RESTORATION OF SCHOOL CRICKET IN NIGERIA: APPEAL FOR STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS FROM STAKEHOLDERS
Four years ago the Board of NCF masterminded the Five Strategic Imperatives as the basis for Transformative Growth of Cricket in Nigeria. A critical component of this is the acceleration of the growth of our cricket playing population through restoration of school cricket taking advantage of Nigeria’s huge population of children of school age.
Cricket was a heritage sport of many Government and mission Schools founded during the colonial periods all over the country. Overtime, school cricket declined and came to a halt in most parts due to failures of funding and supervision from government and school management.
School cricket was initially left to individual state associations to manage with indifferent results. While states with resourceful cricket leadership like Edo made considerable progress, many struggled. Edo State School Cricket programme is supported by Templars and Patrelli as sponsors in addition to a competent administrative structure. I am aware of the existing support base in a few of our traditional cricket playing schools like St Gregory’s Lagos, Government College, Ibadan and FGC Warri to mention a few. Many other schools have used individual funding models which lack sustainability.
It has become clear to us at NCF that for sustainable cricket culture in our schools, more partnerships with support groups for funding and supervision along with active involvement of school teachers, parents and School Management Boards will be required.
In 2019, NCF proposed a robust strategy for school cricket, the Accelerated Growth (AG) Program to ICC. Under this program, a considerable chunk of NCF annual budget will be invested in equipping and supervising the school programme along with managing school competitions. The takeoff of AG has been considerably delayed by Covid-19 Pandemic but was successfully launched yesterday, May 26, 2021. NCF has purchased two thousand sets of Entry Level Equipment to be distributed to all states and Field Officers have been employed to partner state structures to run the program. A series of sensitization workshops for key stakeholders took place during the lockdown period. A sample presentation is attached for further comprehension.
The equipment consists of hybrid plastics and rubber balls which are durable, cost effective, convenient, easy and safe to use for Entry Level and casual Cricket. The concept aims to bring back the popularity of school cricket and the children will take it from there. With more children playing casual cricket, transition to hard ball cricket will come naturally managed by state Cricket Associations and School cricket Support groups. NCF in partnership with state associations and sponsors will restore school competitions.
With two thousand sets of equipment, each state probably gets an average of 60 sets which won’t be enough to go round the schools. A set consists of 2 plastic bats, 2 plastic wickets and rubber balls.
This is therefore an appeal for Stakeholders to go back to their respective alma mater to set up support groups to restore and sustain cricket. Recently, I was invited by the Kings College School Based Management Board to bring back cricket culture to KC along with other prominent Cricket Stakeholders. For sustainable support we set up a KC Cricket Foundation which has mobilized 90 members made up of KCOB ex-cricketers of different generations. The KC Cricket Foundation provides the funding base to employ coaches, provide needed equipment, ensure playing facilities and organize matches at interhouse and interschool levels under a competent management team charged with accountability. Recruitment of new members is a continuous responsibility of the EXCO.
It’s my belief that this partnership model that is working within a short time in KC along with other established schools like Gregs and GCI can be reproduced to good effect in other traditional cricket playing schools to restore and sustain the sport.
Thanks for your continued support
PROF AY UKWENYA (MBBS, FMCS, FWACS)
For Nigeria Cricket Federation