Cricket is a game associated with leafy pastures
but those spaces are at a premium in London, as wealthy investors buy up
billions of pounds of property and space. We had about eight to ten West Indian clubs.
These days you probably find two or three. A number of cricket clubs have found themselves
on the wrong end of the boom. Essentially we just need more facilitation
as well, and that’s the challenge and obstacles that we face. Some losing their home, others without the means
to develop the ground and some without a space to call their own altogether. There has got to be hundreds and hundreds
of kids who’s not going to be able to do any sports around here any more So, arriving now are Paragon Cricket Club
they’re a Caribbean cricket club that originally founded in Greenford, West London about forty
years ago. They’ve since lost their home and now every single game they play has to be
away. Joseph Matthews has played for Paragon since
the early days and is optimistic about the potential of the club,
despite the decline he’s witnessed. Just how big could Paragon get with this kind
of setup here? We would be able to attract, probably even
have two teams and also like to say having the Colts which is tremendous you know see
them from scratch you never know where we could end up you know If you were delayed in finding
a new home, could that potentially be the end of the club? I think so, yeah. Without having the right
facilities and so on, I could see the decline of Paragon. Might able to play one or two
matches a season, but not competitive like this. Growing up in the 70s in London, in West
London we had about eight to ten West Indian clubs – these days, you probably find two
or three. You’re playing here at Bromley Cricket Club: what would
it be to have somewhere like this? I mean you can see the nets, you can see the pavilion
as well, great outfield.. To have something like this would be amazing,
it would be fantastic. They have a place where they can come socialise, number one, make
new friends and also because cricket is a discipline game as well and we strive a lot
on discipline in our club, so we want to pass it on. Sporting education and social. I think
everyone there has kids. So the next generation is actually there,
kind of waiting to be.. Just waiting to be ushered into that.. But
we need as I already said, we need somewhere where we can put that foundation in. The reason
why I’m playing is because somebody saw something in me and invested their time in me, and we
want to do the same for the younger people that’s coming up as well. It’s been great watching Paragon Cricket Club
here today, but without a ground, a club will always struggle to maintain its existence as there is no place for the next generation to come through. Lutonians Cricket Club was part of the
Vauxhall Motors factory which closed 20 years ago, subsequently losing all of its
sports facilities. After moving around, the club eventually got this land six years ago.
Yet, despite the number of players, particularly the kids that come through the gates, the
club are struggling to obtain funding for the development of their facilities. To progress your cricket, or to further enhance
your cricket, you really can’t do it there, you know. You need a proper fixed nets up
here. Have you tried to get them? Well we’ve tried to get them but unfortunately,
three times now we’ve been rejected by Sport England. How do you coach with no nets? I try my best, but it’s for their safety.
I can’t coach like you know 15, 13, 11 and 9 (year-olds) in one net. I’ve been trying
to get help from everywhere, anywhere, but no luck yet. We get kids coming every Friday
and we have to say no, because we can’t take as many, you know, I’m already having trouble
with the safety aspect. Asif Khan captained Lutonians for 25 years,
winning seven County League titles. While he still plays, he also undertakes a number
of other duties at the club, such as working as the groundsman. Do you think with the facilities that they
have in modern days, you think you could have made it as a professional? Yes. In my younger
days, you know, if we had facilities, all this, definitely. And so yeah, you need to do that for the next
generation, don’t you? You need to make sure they have the opportunities that you didn’t
have. That’s what we are aiming for, because they’re
very talented. It’s just, you know, the lack of nets. If you had the nets here, how far do you think
you can push this? They can become professional, they can play
for counties, they can play for England, you know. It’s interesting hearing Lutonians’ stories.
As we saw with Paragon, they’re still searching for a home ground, and Lutonians – they have
one, but they just don’t have the resources to make it work and they’re always gonna be
held back by that. This is Tower Hamlets in East London, where
kids in the area have to go to great lengths to play the game. Often they rely upon the
generosity of coaches, such as Jahid. Hiya, how you doing, alright? Not too bad, not too bad. Right, so we’re driving through the streets
of East London, what are we doing? I’m just about to go pick up four under-15
boys. We’ve got match at Blackheath today. It’s about five, six miles from here, yes. Jahid Ahmed was the first British Bangladeshi
to play county cricket. Today he’s the Cricket Development Manager for the borough of Tower
Hamlets, where 40% of the population are Asian, but there isn’t a single cricket pitch in
the borough. So where do you expect these kids to go? Just
hanging out in the street? Is that what they want them to do? Who knows. As you may be
aware in London, the crime rate is really high, obviously, and I’m sure you guys have
heard about knife crime and everything – that’s all they talk about. We just saw this, coming
through here, all they do is build buildings and flats and that’s what they do. Any little
spaces, they’re breaking down anything that’s not needed they don’t think is necessary – even
youth clubs, for example. A lot have been broken down, shut down, when there’s never..
and they just keep building flats. You were saying about the lack of space and
all the flats being built around – this just so happens to be the first bit of open green
we’ve seen, and it is genuinely Blackheath Cricket Club. This is it, this is the home of cricket for
us. Right, let’s go then. It’s quite interesting seeing Jahid’s role:
he’s a coach, he’s a community leader in some ways, he’s a glorified taxi man and to the
kids that he’s brought here to Blackheath Cricket Club, he’s doing the kind of job that
no one else will do and it’s not actually in his remit, but without him they wouldn’t
be playing cricket at a place like this, because there is nowhere like that where they’re based
in Tower Hamlets. These aren’t issues restricted to just London:
inner-city cricket across the country fights these battles and there is little indication
to suggest that that battle is being won.

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Dennis Veasley

One thought on “Inner-city cricket: no space left to play”

  1. Really good video! While cricket will always be strong in the villages and richer areas – it's a great game that has the potential to be an even bigger part of the whole UK's summer identity, and needs to be better supproted in inner city areas and areas with large non-white ethnic regions

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