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Community Sport: Warwickshire CCC giving bat to the community

Warwickshire County Cricket club is handing out 1,000 cricket bats to local youngsters to stimulate interest in the sport, but its community programme goes a lot further than just equipment

by Matthew Campelli | Published in Sports Management 11 Jul 2016 issue 124
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The cricket club has been targeting children from deprived backgrounds to get them physically active
The cricket club has been targeting children from deprived backgrounds to get them physically active

If you’re visiting Birmingham – or a resident of the second city – it may not be an uncommon sight to see crowds of children playing cricket in the street or the local park with bright yellow bats this summer.

Around 500 have already been handed out to local youngsters by Warwickshire County Cricket Club (CCC) as part of a drive to increase participation in the sport in the local area, as well as boosting awareness of the County Championship club and its Twenty20 offshoot, the Birmingham Bears.

Community benefits
Warwickshire CCC chief executive Neil Snowball tells Sports Management that the idea to create and provide the cricket bats came from Birmingham City Council, as the local authority is framing sport as a key pillar of the city’s health and wellbeing.

Partnering with the council and its commercial partner Selco Builders Warehouse, the cricket club manufactured and delivered the bats – which come complete with Birmingham Bear’s logo – to local schools, youth clubs and through community initiatives.

Another 500 bats are expected to be distributed in the coming weeks, but the equipment giveaway is only one part of the club’s initiative designed to reach out to young people in the city, particularly in deprived areas such as Ladywood and Sparkhill.

“Back in 2015 we introduced a scheme in which we allowed under-16s to attend Twenty20 matches at Edgbaston for free if they were accompanied by an adult. Under 16s is our target market, and in the first year we saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of young people coming to our ground, with another 50 per cent increase this year,” said Snowball.

However, to create sustained engagement, Warwickshire CCC has developed an extensive community programme, targeting specific areas in the city with the goal of getting people more active. Snowball said that while youngsters were coming to Edgbaston to use the facilities and take coaching sessions, it was imperative that the club “went out to see them in their communities, parks and streets”. As a result, coaches have gone into the various communities within the city to hand out the bats and offer coaching sessions.

“Right on our doorstep there are areas of high social deprivation,” Snowball says. “One of the things we’ve found about the communities is that getting kids from where they live in Edgbaston to our nets or outdoor facilities is a struggle. That’s why we took the programmes to them – we’re very much targeting some of those areas.”

Special groups
The chief executive reveals that the club has specifically targeted relationships within the large South Asian and Caribbean communities in Birmingham which make up a large proportion of the city’s population.

Indeed, Warwickshire CCC – alongside the Warwickshire Cricket Board – has fully-funded the education of 30 newly-qualified coaches to work within the South Asian community, offering not only cricket coaching, but guidance and pastoral care.

“We have a street cricket project which specifically targets the South Asian community,” explains Snowball. “It is similar to the traditional form of cricket which is played in Pakistan – played on hard courts all year round in inner city communities where there is a lack of green space.

“We need to understand the communities and what’s going to work for these young people. Within Warwickshire CCC and the Warwickshire Cricket Board we have quite a diverse bunch of coaches. We want the additional 30 coaches to work with kids and for the kids to connect with them.”

Special groups
More than 300 children are already involved in the street cricket programme and Snowball reveals that the scheme will expand into neighbouring Coventry. A project in the deprived Sparkhill region of Birmingham was named Project of the Year by cricket charity Chance to Shine, while an initiative to engage the black community in the Caribbean-influenced Handsworth area is underway.

Warwickshire CCC’s relationship with the council is crucial in communicating the schemes to the wider public, says Snowball, who once again highlights the local authority’s ambition to use sport to counter inactivity and social issues.

Both the cricket club and council have put some “hard cash” into the programmes, with more coming down the track. Coaches are also being deployed to participate in a family cricket programme which aims to get parents involved as well, while work with schoolchildren – particularly the under-9s demographic – is also ramping up.

“We have a very good relationship with the council, right up to senior level with council leader John Clancy and CEO Mark Rogers,” Snowball adds. “They couldn’t be more supportive – they have invested in changing shelters for parks in which many people from the South Asian community play cricket.

“It’s the health and wellbeing department which is particularly driving participation and we work collaboratively with all the councillors. We want to cover all of the bases together, and to make sure people are aware of it.”

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