Belonging — at the very heart of “inclusion” and “diversity”, surely?

Cricket in England* is facing an existential crisis of a series of racism scandals and widespread criticism for the lack of diversity across the game.

There has been a lot wrong with the game, but hopefully some good will come out of the reviews and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) initiatives.

But there surely needs to be more to EDI than statements of intent, and training, and disciplinary sanctions. A former coaching colleague, Ollie Rae, made what I thought was a very perceptive observation.

You can not have inclusion and diversity without people feeling like they belong.

What does “belonging” mean? What could a cricket club (the wider game) do to encourage those “outside cricket” to come inside?

Responses so far

Diversity, inclusion & iftar at Lord’s.

If the iftar at Lord’s, and similar events at County grounds, is to be more than a gesture, there needs to be positive action beyond an annual invitation to the Home of Cricket.

EDI training incoming

As part of the response to the now well-documented discriminatory practices throughout the game, EDI training is to be rolled out, first to those in the professional game but also to the 40,000-strong volunteer base (and, presumably, working coaches) in the recreational game.

I look forward to taking the training (currently waiting for access to be approved through one of my “zero hours” employers) but, if it follows the pattern of Safeguarding, we will receive comprehensive, compassionate advice on what not to do or say around equality, diversity & inclusion, but precious little on what we should say or do, or on creating a genuinely inclusive environment.

Something similar happened with the PREVENT duty in schools, “[g]uidance for schools and childcare providers on preventing children and young people from being drawn into terrorism”.

As a school governor at the time, I attended a Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP), and came away knowing something about how to recognise radicalisation, and how to report concerns, but little (nothing) on “creating community”, beyond the existing lessons in “British values”.

Interestingly, perhaps, the European Commission has recently been investigating the application of alternative narratives which focus on what society is “for” rather than “against”, when challenging terrorist narratives.

What can we do?

Can anyone belong?

I enjoyed reading David Lammy’s Tribes — How our need to belong can make or break society, in which he offers a fascinating insight into his own “tribal” roots and what “belonging” means, and how it might be co-opted to (re)shape society.

Lammy is a politician & lawyer, and it shows in his proposals for creating a more inclusive society within England. (He is also a Spurs fan, but I won’t hold that against him. 😉)

But one important conclusion is that organisations, societies in general, perhaps need to define what it is that they stand for. By taking the definition beyond the parochial “we are who we are, and we are who we have always been” — the exclusive — to the inclusive — here is something we all stand for.

Lammy defines his (new) “Englishness” by Creativity, Openness & Fair play.

This certainly sounds like an England I could happily live in. And, as importantly, I’d hope it would not exclude too many people with different backgrounds to mine — Essex-born; “male, stale & pale”…

I make no apology for including the incumbents — an inclusion statement that does not consider the existing community surely misses the point about inclusion.

Is this a club I would want to belong to?

But how might a cricket club, for example, describe itself?

Anyone who visits a site will be familiar with the boilerplate text appearing on every club site (every site that is not being actively managed, at least).

We are a friendly, sociable and inclusive cricket club.

The majority of clubs on

Three words, good intent, but utterly generic. It tells you nothing about the club or its members, however.

Perhaps more appropriate might be an attempt to describe the community feeling within the club. Clubs are communities, and players join and. more importantly remain members of a club because they fell a part of that community.

Why do members value their membership of a community? What even is “community”?


I joined a webinar (arranged by Amy Whitehead and Jenny Coe to support their (excellent) book, Myths of Sports Coaching), in which there was discussion of the challenges to creating Communities of Practice (CoP). I was expecting to hear about knowledge transfer and sharing of expertise, perhaps something about the practical implementation of a CoP, online and face-to-face.

So it was very interesting to hear the emphasis the presenters placed on Community, and also the explicit role of facilitators, to encourage participation and make sure all voices are heard.

Successful (inclusive) communities are characterised as

  • non-hierarchical;
  • encompassing multiplicity of experiences/opinions;
  • acknowledging uncertainty — we don’t have all the answers

So how could a cricket club create such an environment?

Cricket club “community”

By finding their facilitators. Not necessarily by appointing an EDI officer (although this might well become a Clubmark requirement), but rather by encouraging the members, old & new, to engage with one another. Natural “champions” will emerge, but only in an environment that encourages them to do so.

Difficult, at first sight, to see how to make a large Club non-hierarchical, when clubs naturally segregate players by ability (mostly) — what does a 1st XI player have in common with someone in the 4th XI, when they might not even play at the same venue?

I have seen one interesting initiative, at Upminster Cricket Club, who established an in-house T20 competition (the Windmill Whack) so that all members had the opportunity to play at HQ at least a few times each season. They have both Men’s and Women’s competitions, with YouTube coverage, and sponsorship from local businesses.

The emphasis on participation and engagement seems important, here. How better to acknowledge that multiplicity of experiences than by having Club members play and socialise together?

How many clubs actively deter new members by overstating the performance aspect? How many players in the 3rd & 4th XI really buy into the 1st XI ethos?

“We are a club that aims to win” vs. “We are a club that strives to improve”

Acknowledging (or even, actively embracing) uncertainty might be one approach to bridging that gap between “performance” and “participation” members.

Perhaps by re-stating that shared passion for the game. By emphasising that the club exists to play cricket, to promote cricket. And by demonstrating that passion.

And the club needs to “walk the walk”.

  • Players who want to play in the higher XIs need to practice; practice facilities and appropriate coaching needs to be provided;
  • selection needs to be based on ability and commitment, not because Harry has played 1st XI for 10 years and won’t play in the 2s…;
  • new players (new Club members & juniors) must be given the chance to demonstrate their capabilities.

In conclusion

There surely needs to be more to EDI than statements of intent, and training, and disciplinary sanctions. You can not have inclusion and diversity without people feeling like they belong.

So the challenge to clubs and County Boards is to create a game that people of all backgrounds want to belong to.

Some clubs will do some of this, maybe all, automatically. But it needs to become the norm, if the game of cricket truly aspires to be inclusive. Because if it does not, potential members will simply choose to belong to something else.

* I can’t speak of the game in Wales, also subject to the current investigations by the ECB — the England and Wales Cricket Board.

I know only of the widely publicised travails of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and of Essex CCC, the county I was born in and still consider as home (even if my address is now in a London Borough).

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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