Northamptonshire seeing real progress after two years of EDI Plan

By Jeremy Blackmore, ECB Reporters Network

Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is marking the second full year of its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Plan (EDI) which aims to promote inclusion and diversity at all levels of the game.

During that time the club has engaged widely with many communities across the county, exploring how it can best make cricket available to all. It has run numerous participation and coaching programmes and created the Luton Steelbacks Academy, an innovative sixth form partnership. It is also committed to continually learning and exploring areas where more work needs to be done.

The club recruited Shivani Kaushike as board member with specific responsibility for EDI, Risk and Governance in November 2021, who began by conducting a review of Northamptonshire’s existing policies and work already underway. Kaushike then drafted the EDI Plan and established a confidential reporting procedure. Further work was done in January 2022 to ensure the plan tied into the ECB’s new 12-point action plan to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination.

Luton Steelbacks Academy

Northamptonshire’s plan provides a framework for the delivery of activity relating to equality, diversity and inclusion and cements its place in the club’s decision-making process. EDI now has a regular place on the agenda at each board meeting. Further, at the start of the 2023 season, the club recruited Mark Bolar as part of its executive team to lead on delivery of the EDI plan and coordinate the activities needed to deliver it.

The club revisited its plan in light of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) report in July 2023, taking on board each of its recommendations. While not beginning with a blank page, having started to address some issues already, the club is clear there is still much work to be done and it is keen to learn from the lived experience outlined in the ICEC report.

“We went through every recommendation and applied the ICEC lens to our EDI Plan,” Kaushike said.

“We’ve identified anything we'd missed, or were not doing, or that we could improve based on those recommendations and incorporated that into our plan.

“Our plan is evolving as we meet more members of diverse communities, consider internal and external practices, analyse key data and commit to progressing the EDI agenda across the club, from the board, to staff, to players. The measures we have taken and the actions we have put in place are a reflection of the conversations we have had, and we are committed to ensuring our plans reflect ECB priorities and are sustainable.”

The club now has a diverse communities group, aimed at ensuring minority communities have a voice in how both the recreational game and the professional club develops into the future. This is already garnering a lot of useful insight, such as the most appropriate days to run coaching sessions to meet the needs of different religious groups.

It has also held open consultation forums in Wellingborough and Northampton to engage with minority communities in those towns and to better understand the challenges they face.

Bolar has joined the Northamptonshire Black Communities Together forum, to listen and share ideas with communities on how to remove barriers to both participation and support cricket within the county.

Pic credit: Andrew Kearns

One key focus for Bolar has been to explain that the club is listening and understands the issues arising from the ICEC report, while setting out the measures it is already taking and exploring what more can be done in future.

Chief Executive Ray Payne said the feedback has been positive overall.

“There's always a kind of maybe we've heard this before. But what we're trying to do is to demonstrate our commitment through our actions, such as staging matches, running coaching sessions and ensuring costs are not a prohibitive factor why children can't get involved,” he said.

“So, the feedback we're getting is we're backing our words up with action. I'm really pleased with the progress we’ve made, and I can only see that getting broader and having a wider reach as we carry on with the programme.”

The club will hold an annual review each February to assess the effectiveness and relevance of its plan and review the actions it has undertaken in the past year.

Other initiatives and actions the club has carried out to deliver its EDI plan are:

  • Appointed Disability & Women’s & Girls Officers – with a record number of women and girls playing cricket in Northamptonshire in 2023 and a huge growth in participation over the last five years.
  • In addition to continuing its commitment to supporting the Lord’s Taverners Table Cricket competitions, Northamptonshire has launched a Super 1’s programme aimed at youngsters with disabilities.
  • Run an All Stars programme based at the Hindu centre in Wellingborough, aimed specifically to alleviate difficulties experienced by Wellingborough Indians CC in engaging young players.
  • Ran All Stars and Dynamos programmes in conjunction with the Northampton Bangladeshi Association in 2022, offering free participation and equipment. The club are actively recruiting a coach to ensure the activity goes ahead in 2024.
  • Run free summer camps in Corby, providing free lunches aimed at those entitled to free school meals.
  • Reviewed recruitment practices to ensure that recruitment is continuously objectively monitored, and that all interview panels are constituted from diverse backgrounds.
  • Provided EDI & customer service training for stewards and match day staff.
  • Hosted an ECB African Caribbean Cricket festival in August 2023 and staged Steelbacks T20 exhibition matches against Grenada in 2022 and 2023. Northamptonshire and England star David Willey captained the Steelbacks XI in the 2023 fixture.
  • Run softball recreational sessions for the Afghan community in the Indoor School at the County Ground.
  • Hosted the international T20 match between England Women and India Women in 2021 which attracted a large South Asian audience to the County Ground. Northamptonshire also hosted the one-day international between England Women and Sri Lanka Women in 2023 and are keen to hold further international fixtures to drive interest from diverse communities.