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Introducing the ECB Annual Report 2021/22

In his foreword to this year’s Annual Report, CEO Tom Harrison looks at the progress being made in delivering the Inspiring Generations strategy to grow cricket.

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Introducing the ECB Annual Report 2021/22

England and Wales Cricket Board, Chief Executive Tom Harrison

When we launched Inspiring Generations two and a half years ago, our ambition was to make cricket a game for everyone. This meant making it more accessible, inclusive and diverse, and giving everyone – regardless of background – the opportunity to create their own lifelong relationship with the game.

The delivery plan for this spans the whole game; from our long-established professional and recreational club network to audiences and communities who are engaging with cricket for the first time. Amongst many other things, it involves installing playing facilities across urban communities, transforming women’s and girls’ cricket through increased investment, nurturing our loyal core of players and followers, and throwing cricket’s doors open to a whole new generation of fans. It is an ambitious plan to make our game mean more to more people, and the whole game is working in partnership to deliver it.

The last 12 months have underlined the importance of what we are trying to achieve, and also demonstrated how much further we need to go to deliver change more quickly. The testimony of Azeem Rafiq and others have shown that many people haven’t felt welcome in our game, and for that we are truly sorry. We must do better, and that is what the game-wide Anti-Discrimination action plan is driving towards.

There is much work still to do, both in delivering the actions we have set out, and in continuing to listen and understand the experiences of people across the game. Meaningful and systemic change takes time, but we are already making progress on that difficult journey. The Annual Report shines a light on some of the work that is already making a difference.

Last year was a record-breaking one for cricket in England and Wales. Alongside the successful launch of The Hundred, where more than half of ticket buyers were new to cricket, the recreational game also went from strength-to-strength. More than 105,000 children took part in All Stars (5 to 8-year-olds) and Dynamos (8 to 11-year-olds) participation programmes, and there were 10,000 more adult fixtures played than in the summer of 2019. It has been inspiring to see people of all ages playing the game, and this progress provides a strong platform to get even more people to pick up a bat and ball.

None of what we do could happen without the work of thousands of volunteers who make our game what it is. More than 1,600 South Asian women have been trained to deliver All Stars and Dynamos Cricket as part of the South Asian Action Plan. 2,750 people from ethnically diverse backgrounds have become accredited cricket coaches through ECB funding, and 100 additional scholarships will provide opportunities for these coaches to progress through the game, and become role models at an elite level. There are also over 100 Disability Champion Clubs across the country who create time and space for members of their community with different needs to enjoy the game.

This year’s financial statements show the impact and financial challenges of Covid were less than severe than in 2020, enabling us to continue to invest in important areas across the game. £16.6m was distributed in revenue grants across the recreational cricket network last year, and more than £10m was invested into capital projects across the professional and recreational clubs. The ACE programme – an independent charity designed to engage a new generation of players from Black communities – will also continue to grow courtesy of ECB’s investment.

Women’s cricket is continuing its very exciting growth journey. 2021 saw record attendances courtesy of The Hundred, and more than 700 events took place during Women’s Big Cricket Month in June. The Women’s team did the nation proud with their performance in the recent ICC Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, coming up just short in their bid for back-to-back World Cups against an outstanding Australia side.

Our elite players have a crucial role to play in inspiring the next generation, and I’d like to give my immense thanks to Joe Root, who has been an outstanding leader of our men’s Test team. Also to Anya Shrubsole, who has been such a key part of our women’s team for many years before announcing her retirement this year.

This is an important and exciting time for cricket. There are huge challenges, but great opportunities too. This summer our women will compete in the Commonwealth Games, our men’s team will host three outstanding international teams in New Zealand, India and South Africa, and some of our disability teams will compete against our great rivals Australia.  Cricket must also continue to deliver Inspiring Generations and all that it stands for, showing the game at its best, bringing communities together, and creating positive change as a more welcoming and inclusive sport.

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