British PM Rishi Sunak unveils GBP 35 million investment in grassroots cricket to widen participation in schools

PTI | London | Updated: 05-04-2024 16:14 IST | Created: 05-04-2024 15:09 IST
British PM Rishi Sunak unveils GBP 35 million investment in grassroots cricket to widen participation in schools
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Rishi Sunak, who has often spoken of his love for cricket and described hitting a few balls with the England cricket team in the Downing Street garden as a highlight of his tenure as British Prime Minister, on Friday unveiled a GBP 35 million investment in grassroots cricket facilities and widening access to the sport within schools.

The 43-year-old Southampton-born leader of Indian heritage spoke of wanting to tap into the huge potential of the “magic of cricket” as part of a wider drive to get one million more young people active by 2030. The total government investment is expected to deliver around 2,500 pieces of new equipment to every school involved in the programme and help to get 930,000 pupils playing cricket over the next five years.

“I love cricket, that’s no secret… I first experienced the magic of cricket watching Hampshire play at my local ground in Southampton as a child,” said Sunak.

“For young people watching their first match today, the draw of getting outside and enjoying the game is just as strong, particularly as we look forward to hosting the women’s and men’s T20 World Cups. There remains huge potential to grow the sport even further and open it up to everyone, from all backgrounds and in all parts of the country,” he said.

“That is why I am so proud we are making a major GBP 35 million investment in grassroots cricket today, to widen the participation in schools, encourage healthy lifestyles and provide world-class, all-year-round facilities for local communities,” he added.

The investment, to be delivered over the next five years during which England and Wales will host the 2026 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, includes a major capital programme that will see 16 state-of-the-art all-weather cricket domes built outdoors within host cities across England. Each dome will be built within diverse communities where figures have indicated low levels of physical activity, Downing Street said.

As part of this funding, GBP 14 million will go to three charities: Chance to Shine, dedicated to delivering accessible cricket into schools and local communities; Lord’s Taverners, with a focus on access to cricket provision for children with special education needs and disabilities; and ACE, which engages young people of African and/or Caribbean heritage.

“I know from first-hand experience that accessing cricket from a state school is not always the easiest route into the game, so it’s fantastic to hear that today’s announcement will support state school students,” said England cricketer James Anderson.

“Chance To Shine, Lord’s Taverners and the ACE Programme all play a huge role in helping to take cricket to young people. It’s important that they are supported by the ECB and the government in delivering their programmes across England and Wales, and I’m sure today’s announcement will help bring more young people into cricket,” he said.

The news coincides with the start of the men’s County Championship season this week, the imminent start of the summer term when cricket is traditionally played in schools, and comes while the England women are competing against New Zealand and ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup being hosted by the UK and Ireland in 2030.

“It’s our ambition that cricket becomes the most inclusive sport in the country and that starts by giving children the chance to play from an early age and from whatever background or community they come from,” said Richard Thompson, chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

“It is vital that cricket is available in as many state schools across England and Wales as possible, and across diverse communities. This support from the government represents a seminal moment in enabling the game to invest significantly in areas that up until now have not had the support they deserve,” he said.

The ECB is preparing to host a women’s and a men’s Cricket World Cup between 2026 and 2030 and hailed the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics for the first time in almost 130 years as a great platform to reach more young people.

Friday’s announcement follows the publication of the UK government’s Sports Strategy last year, which set out a blueprint to improve the country's health and fitness, “unprecedented” government funding for grassroots sports facilities and the opening up of access to school sports across the country. The Sport Strategy set out an ambition to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030, including 1 million young people. This includes people of all ages and backgrounds with a focus on improving participation among the least active.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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