was that £50K?  No, he meant £50 million and he would persuade the government to match fund, which meant they would need to raise just the £25 million.  He wanted Wasim to write the plan to make it happen – Wasim quoted Einstein – ‘Adversity Introduces a Man to Himself’ – he’d never written a business plan before, but this is a man who doesn’t accept failure.  The plan was written and launched in May 2005 and A Chance To Shine was born and it thrives to this day.

Wasim had a tale to tell, his has been an unusual and successful life, he wrote a book in 9 months – Brim Full of Passion – the book was Wisden book of the year in 2007.  He’s on the Sport England board and is determined to teach kids how to deal with racism.  He also sits on the Equality and Human Rights Commission Sports Group, The Prince’s Trust Cricket Group and has recently been appointed onto the England Cricket Board’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.

An impressive man Wasim is now the CEO at Leicestershire, he believes that people from diverse back grounds need to get into positions of influence in order to effect change.  Sports Board Rooms do not have ethnic diversity he believes they should be forced to change, by the use of financial penalties if needs be.  Listening to Wasim was reason enough to travel to Leicester,the next speaker Tracey Francis of the ECB had some very interesting things to tell us.

Tracey is the Head of Growth at the ECB, she’s the first woman on the council and she’s tasked with getting a bat and ball into people’s hands.  She spoke about the Women’s World Cup Final, a truly wonderful day at Lords,  cricket bat and ball sets were given away to 4500 young people 16 and under, which was a great start!

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The ECB has developed a growth team and they’ll be looking to increase participation in 3 key areas, Women, the Disabled and South Asian communities.  270,000 Asians play cricket in ECB leagues and many, many more play cricket in a more casual framework.

The ECB has carried out a survey/consultation called ‘Engaging South Asian Communities in Cricket’ – the full document is available online, but, a few of the findings as explained by Tracey,

  • South Asians make up 1/3 of the recreational playing base
  • 79% of which play every week, compared to 50% of White British players
  • 3% of ticket purchasers are South Asian
  • 40% of Champions Trophy ticket  buyers were of South Asian (SA) origin
  • 64% of those asked stated they would play more recreational cricket if the right offer was available
  • 50% of South Asian players in community leagues are dissatisfied with the quality of their facilities
  • 71% of recreational cricket players want coaching, only 21% receive it
  • 42% of recreational players do not believe there are opportunities for the best players in their communities to progress to professional standard
  • Some counties with a significant SA population have less than 5% SA representation amongst their coaching staff
  • 40% of those asked would find domestic cricket matches that feature international cricket superstars much more appealing (vs 16% nationally)
  • 31% of parents asked believe that a ‘famous role model’ is the main influence behind their child asking to attend a sporting activity (vs 15% White British)
  • Less than 10% of the ECB Admin workforce is of SA origin, and currently there is only one SA CEO of a First Class County

The ECB has put together a strategy which they hope will see the rise of participation across the board for those from a South Asian background.  The document really is worth a read, the ECB will be needing the communities they’re trying to reach to play their part and they aren’t being backward in saying they need that help.

Cricket is leading the way as far as the aims of the Asian Sports Foundation are concerned, hopefully we’ll see more role models from a South Asian background and it won’t take an ICC Tournament to get people along to cricket matches.  I attended 7 Champions Trophy matches and there are so many who are passionate about the game, I saw Bangladesh, India and Pakistan and to a man/woman those supporting their teams were vocal and excited to be there.

I found the evening both interesting and inspiring and I look forward to the strategy changing things across the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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