It's something that white people seem to find very difficult to get their head around: a system can be prejudice towards non-white people, without any single person within that system being consciously or actively racist. I know, because I grew up as a white middle-class child in the county cricket set up, and I found it very difficult to attribute some of my own success to something even more sinister than just 'plain luck'.
Whether people wish to turn a blind eye to it or not, systematic discrimination against young BME cricketers is a huge problem in the UK. 'Proper' cricket clubs have always been generally middle-class and white, and despite not being openly racist, many of these clubs have left the huge South Asian cricket-playing population feeling left out and disenfranchised with the idea of ever making a career out of cricket. I've even spoken to a cricket scout myself, who is convinced that a middle eastern cricketer hasn't actually 'broken through' into the Glamorgan side since the 1920s. This is perfectly demonstrated in the statistic that although South Asians make up a third of the cricket playing population, they only occupy 1% of qualified coaches. How can you encourage South Asians to get involved with 'our system' when they're completely underrepresented at all levels?
It has become all too easy to look at these South Asians and point out the fact they play a different style, or are less disciplined, rather than for the ruling white elite to look in the mirror and ask the question: 'what are we doing to make ethnic minorities feel more welcome at our clubs?'. So instead of sitting around and waiting for these minority players to come to the clubs, Cricket Wales has devised an ingenious solution to give these communities the chance to use proper equipment in a less transient environment. With the help of several middle eastern cricket clubs and asylum organisations, Cricket Wales is taking cricket from the well-off suburbs and spreading it right into the diverse heart of the city. These pop-up cricket clubs will provide children with the opportunity not only to regularly enjoy cricket whilst becoming fitter and healthier, but also with exposure to scouts from Glamorgan Cricket Club.
This scheme, which has received funding as part of a Call4Action programme set up by Sport Wales and the Welsh Government, will be rolling out across Cardiff this week. Having witnessed much of the birth and organisation of this scheme, I can tell you that it serves as a great example for how you make ethnic minorities feel like they're genuinely being listened to. You involve them in the process, you let them direct the process, and 'you', as the British person in a position of power, don't pretend to have all of the answers for them. Just subtle details like starting the clubs after Ramadan, all go towards putting everyone on a level playing field, regardless of culture and lifestyle.
Whilst on the face of it, improved cricket opportunities may not seem like the key to breaking down inequality, its importance should not be underestimated. A GP on a recent Panorama documentary said that there isn't a heart disease drug he can prescribe that is as effective as 30 minutes of exercise a day. So with exercise clearly being so essential to a healthy body and a healthy mind, we must ask ourselves: what is the point of having a human right to 'life' in a country as developed as our own, without a right to good health as well? This is no trivial matter; this is about human rights.
At a time when the government is polarising the country against many of these communities, it's truly heart-warming to see people of all races, genders and religions sit around a table with the sincerest desire to improve access to opportunities for those who are struggling to find them.Suggest a correction