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The ACE Programme is to expand to Bristol – its third city – after securing a sponsorship from Royal London. It will be marked by the second fifty over match between England and Sri Lanka this week being renamed as the Royal London x ACE One Day International.

The ACE Programme Charity was originally setup by Surrey County Cricket Club in 2020, aiming to address a 75% decline in cricket participation by members of the Black community. After securing significant funding from Sport England late last year, it has now become an independent charity, chaired by former Surrey and England player now director and broadcaster Ebony Rainford-Brent.

Since its inception last year, ACE has trialled 200 young people, launched an ACE academy and given out 65 scholarships. It has also played a series of matches, including games at The Kia Oval alongside members of the Surrey CCC Emerging Players Programme and a recent match against the Surrey Schools Cricket Association. One young player has already graduated from ACE to feature in matches for Surrey U18s.

Thursday’s matchday will feature Royal London x ACE branding across The Kia Oval and the ‘five-minute bell’ before the game will be rung by ACE scholar Ibrahim Lalgie.

Throughout their partnership with the ECB, Royal London is supporting projects that ‘level the playing field’ and will be focusing on the ACE Programme for the next two years – donating £100,000.

With the additional funding, ACE will expand to Bristol and is looking to identify more talented young cricketers and support 400 in development and performance opportunities. A full-time elite coach will be hired, along with support staff, to help with player development and engage with 30 schools in target areas every academic year.

ACE received £540,000 in funding from Sport England and a grant from the ECB that allowed a programme to be launched in Birmingham earlier this year.

Susie Logan, Royal London’s Group Chief Marketing Officer, said: “We’re immensely proud to be supporting the ACE Programme and helping them to expand into Bristol by becoming a Regional Partner. The opportunities this will generate for young people from Black communities will be invaluable both on and off the pitch.”

Ebony Rainford-Brent, Chair at ACE Programme added:

“Being able to provide pathways to support young, talented cricketers is essential if we are to develop more elite cricketers from Black communities. Funding like this is helping to empower a new generation of players that otherwise may not have been involved. We are grateful to Royal London for helping us on our mission to inspire the wider game to become more representative of society.”

Clare Connor ECB Managing Director of Women’s cricket said:

“It is so important that we provide more opportunities for every young person to be able to access the game and for talented cricketers to be identified and nurtured. Our work with ACE has gathered considerable momentum with the programme launching in Birmingham just a few weeks ago, and now this. It’s fantastic news that Royal London are supporting the programme and that young Black cricketers in Bristol will benefit as a result.”

Steve Silk, CEO Gloucestershire Cricket Board, concluded:

“We’re really excited to have the ACE Programme expanding to Bristol, it will be hugely beneficial to the local cricketing community. Together we can provide more opportunities for young Black cricketers and help make cricket even more appealing and accessible for a wide range of people in Bristol and reflect the views and values of the communities we serve.”

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