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Chairman praises England Women and highlights inner city investment

ECB Chairman Giles Clarke's speech to the AGM today can be read in full below, which includes praise for the Ashes-winning England Women's team and outline plans for investment in cricket in inner city areas

Good afternoon everybody.  I would like, on behalf of cricket in England and Wales, to thank you all for the vital leadership you provide our great game across our nation.  Many of you give your time unpaid, selflessly focused upon providing a better future for our county clubs, embedding them in our society as vibrant and vital key elements of what makes us English and Welsh. Reward I am afraid is only from your peers admiration and respect. Occasionally cricket administrators get proper recognition from the media, but all too often the weak journalist, unaware of facts or reasons, criticises because it is all too easy to be rude about any authority of any sort in our media. But we should not be surprised by this. After all, nobody ever bought a newspaper or a magazine or logged onto the internet to read a good news story about a sports governing body.

So, for the record, speaking to a room full of immensely successful businessmen and women - for how else could you afford to be here? - I can assure you that cricket across England and Wales is superbly administered, the envy of other sports here and other cricket boards elsewhere.

Never before have we had such improving financial strength. A few statistics for you. The ECB will this year convert £18m of loans to FCCCs into capital grants, and follow that up with a further £18m of grants at the end of the 2018 season, and then £18m at the end of the 2019 season. £54m for capital investment! Never seen before.

Totally separate to all the annual grants and performance related fees paid, which will themselves account for a further £300 million to the first class game over the period. These numbers also exclude all county income from gate receipts, hospitality, sponsorship and the like, benefiting from the significant investment in facilities which have and will bring excellent returns. Tremendous hospitality suites like The Point at Emirates Old Trafford, the Jaguar Suite at Edgbaston, the OCS stand at the Kia Oval, indeed hotels in Worcester, The Ageas Bowl, and Taunton, apartments in Bristol and Leicester, the list is endless of economic opportunity.

And we will invest £69m between 2013-17 in the recreational game through our County Boards, which will be supported by a further £20m from Sport England, obtained by the close relationship ECB enjoys with our political parties and with the DCMS and Sport England, and a further £7.5m going into Chance to Shine. A total of £96 million over those years.

Chance to Shine now works with 4,500 schools, with 46% of participants are girls – indeed tomorrow at the House of Lords there is an event to celebrate the 1millionth girl being coached by Chance to Shine. This is welded into the Focus Club network, with 2,200 clubs taking part in NatWest CricketForce weekend, over 100,000 volunteers helping spruce up local cricket clubs, the largest single annual sporting volunteering in the Country!

In total, over the last 4 years the ECB has delivered £49.8m of capital funding from 3rd parties and provided £16m in grants to support a complete programme of £66.3m.

We have talked of Inner cities and the importance of encouraging and recruiting young players from these areas. I want to single out three projects in Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester which are particularly important and all receiving significant six figure sums of investment. In Leicester at the Crown Hills Community College, where the College will adopt cricket as its speciality sport, and a dedicated city wide cricket development officer has been appointed - in an area where over 40% of the population are from an ethnic minority background.

In Birmingham, we are investing in improving pitches and facilities at Perry Hall Playing Fields, a large local authority owned park that has 13 cricket squares used by over 1,500 players. Alexandra Park in Manchester will see ECB investment to enable it to become a host site for Last Man Stands, our 8-a-side urban competition, provide a cricket facility for Manchester Metropolitan University, and help fund a new pavilion and cricket ground.

ECB expects to carry out many more projects of this type. We need to recruit England players from all our communities. I have to admit that so far my own project to find a fast bowler from the Somali community in Bristol has not yet unearthed a new Ian Botham, but it is early days for David Graveney and myself!

Our new England Team sponsors Waitrose have got off to a racing start. They are funding Open Days at around 1,000 cricket clubs on international weekends, and have linked up with you all at the counties to create strong and powerful links with their customers and the county clubs. I believe this is the most fabulous opportunity for the game, with all Waitrose’s huge FMCG suppliers, and their highly professional approach. We must get firmly behind all the initiatives this summer.

The NatWest T20 Blast has launched with excellent crowds, decent weather at last, significant digital interest - 1.1 million ECB  Facebook followers and 305,000 on Twitter. The co-funding of BBC local Radio coverage of every county game last summer, with over 700,000 listeners and online responses from more than 43 countries, has already taken off even faster this year, and with Roy Kerslake’s expert commentary from Taunton, no surprise!

Royal London also opened their sponsorship with England’s first – and certainly not the last - victory of the season against Scotland in Aberdeen – broadcast by our loyal partners Sky Sports and BBC Radio. Royal London will support all 50-over matches this summer.

You will be interested to know that last year ECB carried out the largest ever survey of people playing cricket. Over 908,000 aged over 14 played team cricket, with a further 792,000 playing informally in the garden or on the beach.  Of these 1.7 million people, 30% were from ethnic minority backgrounds. That is our key target market in this summer of Sri Lanka and India. Following the great success of the Ashes Schools Challenge last year, which reached more than 750,000 children at over 2,500 schools, we will be running a similar programme this summer.

Two great stalwarts of Team England retired after the 2013 Ashes retention. Hugh Morris has played a vital role in the creation of the National Cricket Centre in Loughborough, the most important physical asset of the ECB, moved to a key role at Lord's, then became the first Managing Director - Team England.  His triumphs include leading the return to India after the Mumbai terrorist attack, at a moment when the future of world cricket unquestionably hung in the balance (the Sri Lanka team were attacked with machine guns three months later in Lahore and no team has been back), the difficult but decisive management decisions in early 2009, and the Ashes victories for men and women, retentions, ICC T20 World Cup, a Global Event at last, Women's World Cup, the list is fabulous.

Dusty Miller selected the men's teams for all these great victories, in his opinion Swann being his finest choice, followed by Trott. Dusty is loved across the sport for his humour, but for me his quiet analytical assessments were a privilege to listen to.

And last summer we retained The Ashes, and for only the third time since the War Australia did not win a Test in the series. A magnificent achievement. How quickly sport can bring you down to earth.

Following an appalling winter for our Men’s team, we have seen the entire management of Team England revamped. Paul Downton has taken over as Managing Director - Team England. We have already seen the impressive way he has gone about his business, with the well-researched  and well received appointment of Peter Moores as Team Director and Paul Farbrace as his Deputy, with James Whitaker’s support as the new National Selector, we have an exciting new off-the-field management to complement Alastair Cook and his team. Men are banging on the door for selection and certainly all county performances really matter this summer, especially in the 50 over competition with our entire winter focused upon the Cricket World Cup.

Our Women have done the Game proud. They conduct themselves perfectly off the pitch as ambassadors for our sport, and have played magnificently on the pitch. It was an immense privilege to present them with the Ashes in Sydney.

Importantly, they now have a group of centrally contracted players, and I am delighted to report are attracting sponsorship in their own right. It was excellent to see Essex successfully sell out a full house at Chelmsford for an Ashes match, rewarded by a superb match-winning innings from Sarah Taylor. Several counties are conducting T20 double headers with women’s matches this summer, and I heartily commend this strategy to you. A huge part of the future of our game is attracting spectators from every part of our society, and I believe cricket’s welcome to all elements is the warmest in the land.

ECB, together with BCCI and CA, have led a revamp of ICC. A members owned body which will now be for the members and for the betterment of cricket world-wide. There has been, as always, much drivel written and stated about these reforms. Let me be blunt. The Future Tours Programme is considerably strengthened. England will play all the teams we always play, home and away. Furthermore, we have undertaken to play the winner of the ICC Challenge in 2019 at Lord’s, and if that is, say, Ireland or Scotland in their inaugural Test match, that will be quite something.

And ECB will be hosting the 2017 Champions Trophy, following the tremendous success of the 2013 tournament, and of course the 2019 World Cup. All great opportunities for our wonderful grounds, with in total 63 additional days of international one day cricket.

Corruption has sadly been a recent topic. The ECB has a zero tolerance policy in this respect and our determined prosecution of Danesh Kaneria, in spite of him remaining in utter denial of his misconduct, is a clear demonstration of our determination to eradicate this. We cannot act as a policeman alone and that is why a complete review of the ACSU, where we have been supported by all our fellow Full Members is imperative. It is extremely concerning that documents have been leaked from the ACSU which makes one wonder what else might have been and it is disappointing that 281 investigations took place in a year without a single prosecution. The ACSU itself is 14 years old and with all the changes in the digital world, it is extremely appropriate to examine the entire structure and efficiency.

David Collier is leading for the Full Members in this review along with our colleagues from CA and the BCCI. It is not easy for the less wealthy nations but we must establish a world-wide structure.

And the Board has seen another stalwart retire, with Bob Jackson stepping down after 17 years, and more than 40 years’ service to recreational cricket and especially Durham. A fine man of immense honesty and integrity, whose advice I have been most grateful for. He has been replaced by Jim Wood, who as a Devonian I am delighted to welcome to the Board.

Thank you all for what you do to drive our great game forward, and I wish the best of luck this summer.  

Giles Clarke

20 May 2014