By ECB Reporters Network
‘Respect – Team – Hwyl’
For anyone visiting Sophia Gardens those three words are visible on signage around the Cardiff venue to remind of Glamorgan County Cricket Club's core values.
The latter word, ‘hwyl’ is a Welsh word that loosely means “passion, spirit and a sense of achievement”.
Following a record-breaking week, in which the Glamorgan amassed their club-record 795 for five in an innings victory over Leicestershire, and saw Sam Northeast hit an unbeaten 410 – the third-highest score by a batter in the history of the LV= Insurance County Championship – it is a fitting phrase.
Indeed, victory in Leicestershire moved Glamorgan into the promotion places and dreaming of a first return to the top-flight since 2005.
Those three words, however, reflect a wider and changing dynamic at a club which is ambitiously planning to deliver long-term success not just on the field, but also off it also as Glamorgan bids to grow the game across Wales.
Mark Frost, the community and development manager for both Glamorgan Cricket and Cricket Wales, is at the epicentre of an action plan that aims to “transform Cricket in Wales into a place where everyone feels they are respected, belong and are treated fairly”.
That plan, backed from the top, has seen the professional and recreational game join together since the autumn of 2021, and already deliver a comprehensive range of initiatives that is making the club a blueprint for other counties, and sporting organisations, to follow.
“A lot of things look different at Glamorgan these days and there is a drive to attract more people from deprived and multi-cultural backgrounds to get involved with the game and the club,” said Frost.
“We’ve talked it out from board room level, through the staff and front of house staff such as our stewards, scoped it out in our EDI Plan and now we’re in the exciting phase of delivery. The feedback has been extremely positive, the numbers have been amazing and we’ve made a great start.
“Perceptions are definitely changing, the base of our community pyramid is broadening and there is a widespread commitment from everyone involved in the game to improve our offering across the board.
“It’s not that we haven’t been doing a lot of the things in our EDI Plan before, it is just we are more joined up, better resourced and even more motivated now.
"We want cricket to grow in Wales and for the impact of the game to touch even more lives and communities.”
Frost’s passion for a role he has thrived in for a number of years is evident from the moment you meet him. And his desire to deliver Glamorgan’s EDI Plan alongside a team including Rezwan Hassan (EDI chairman on the Glamorgan board), Sue Phelps (Cricket Parsons EDI Chair), Mojeid Ilyas (Glamorgan’s Diversity Champion), Ali Bukhari (Glamorgan talent scout in Cardiff), Mohsin Arif (Wales pathway coach) and Imran Hassan (cricket mentor in Newport), has seen them make a major impact in key areas to help drive up participation and engagement, and breakdown social barriers.
Incorporated into their work has been the England & Wales Cricket Board’s 12-pont action plan to tackle racism and promote inclusion and diversity at all levels of the game. There is a feeling that the right aims and the best objectives are now all part of a joined-up vision.
It has led to many and varied initiatives across the Welsh cricket network.
‘Street Cricket’ was launched in Cardiff and Newport in June and aims to inspiring regular participation in 16-24-year-olds in disadvantaged communities while a weekly Inter-Faith Indoor Cricket League for Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims has been established at Sophia Gardens.
The home of Welsh cricket now also has a designated non-alcohol area of 880 seats available – in addition to family areas – while a prayer room is available to players for specific high-profile matches.
Glamorgan are taking the game to more children too with 3,581 pupils and 761 staff from 111 schools and colleges across Wales attending the Vitality Blast games against Gloucestershire and Middlesex in June as guests.
Ilyas has also helped drive new initiatives with a midnight Ramadan tapeball competition as well as a ladies’ Iftar meal during the holy month. Outdoor nets are being offered to clubs who have no facilities of their own.
The refugee community has also been supported, especially Afghans and latterly Ukrainian people, by offering them use of the centre and free tickets for their first taste of professional cricket.
All of the club stewards, totalling more than 350 people, have been briefed on the EDI Plan while food sold at high-profile matches reflects the multi-ethnic supporter base.
No stone is being left unturned with Glamorgan also engaged with the ‘Investors in Diversity’ programme and joined Cricket Wales in initiating an EDI sub-committee.
“The goal is to drive positive change across Wales. We are creating new competitions, more diverse teams and ensuring there is a clearly defined and fair pathway for players who want to progress in the game,” said Frost.
“We are doing our best to open up Sophia Gardens to those people who still believe it is an elite environment, rather than a welcoming venue that can feel like a home from home from people from every and any background.
“We entertain thousands of children throughout the year on our school day trips and try to introduce them to cricket, Cardiff and the wonders of sport.
“We are trying to ensure there are no barriers for anyone who wants to start their journey in cricket. Then there should be no boundaries to what they can go on to achieve in the game.”
They are initiatives that will help the club, and Cricket Wales, build on the solid growth they have already helped to establish in recent years.
Since 2013, All Stars and Dynamos Cricket has helped to drive a 63% increase in junior participation across the country, with girls’ participation up 249% in that time.
Women’s participation has increased by 133% since 2018 with females making up 15% of committees at Welsh clubs.
Ethnic minority participation in cricket in Wales (10.17%) is now almost twice the national representative average population with that stat mirrored in the Welsh talent pathway (9.54%) for juniors in Wales from diverse communities.