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Reflections on the Business of Cricket awards by AFL Director, John Roberts

Last week I had the honour of being a judge at the Business of Cricket (BOCA) awards run by the English Cricket Board, which recognises and rewards first class counties and MCC personnel who work to show influence, insights and innovation beyond expected standards in the world of cricket.

As part of the judging session, we were focusing on evidence around two key criteria from the awards’ entrants – how they were working towards becoming more sustainable and more inclusive. As part of this second criteria, we were presented to by Sunderland FC supporters, Peter and Kate Shippey who set up the The Shippey Campaign, to raise awareness and encourage sensory viewing rooms in sports stadia in 2014 in response to a diagnosis of autism for their three children.

Much of what Peter and Kate talked about resonated with much of the work we undertake at AFL to ensure sports stadia is as inclusive as possible and my work as a Director and Trustee of the CAFÉ, the Centre for Access to Football in Europe. Often when we start to look at the design of a sporting venue – be it football, cricket, rugby or any spectator sport - we start with audiences, and potential audiences. For many sports, these audiences are wide and diverse. We know that many sports are now becoming more family orientated and reflecting this with family friendly stands and concourses without alcohol. We are now designing sporting venues with non-gendered toilets for those non-binary or gender nonconforming. We are incorporating faith rooms for those with cultural or religious requirements. And we are designing quieter environments, away from the crowds for those who are neurodiverse or have dementia to feel safe and comfortable while spectating.

But it is not just about designing inclusive sporting venues. It is about staff education and training. It is about ensuring the conversation about all audiences with all stakeholders is not a bolt on to the conversation but integral to it. And that’s what the Business of Cricket awards was all about - thinking about how we can push the boundaries of expectation to the next level and rewarding those who have. And so it was in this vein that I was delighted to see clubs like Warwickshire win four out of the 14 awards and other clubs like Somerset County Cricket Club be acknowledged last week.