StreetChance launched in Liverpool
StreetChance is a programme to engage young people from various backgrounds in areas affected by youth crime and anti-social behaviour through cricket. Paul Edwards went to its recent launch in Liverpool to find out more.
To launch a new cricket programme in late October, two days before the Merseyside derby and only a few slog-sweeps away from Anfield might seem like a bid to get into the Guinness Book of Records for outlandish optimism. But the people in charge of StreetChance, an initiative aimed at taking the game into areas where it has rarely ventured before, are used to confounding the doubters.
Last Friday (26 October), building on the success StreetChance has enjoyed in both Anfield and Dingle, the scheme was officially launched at the Anfield Sports and Community Centre in Breckside Park. Both Didi Hamann and Nick Barmby were in attendance, as were Richard Joyce, the National Operations Manager for StreetChance, and Neil Williams, Relationship Director in the North West for Barclays, who have sponsored the programme. Most importantly, though, there were a host of Liverpool youngsters, keen to play cricket at a time of year when many club members have put their kit in the loft. Joining them were the Birmingham Bashers, a team from one of the other six locations (Dewsbury, Bristol, Manchester, Hull and London are the others) where the programme has begun.
In part, StreetChance is an initiative which aims to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour by delivering "street" cricket in areas where these trends blight the lives of young and old alike. Working closely with the Lancashire Cricket Board and the Anfield Sports and Community Centre, StreetChance has organised cricket sessions in Anfield and Dingle, using a tapeball - a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape - and playing games which last no more than 20 minutes. This accessible form of the game can be played with limited equipment and space, making it perfect for inner city venues lacking in green space - and, therefore, cricket clubs.
On the evidence so far accumulated in Liverpool and elsewhere, it seems to be working. StreetChance began in London in 2008 and has already become enormously popular, even in areas where football was thought to be the only sport in town.
"Manchester launched this time last year and Liverpool is being launched today," said Tom Love, StreetChance Operations Officer for the North. "We have really strong projects in Manchester, based in Longsight, Cheetham Hill, Moss Side and Old Trafford, and we're averaging 22 players per session, almost the strongest figures in the country. The players are from very varied backgrounds and it's attracting a lot of interest.
"Anfield started off slowly, perhaps because it's such a strong football area, so the coaches started off doing football and then moved on to cricket. Now it's the case that cricket is all they want to do.
"One of our targets is to have 80% non-cricket club members and it's 82% in Manchester. That shows there's a need for it and there is a lack of cricket clubs in some of those areas. Of course, the ultimate aim is to feed some of the players into cricket clubs. In Manchester there's going to be a StreetChance Development squad who will be coached at the Indoor Cricket Centre at the County Ground, Old Trafford and then we hope there will be hard ball tournaments."
For Paul Bryson, the Lancashire Cricket Board's Cricket Development Manager for Merseyside and South West Lancashire, StreetChance presents an unusual method of connecting young people with the game, but it is one to which he is quickly warming.
"It's a different vision from the projects we normally run," said Bryson. "We normally work around focus clubs and development groups. This is completely left field where we're looking to engage with kids who may never have had the opportunity to play cricket and get them involved with the sport.
"The kids here have perhaps had a vision of what the sport is, but when they've actually played it, they've loved it. It's a different approach and the work has had to be more social but the results have been good so far.
"Of course you have your cricket clubs in this city but there are none round the corner from here, so you are targeting a completely different area. The idea is that you come into youth centres here and in Dingle and it'd be great if one or two of the kids we see here this morning end up at Sefton Park, Liverpool or Alder. Not everyone's going to be a footballer but if they just end up playing cricket here that will be a success as far as I'm concerned."
Written by: Paul Edwards