Cricket coach aims to break barriers

THE Suffolk Cricket Board have launched a Robin Hood style 'take from the rich, give to the poor' scheme in order to tackle the middle class image attached to the game.

Stuart Watson

THE Suffolk Cricket Board have launched a Robin Hood style 'take from the rich, give to the poor' scheme in order to tackle the middle class image attached to the game.

At present there are around 160 children playing cricket for the county, the vast majority of which - around 65% - come from the private school system.

Martin Taylor, Suffolk's Cricket Development Manager, feels that is unreflective of the young talent that is out there and is certain that financial barriers may be preventing some bright prospects breaking through.

As a result a system has been set-up whereby a small price mark up has been applied to the official Suffolk kit which is purchased by each child who has been selected to play for the county at the start of each season.

The extra money raised will then be put into a central pot - the Suffolk Young Cricketers Foundation - and redistributed to provide scholarships to talented young players who would otherwise have been unable to fund their way through a season of county cricket.

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In addition, the Foundation's coffers have been significantly boosted by the generosity of local businesses.

“It's all about equality of opportunity,” said Taylor. “We want our county sides to be representative of ability rather than the ability to pay. We have been completely transparent about the price mark up and people are supporting what we are doing.

“This is about starting to challenge and change some of the negative PR that surrounds our game. A lot of people, rightly or wrongly, still perceive cricket as a white, middles class sport. I'm not saying I agree, but I understand why people would think that.

“If you look at what makes a quality sportsman or woman it's often desire. Does that automatically come from being in an underprivileged background? Not necessarily - but I think those people who come from such backgrounds do inevitably have to show a bit more fight.

“I would say that around 35% of Suffolk's junior county squads are from state schools at the moment and I don't think that is necessarily reflective of the talent that is out there at the moment.”

At present the Suffolk Young Cricketers Foundation has �1000 in the pot - a quarter of which has come from Bury St Edmunds-based business Towergate Risk Solutions - and is aiming to raise �3,000 in its first year.

The Suffolk Cricket Board estimates that a full season's scholarship - which will cover the costs of travel, equipment and training - will cost �500, however, specific packages will be tailored to the needs of each individual.

Taylor said: “What happens is that people either just don't turn up to trials, or those that do get into the squads just don't start turning up to training sessions and matches.

“It's impossible to say how much of this is down to the inability to pay because there is stigma attached to that and it's not the sort of thing people will speak up about.

“But if financial constraints have prevented just one talented athlete from playing the county game then it is a problem.

“If we are able to help half a dozen people this year it would be brilliant. In five years time I would like that to be 20 people.”

The latest Suffolk squads were selected, following winter assessments, on December 8. Upon notification of their inclusion, youngsters were informed about the Foundation and were given a deadline of January 1 to apply for a scholarship.

The management committee of the Suffolk Cricket Board are now in the process of deciding which applicants will receive financial help and will inform recipients by January 15.

There is no means testing of applicants, however, those have applied have been asked to define their circumstances.

All donations to the Suffolk Young Cricketers Foundation are channelled through charitable organisation the Suffolk SportsAid Foundation and therefore are tax exempt.

Those that wish to donate to the Foundation can contact Martin Taylor on: 07827 254933, or e-mail him at: