Musings From The Padded Cell

Why So Shy Lord Patel?

Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organises hatred.
Jacques Barzun

This article appears in the July edition of The Trumpit. I have written it as carefully as I can to avoid those too lazy and ignorant to instantly play the race card.

My aim is simply to alert the vast majority to a huge waste of public money deemed necessary to soothe consciences far away, too thick to understand the real reasons grassroots cricket is dying on its feet.

Frustratingly, its architect, Lord Patel of Bradford continues to ignore my questions; as a public servant this is shameful.

For twenty years I’ve coached kids of all colours, backgrounds, abilities, bat swings and mood swings! My only agenda is a level playing field in the true spirit of cricket for everybody.

Engaging Communities?

Our local area has a fine sporting pedigree not least where the summer game of cricket is concerned. However, the game is in deep crisis with rapidly falling participation numbers.

Recently, Idle CC, established over a hundred years ago, gave up the ghost and the overgrown ground is a sad sight. Most clubs have issues with player numbers, finances and a game that has lost its appeal to young people and hard-pressed volunteers alike.

But why has the grassroots game reached this point? The blame lies squarely at the sport’s governing body the English Cricket Board (ECB).

Sold Out

In 2005 England had finally won back the Ashes, beating Australia in a thrilling series watched by millions on Channel 4. That was the last we saw of cricket on free to air television and will be until 2020. Imagine football doing this?

Add to this the fact that cricket had all but vanished from the state school sector by this time and the ECB’s failure to capitalise on England’s new heroes was lamentable. Instead it sold the game to Sky.

What’s Cricket?

True it supported Chance to Shine in 2005 with the aim of providing regular coaching and competitive cricket in a third of state schools by 2015. Back then cricket had fallen to the sixth most popular sport played in schools, with many cricket pitches lost when school playing fields had been sold off.

Funded by a mix of private donors and government funding through Sport England, Chance to Shine like to claim some bold statistics. Having direct experience of this, it is more a numbers game based on box-ticking.

Try “coaching” a class of thirty kids in a sport most have never heard of? It is no surprise the game has continued to decline amongst the young.

The South Asian Solution

A poor use of trees…

Wind forward to today and the whole focus has shifted to what the ECB refers to as the South Asian population. Engaging South Asian Communities is the ECB’s fourth strategy document since 2013 relating to the grassroots.

It is a 100 page plus monster of a document, the sort governing bodies love. And it is stuffed with self-serving padding and uncosted grand plans.

Lessons Of The Past

Money will rain down faster than a monsoon, nowhere more than in parts of Bradford learning nothing from wasting millions on postcode led projects at Manningham Mills and Myra Shay to name a few.

A combination of the ECB, Sport England and our hopeless Council are already committed to a £6m plus spend at the dilapidated Bradford Park Avenue. Did you know almost £1m has been spent to date with your cash-strapped council’s part £330k?

Location, location, location? I can assure you the truck is not a sightscreen. Barmy!

The ECB has also funded five free to play artificial cricket wickets at Myra Shay, Woodhall Recreation Ground, Haworth Road, Hudson Avenue and Park Avenue at a cost estimated at £50k. Find them if you can but pitifully there is little evidence of usage.

Bradford Council

Bradford Park Avenue in its heyday with cricket and football twinned.

Bradford Council tell the ECB they need eighteen new cricket pitches yet clubs continue to fold? Still, if it helps the money flow who cares about the truth?

Nationally, the ECB South Asian plan is looking to create more than 20 new Urban Cricket Centres and develop 1,000 non-turf and 100 turf pitches by 2024 in the UK. It defies any logic that a sport in crisis should focus so narrowly on one community.

The Invisible Lord Patel

Lord Patel

Lord Patel of Bradford is at the head of this. You would have thought he would have no problem responding to a few legitimate questions?

However, whilst happy to blather on about his new vision on Sky Sports Cricket during the recent test match, he is strangely mute. Several emails later I am still awaiting responses to questions as to the direction and focus of huge sums of public money.

There’s More!

Unbelievably, we also have Spirit of 2012, a £1.8 million national programme set to “bring together young people, their families and communities through regular engagement in cricket: as players, fans and volunteers.” This will focus on five cities…well…certain bits of them.

A Level Playing Field

Put simply, if you proposed a massive programme of investment aimed at, say, white working-class communities you would be shot down as racist in an instant. So why is the opposite acceptable? And do not think the Asian cricket community are wholly supportive either.

They know they are being used to soothe the consciences of self-serving do-gooders. Cricket has the power to unite diverse communities like no other sport but this will do nothing but the opposite, taking facilities and resources to already insular parts of the city creating yet more division.

And the game will continue to wither and die because it relies on far more than patronising handouts.

It is a desperate plan written in the wasteful and ignorant tome of political correctness, displaying a blatant ignorance of the real state of grassroots cricket.

Those behind it should be ashamed.

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