Boost for aspiring black cricketers as ACE scheme launches in northern England

Aspiring young black cricketers in the north of England will receive unprecedented support in pursuing professional careers thanks to a Sheffield-based scheme which is being launched on Monday.

The programme is a partnership between Yorkshire County Cricket Club, the Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club and African Caribbean Engagement (ACE), a charity launched by former England cricketer and pundit Ebony Rainford-Brent to increase the representation of black people within the sport.

Andre Jackson, the new ACE development officer for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, will lead the Sheffield operation, which he hopes will follow on the success of iterations in south London, Birmingham and Bristol.

He said: “It is vital that targeted opportunities and support is provided to every young cricketer so they can reach their full potential.

“In my role I want to help young black cricketers to be passionate about cricket and have that love for the game because that’s what my coaches gave to me, and I still have that passion today.”

ACE was initially launched by Surrey in January 2020 in response to alarming research which revealed black players comprised less than one per cent of the recreational game, and uncovered a 75 per cent decline in black British professional players.

Now an independent charity, ACE has expanded to Birmingham and Bristol with the help of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and, in the case of the latter, Royal London.

It has so far welcomed over 6,000 young cricketers across its programmes and put over 200 players forward for trials, resulting in 109 scholarships to its ACE National Academy for elite talent.

ACE Open Day at the Oval
The Sheffield launch is part of even wider expansion plans to include Nottingham and Manchester (Yorkshire Cricket Foundation)

ECB funding will also facilitate further expansion plans in Nottingham and Manchester, with more than 10,000 young cricketers expected to pass through ACE’s talent ID programme each year in the new areas.

Interim ECB CEO Clare Connor said: “The work that ACE have done to date is truly inspiring and we are thrilled to be supporting their continued expansion.

“This new funding is ensuring more young people from black communities in Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester have the opportunity to play and hopefully thrive in our game. Work like this is vital in ensuring we make cricket a game for everyone.”