Cricket's African Caribbean Engagement Programme (ACE), established by Ebony Rainford-Brent and having already achieved success in London, Birmingham and Bristol, is set to rollout across Middlesex.
The initiative, designed to give young black cricketers the opportunity to play and develop their cricket, will be launched in Middlesex this year after a funding model was agreed between ACE, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Middlesex Cricket.
Over 2,500 young local cricketers are expected to pass through ACE's Talent ID programme each year with over 10,000 north London school children due to participate in ACE school schemes annually, with sessions due to launch in both primary and secondary schools across the county.
Former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent, now a commentator on Sky Sports and the BBC, is Chair of the ACE Programme which was originally setup by Surrey CCC in 2019 before becoming an independent charity in late 2020 after receiving £540,000 in funding from Sport England. ACE then formed a partnership with Royal London, allowing it to launch in Bristol.
That financial support has allowed ACE to so far engage over 6,000 young cricketers in London, Bristol and Birmingham, as well as handing out over 200 trials, which have led to a total of 109 scholarships awarded to talented young players in the ACE National Academy.
"Although ACE was born in south London it was always envisaged as something that delivered across the capital. We've already seen the impact ACE has created across the country, to be able to start work in north London, which has giant potential, is incredibly exciting", said Rainford-Brent.
"ACE is focused on connecting the dots to help under-represented groups from the grassroots to the elite. We know this programme will help open up new pathways to do exactly that and are excited to partner with the team at Middlesex to have an impact.
"We're really grateful to the ECB for this meaningful support, allowing us to build on our initial backing from Sport England and start taking ACE to the next level – a truly national organisation."
The ACE initiative incorporates talent spotting within schools, followed by trials and the awarding of scholarships to support endeavours to breakthrough into the professional game.
On launching ACE this year, Middlesex's Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cornish, said:
"We are incredibly excited to be launching ACE in Middlesex and see this as a really important step in helping us to open up new pathways for talented young cricketers to succeed in the game from grassroots level through to the professional ranks.
"We have already seen how successful the programme has been in the areas it has launched, and the impact it has had has already made a huge difference to so many people.
"We all strive to provide for a game where opportunities are open to everyone to succeed and maximise their potential, and there is a huge pool of talent across the county that can benefit from our partnership with ACE.
"In the areas it has launched, ACE has been hugely successful in engaging young cricketers from alternative pathways and has opened up an array of opportunities for youngsters across a much wider demographic. We see the programme as a real springboard for us to integrate with all of the communities that our county comprises.
"Our thanks go to Ebony, to all at ACE, and the ECB for their support in helping us to rollout the programme across Middlesex, which alongside the existing work we are already doing within schools, recreational Clubs and on the Club's ED&I Activation Plan will really make a positive impact".
Clare Connor, Managing Director of England Women's Cricket, added:
"The team at ACE are doing brilliant work creating opportunities for young people from Black communities to play cricket and develop their talent. After their early impact in south London, Bristol and Birmingham, we are really excited to be helping ACE to increase access to cricket in more urban centres across the country. We know that targeted opportunities and support are vitally important in making cricket a game for everyone and ensuring that every young cricketer can fulfil their potential."