The ACE Programme is officially underway in Birmingham, delivered by Warwickshire County Cricket Club and the Warwickshire Cricket Board to help reinvigorate love for cricket within the city's Black community. With seven schools in North West Birmingham signed up, local youngsters recently took part in a special ACE Programme cricket session at Handsworth Cricket Club.
Since the start of the school summer term, each for the schools has received a full day of cricket delivered by former Bears fast bowler Recordo Gordon and fellow coach Ron Barker. Local youngsters can also take advantage of further sessions, delivered for children aged nine to 18, every Monday at Handsworth CC and every Friday at Holford Drive Community Sports Hub in Perry Barr.
"Getting ACE underway in Birmingham is a huge step forward for the local cricketing community," said Eaton Gordon, Warwickshire Cricket Board Cricket Development Manager (Community) and Birmingham Lead of ACE. "Cricket in the city's African Caribbean community has dropped significantly in recent years, and we are certainly not underestimating the challenge ahead in revitalising this love for the game.
"Our initial focus is on growing the level of participation in schools, but we hope that these new cricket sessions will inspire many of these youngsters to join in each week at Handsworth CC and Holford Drive and to get involved in the local Club game."
Warwickshire Cricket Board is also using the weekly cricket sessions to inspire youngsters to take part in wider cricket programmes that are delivered by local recreational clubs, including the All Stars programme for children aged five to eight and Dynamos for children aged eight to 11.
Stuart Cain, Chief Executive of Warwickshire CCC, said: "We must represent the communities we serve and can't avoid the fact that cricket isn't what it was to the region's African Caribbean community.
"ACE has the potential to provide a spark which reignites a passion for cricket and unearths the Bears players of the future. Alongside this, we want to rebuild a vibrant club scene as this used to be the cornerstone of the city's African Caribbean community providing strong foundations for wider social cohesion.
“Lofty aims and it will take time as we're starting this programme with a blank sheet of paper, but we can't delay." The ACE Programme is now a charity that was developed in 2020 by Surrey County Cricket Club to address a 75 per cent decline in cricket participation by members of the Black community.
In October it was awarded £540,000 funding from Sport England, delivered over a three-year period, and a grant from the ECB.