BAME coach­ing drive is key to bring change

Sto­ries such as Rafiq’s will keep on sur­fac­ing if the game fails to im­prove its di­ver­sity in lead­er­ship roles

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - Nick Hoult Chief Cricket Correspond­ent

Azeem Rafiq could have been talk­ing about any num­ber of coun­ties when he said the fol­low­ing in his in­ter­view with ESPN Cricinfo: “Look at a squad pho­to­graph. Look at the coaches. How many non-white faces do you see?”

Only seven out of 118 coaches in the pro­fes­sional game come from a BAME back­ground and un­til that changes there will be more sto­ries like Rafiq’s to emerge over the next few years.

Too many black crick­eters in par­tic­u­lar have told this news­pa­per they felt their ca­reers were blocked be­cause of a lack of un­der­stand­ing about the chal­lenges their com­mu­nity faced from age-group coaches who were in­vari­ably white and mid­dle class.

“They never un­der­stand our cul­ture. We were al­ways on the out­side so we have to work so hard to get an op­por­tu­nity, which meant

I was not risk­ing it by drink­ing or par­ty­ing. I think that went against me… be­cause I was not seen as part of the team I was get­ting pe­nalised,” said Dave Bur­ton, who tried his luck at seven coun­ties be­fore drift­ing out of the game.

Fig­ures compiled by Leeds Beck­ett Univer­sity re­vealed the lack of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Bri­tish Asians in pro­fes­sional cricket, where only 5.8 per cent of male play­ers were Bri­tish Asian, only seven out of 106 fe­male play­ers and just 4.2 per cent of man­agers or coaches in the county game are from a mi­nor­ity back­ground.

Un­til crick­eters from mi­nor­ity back­grounds feel they can com­mu­ni­cate with man­agers and coaches who share sim­i­lar life ex­pe­ri­ences, mis­un­der­stand­ings and sus­pi­cion will keep grow­ing.

The Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board has set up a bur­sary to help with costs and John Neal, head of the ECB’s coach de­vel­op­ment team, has ended the process of only county boards putting for­ward can­di­dates for high-level coach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions, pre­vent­ing a closed-shop en­vi­ron­ment. More Asian can­di­dates than ever be­fore are go­ing into level-three coach­ing cour­ses but there is a long way to go in the pro­fes­sional game. “We are on the right track on this,” said Gul­fraz Riaz, head of the Asian Cricket Coun­cil.

The com­ments from Rafiq are es­pe­cially dam­ag­ing, given his sis­ter Amna works for the club as a com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment man­ager, and worked at Le­ices­ter­shire for four years to boost par­tic­i­pa­tion among Asian fe­males. She started a Bolly Cric-Hit pro­gramme of fit­ness moves to Bol­ly­wood music fol­lowed by 45 min­utes of soft­ball cricket. She had to per­suade her fam­ily to al­low her to fol­low Azeem in play­ing for Barns­ley Cricket Club as a girl, and her po­ten­tial as a role model led to York­shire of­fer­ing her a job this year.

She re­acted to her brother’s com­ments by tweet­ing a bro­ken heart and say­ing: “A great op­por­tu­nity to drive change! Re­gard­less of how un­com­fort­able/ ugly these con­vos may be! It is cru­cial now more than ever to have these open/hon­est con­ver­sa­tions to raise aware­ness, ed­u­cate and ul­ti­mately END a re­peat of this.” That feels a long way off right now.

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