Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £35m initiative to enhance grassroots cricket facilities and promote wider access to the sport within state schools.

This initiative, led by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), aims to enable over 900,000 young people to play cricket over the next five years. It will also drive the construction of 16 state-of-the-art all-weather cricket domes across England and improve diversity within the sport.

Richard Thompson, Chair of ECB, said: “We are delighted by this investment from the Government. 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.”

The investment will be delivered over a period aligning with significant cricket events, including the 2026 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, the 2030 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and the return of cricket to the Olympics for the first time in over 120 years, which the ICC advocated for in 2021.

Thompson added: “Cricket is a diverse sport and our game has a unique reach across the UK’s population. Hosting both a women’s and a men’s Cricket World Cup between 2026 and 2030, and the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics for the first time in almost 130 years, gives us a platform to reach more young people than ever before and we’re really excited about that as a game.”

The proposed domes, which are covered and wind-protected, will allow for year-round participation in cricket. They will serve as central hubs connecting school, community and talent programs. Each dome will be strategically placed within diverse communities where low levels of physical activity have been identified.

Additionally, the funding package will support an expansion of the partnership between the ECB and Chance to Shine, specifically focusing on in-school cricket initiatives. 

There will also be a strong emphasis on reaching children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, ensuring that every schoolchild in inner-city areas across the 16 World Cup host cities will have access to the programme.

Laura Cordingley, CEO of Chance to Shine, commented: “This is absolutely fantastic news not just for Chance to Shine, but for cricket as a whole. We know that when given the opportunity to play, young people do fall in love with this game – regardless of their gender or background. 

“This funding will give our expert coaches the opportunity to inspire hundreds of thousands more children through cricket and in turn, use the sport as a vehicle to teach vital life skills and help young people to build a positive future.”

In total, the investment is anticipated to provide approximately 2,500 new pieces of equipment to participating schools and aims to encourage the involvement of 930,000 pupils in cricket over the course of the next five years.

Furthermore, an additional investment will be directed towards the charity Lord’s Taverners, with a specific focus on improving access to cricket provision for 80,000 children with special educational needs and disabilities.

In addition, the ACE Programme, a cricket-focused initiative that aims to address underrepresentation in the sport, will receive funding to bolster their efforts in re-establishing connections between the Black British community and cricket.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “I first experienced the magic of cricket watching Hampshire play at my local ground in Southampton as a child.

“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, building on the great work of organisations such as ACE and Chance to Shine.

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

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