ECB introduces Rooney Rule as part of drive to increase Asian involvement

• At least one BAME candidate to be interviewed for coaching roles
• ECB launches action plan to improve minority representation

The England and Wales Cricket Board has introduced the Rooney Rule for all national coaching positions to guarantee that at least one black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) candidate is interviewed during the recruitment stage.

The policy, which begins immediately and will be rolled out to county cricket in due course, is part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new wide-ranging action plan for engaging south Asian communities that is published on Thursday. With this paper comes an admission from the governing body’s chief executive, Tom Harrison, that the sport has previously fallen short.

“Cricket is a force for good in society and our job is to ensure that it makes a positive impact on as many people’s lives as possible,” said Harrison. “While we’ve long acknowledged the passion for the game in south Asian communities and had the best intentions, we have never fully understood how to engage with them. This report gives us a road map to change that.”

Statistics show that the south Asian population in the UK is grossly underrepresented within established English cricket. It makes up a third of recreational players across the country and yet this figure drops to 4% within the first-class professional system, with only 5% of the county coaching workforce being of south Asian heritage. Within the 11-point strategy – one that aims to build at least 20 urban cricket centres, install 1,000 artificial pitches in urban areas, beef up scouting networks in the Asian park leagues and the ECB’s T20 City Cup, and offer bursaries and mentoring to promising young British Asian players – comes the so-called Rooney Rule.

The rule was named after the former Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who was behind the introduction of a similar policy for the NFL in 2003. It will ensure at least one BAME candidate who meets the application criteria for any ECB coaching job will be interviewed and follows a similar move by the Football Association in January. In addition, 10 south Asian coaches will be given mentoring and work placements in the next two years.

The board’s action plan has been driven by Lord Patel of Bradford, an ECB director, and involves partnerships with the British Asian Trust, the National Asian Cricket Council, Chance to Shine and sponsors NatWest. In partnership with University College London, the ECB has produced a heat map of south Asians playing cricket in the UK – – and there have been consultations with more than 600 members of the community via forums last year to establish what barriers to entry exist.

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The chief finding was that facilities play a major part and to that end the first two years of the plan will target 10 “core cities” – Birmingham, Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds, Leicester, London, Luton, Manchester, Sandwell and Slough – that house 61% of the 3.2m of the UK’s Asian population, before going nationwide.

Moeen Ali, who in 2016 was part of an England Test team that for the first time included four British Asians, along with Haseeb Hameed, Zafar Ansari and Adil Rashid, said: “Growing up in inner‑city Birmingham, I fully understand some of the challenges and barriers for young south Asian cricketers. Many parents are still struggling to afford kit for their kids and the new bursaries will give emerging players the opportunity to continue to improve and develop in the game.”

Another target in the “core cities” will be to establish female-only cricket sessions for the south Asian community, with 200 female coaches deployed, after the ECB’s research showed a lack of such opportunities to be another concern. Soft-ball women’s leagues will also be established in these areas.

The ECB is also seeking to address why the recreational numbers are not reflected in first-class professional squads. The governing body will increase mentoring, offer assistance with education outside of cricket and deliver a programme of unconscious bias training for academy directors to tackle drop-offs from the youth intake.

Beyond playing and coaching, the ECB’s research has also shown that audiences for cricket in the UK are similarly unrepresentative. Only 3% of ticket sales for domestic matches come from the south Asian community, compared to a figure of 40% during last summer’s Champions Trophy when India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh took part.

The match experience is to be tailored in a way that opens up the sport to all, with halal and vegetarian food options, flexible family ticket offers and multi-faith prayer facilities at all major venues. Both the 2019 World Cup and the ECB’s new 100-ball tournament, which starts in 2020, will also be heavily marketed towards the south Asian community.

Lord Patel said: “As a British Asian who grew up playing cricket in the streets and on the pitches of Bradford in the 1960s, I have first-hand experience of the enormous benefits of our sport. Cricket gave me the confidence, connections and opportunities to meet new people outside my community, as well as develop life-long friendships.

“The passion south Asian communities in the UK have for cricket remains high but, over 50 years later, there is still so much untapped potential. This plan will help to change that – starting today.”


Ali Martin

The GuardianTramp

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