In what has been a very grim week for cricket as Azeem Rafiq gave his devastating testimony about the horrific experiences he endured at Yorkshire Cricket Club to the DCMS Select Committee it was a pleasant distraction to see Ebony Rainford-Brent’s name among the nominees for The London Sport Awards.
The World Cup winner’s charity ACE has been nominated for the ‘Enhancing the Workforce Award’ which recognises organisations that support, train or mentor coaches, volunteers, administrators or officials in the sports world.
Rainford-Brent launched ACE to increase black participation in cricket in Jan 2020 and has seen it make a huge impact in a short space of time.
World Cup winner Rainford-Brent got into cricket at the age of 10 through a community programme run by the London Community Cricket Association and, just seven years later, she became the first black woman to play for England.
“If ACE was around when I was growing up, I think it would have been a game-changer for me personally,” the 37-year-old told Sportsbeat.
“As a player that walked through the game and played at the highest level, which I have done, I often suffered with issues around confidence, feeling like the only one, dealing with challenges around biases, etc.
“I think it would have made such an impact on me giving me that sense of identity and the support network that I needed.”
This is reflected in ACE taking its place alongside some incredible organisations in December at the London Sport Awards which seeks to celebrate unsung heroes in community sport across the capital and aims to help all Londoners be more physically active.
The awards have been running for five years and, in association with the City of London Corporation, the event has become the biggest celebration of grassroots and community physical activity and sport in the city.
Rainford-Brent says ACE was founded in response to a staggering 75 per cent decline in Black British professional players and an alarming recreational participation rate of less than 1 per cent.
But, while cricket sessions are the core component of ACE’s offering in London, Birmingham and Bristol, Rainford-Brent is eager to open it up to so many more career paths in sport.
“I really hope this programme will not only be national and have academies around the game, but I think more importantly has that change in culture within the whole of cricket,” she told Sportsbeat.
“That goes from [our] elite coaches [who] we want to see progress into the system, young kids who chase their dream and become professional cricketers, but also many who may not make it and stay in the game as administrators.
“[Or] whether they want to fulfil their dreams becoming a sports broadcaster, there’s so many avenues within the game that we’d love to inspire that deeper love for everybody who touches the ACE programme to feel like they’re part of the game, and actually the game is richer for having more people come through.
“I think ACE gives them a place where they feel they can be themselves.
“Some of the work is cricket, yes, but a lot of it is actually mentoring and supporting young people through difficult, challenging scenarios, through building confidence and identity that they belong.”
The London Sport Awards received over 270 nominations for its 10 awards which will be presented at a star-studded ceremony at the Guildhall on Monday Dec 6.
Its 12 judges finally settled on the following nominations for the awards:
The Community Impact Award
Social Organisation for Unity and Leisure
Inspiring agents for change and influence systems.
Helping adults with severe mental health issues.
Uses boxing to target disadvantaged groups.
The Health and Wellbeing Award
Using rugby to drive positive change.
Offering in-person and digital activity classes.
Social Action for Health
Helps with Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiovascular Disease, and Chronic Kidney Disease – conditions disproportionately prevalent within the Black Asian and Minority ethnic communities.
Volunteer of the Year
Escaped a life of crime to become an inspirational community leader.
Helps the needs of the community: food, activity and education – all while working full time and studying for a masters degree.
Played key role in getting a South London area involved in sports sessions in wake of the murder of an 18-year-old which devastated the community.
Young Londoners Award
London Youth Games
The ‘Virtual Inclusive Games’ ran for eight weeks from February 2021 to April 2021 and put young Londoners with special educational needs and/or disabilities at the heart of the competition.
Power Mobile Gym
Offers free boxing, personal development and CV building sessions to over 150 young people aged 12-20 years old.
Charlton Athletic Community Trust
During Covid, delivered activities on its 3G community pitch to 4,421 participants (aged 4-15). For clinically vulnerable young children, CACT offered free two-hour sole use slots on their covid-safe 3G community pitch.
Enhancing the Workforce Award
Ebony Rainford-Brent’s brainchild, increasing black participation in cricket.
Delivered over 75 workshops and 8 accredited courses to over 1,000 learners.
Tigers Junior Football
Getting players into the coaching and refereeing side of grassroots football.
Tech and Digital Award
App that motivates less active or sedentary families to become more active by incentivising them to engage in physical activities.
Runs 25 clubs and activities to help those with autism and other disabilities.
Launched a large programme of virtual and 1:1 support for people with a learning disability to improve health and wellbeing and reduce isolation.
Elite Sport in the Community Award
London Pulse Netball Club
Runs an “Educate, Train & Inspire” programme to provide over 400 young Pulse pathway athletes with skills outside of sport.
Address social needs within their community: increasing activity, breaking down barriers to participation, improving health, education and employment.
Charlton Athletic Community Trust
Delivered a Free Summer Activity Programme targeting disadvantaged young people eligible for free school meals, including physical activity, nutritious food, active learning, and youth work/creative arts.
Uniting London Award
The London & South East Regional Netball Association and the Met Police
The #NetballForGood experience day brought together 18 vulnerable young women from all backgrounds, deemed to be at risk of entering the justice system and/or gang grooming, to realise their potential through netball.
Engages in mainstream and special schools, early years provisions, community leisure facilities and with groups supporting children and adults with additional needs.
Rathbone Amateur Boxing Club
The ‘Proud to #FightTogether’ programme has provides LGBTQ+ friendly sessions that actively target members of the community and address concerns to make them feel welcome.
Inspirational Young Person of the Year
Kieran Matthews (Capital Titans)
Set up his own basketball club and an emergency basketball group through lockdowns.
Charlie Hyman (Bloomsbury Football)
Created a bursary scheme to allow those of low-income families to participate. In three years of existence, Bloomsbury Football raised over £800k.
Elvire Mavusi (Konverse Dance)
Even while preparing for her GSCEs, Elvire’s aim was to get young people from under-represented groups, like herself, off the streets. Konverse dance crews now offers 5 classes for 5-19-year-olds plus a parents’ class.
Business Contribution Award
Tideway partners with London Youth Rowing (LYR) on projects such as Active Row, encouraging children in 70 schools across 12 priority boroughs – based on the London Poverty Profile – to be regularly active through indoor and on-water rowing.
Launched free fitness classes with trained coaches on social media, reaching thousands of people, and a podcast ‘The Power of Ten’ to discuss the role fitness plays in people’s physical and mental well-being.