By Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, interim Chair, The Yorkshire County Cricket Club
This week sees support and celebration for National Inclusion Week 2023, with the theme for this year: ‘Take Action Make Impact’.
As one of the largest county clubs in the country, we recognise the creation of an inclusive environment for all can only be achieved through collaboration at all levels of the game. The progress we have made over the past two years and the critical steps we have taken as a Club – across the Yorkshire Family – including YCCC, Northern Diamonds, the Yorkshire Cricket Board (YCB) and the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) – have already begun to help us build a more inclusive environment and better foundation for everyone associated with Yorkshire Cricket.
There is still much to do, but as a club we are committed to ensuring that Yorkshire keeps playing its part in ensuring that cricket becomes the most inclusive game in sport. We would like Yorkshire Cricket to be a home for everyone.
The YCCC Pathways performance programme has been a key factor in increasing inclusion and access to cricket for young people across the county. In 2022 we introduced measures to increase accessibility to the sport for those from low-income households including removal of match fees and the provision of free kit. This has contributed to a 45% increase in attendees for regional observations for boys since 2021, and a 63% rise for girls, with more than 1,800 budding cricketers attending observation days so far in 2023. Within the YCCC Boys County Age Group, 30% are from a diverse background and 71% are from a state school background. For our Girls County Age Group 12% are from a diverse background and 82% are from state schools. We are holding further open trials in the coming months which we hope will further broaden representation in these groups. We will also continue to celebrate our youngsters as we did recently in a special tournament showcasing the Pathway players on the hallowed turf at Headingley, following on from an honorary pitch walk earlier in the season.
At grassroots level we are seeing a record number of women and girls playing cricket and we strive to continue increasing this number over the next 12 months and beyond. The YCB has been central to this progress, working with local clubs to ensure facilities, matches and training are tailored to the needs of young girls and women coming through the doors. Whilst many have been inspired by our Northern Diamond professional side and the England Women’s team, the All Stars and Dynamos programmes have also played a key role in getting young girls interested in cricket with 2,139 girls taking part in the ECB’s two national programmes this year, and within the women and girls space, this year YCB have trained 180 female coaches/activators. It’s also very important to have visibility of women working in a number of different roles across the orgainsation. This includes Jasmine Nicholls – who joined the groundstaff team at Headingley this year and featured as part of an all-women team that prepared the pitch for the first Vitality Women’s Ashes T20 at Edgbaston this Summer. We see this as just the beginning and are committed to using this enthusiasm to grow and improve the opportunities for women in cricket.
At Yorkshire, we believe that sport is a unifying force for good – something that brings people together, creating and reinforcing a sense of community among people from a diverse range of backgrounds and abilities. We have seen this first-hand through the creation of the Club’s LGBT+ supporters group Yorkshire and Proud this Summer and supporting Leeds Kites CC – only the third LGBT+ inclusive cricket club in the world.
From seeing the success of our disability side who won the D40 National Quest League title, and taking inspiration from the England women’s visually impaired team, led by our President Dr Jane Powell in her Performance Manager for Disability cricket role with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), to supporting more than 60 schools across the county through the YCB’s SEND School’s Programme – with a focus on table cricket and the softball game – we’ve learnt incredible achievements happen when we make cricket as inclusive and equitable as possible.
Meanwhile the YCF has partnered with a range of organisations to increase inclusivity and social responsibility in the region including the Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club; the ACE Programme; Zero Waste Leeds; the Cric-Kit recycling initiative, the University of the third age (U3A); Walking Cricket programme and the Refugee Council, alongside a number of local organisations, to support people seeking asylum.
From our diverse communities work including delivering The Hundred, Tapeball and Indoor Cricket Leagues through our Foundation and YCB to our work with the Yorkshire and Humber Anti-Racism in Sport Group, our pledge with the Muslim Athlete Charter , working towards accreditation with the National Centre for Diversity and representation on the Women and Race in Cricket Employee Networks with the ECB, we’ve learnt that the only way to achieve inclusiveness and success is by working together, from the grassroots level to the elite, in partnership with organisations outside of the sport.
Positive changes at the club, such as improvements to the matchday experience for fans, a more inclusive events calendar, greater accessibility for young cricketers, and stronger safeguarding measures for anyone interacting with the club, are important. These changes benefit not just one group, but everyone, including people from ethnic minority backgrounds, women and girls, people with disabilities, and less well-off families.
At Yorkshire County Cricket Club we are optimistic that we can continue on our journey to bring about real and lasting change, and whilst there is still far to go, some critical steps have been taken to build a more inclusive environment and better foundation for everyone.