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Richard Thompson hopes to make cricket “the most inclusive sport in the country” after seeing a new state-of-the-art venue open in Bradford.
A £1.5million, 10-bay all-weather cricket dome opened at Bradford Park Avenue cricket ground on Friday, the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
The facility features two 40 x 20-metre covered domes with lighting, a real-life like cricket surface and a retractable netting system which fully replicates the features of an elite indoor facility, allowing for both training and matches to be played.
Funded by the England and Wales Cricket Board in partnership with City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, the new facility could provide cricket sessions for around 10,000 people from the local community annually.
ECB chair Thompson is excited by the opportunities that the facility could provide for boys and girls in the area, and to open the sport up to ethnic minorities.
He told the PA news agency: “It is essential. It is everything. My ambition for cricket is for it to become the most inclusive sport in the country.
“You’ve got to do that by taking barriers down. This is a community facility, anyone can play here.
“So if people wants to play in Bradford they can, whatever the weather and whatever the day. So from that perspective, we need to replicate that fast because there are other areas where it is just as great. But Bradford is a hotbed of enthusiasm for cricket so this is the obvious place to start.”
Previously, Bradford Park Avenue had an outdoor nets facility but this will now enable local cricketers to play all year round and in any weather.
The investment is also good news for Yorkshire, who were punished for their handling of allegations of racism and bullying by former player Azeem Rafiq and a failure to address systemic use of racist and discriminatory language over a prolonged period.
Thompson now hopes the facility can help restore pride to the club.
He added: “Hopefully this gives Yorkshire the sense of pride and a feel-good factor back.
“They can say we have the first facility of this type anywhere in the world, it is truly world class and in that sense there is no county that needed it and deserved it more.
“The ECB couldn’t be prouder, the partnership we are in with Yorkshire, the council, local MP, all of that to pull this together. Things like this have a lot of moving pieces to them but now to see it built is absolutely outstanding.
The new facility is the first to be built in the world but the ECB does not want the good work to stop here after sites in Luton and Walsall have also been identified to build something similar.
Thompson said: “We are putting one into Walsall, and have identified three or four other sites.
“It is incredibly exciting for Bradford but probably even more exciting for the game. I’m particularly pleased that this has come from Bradford Park Avenue and Yorkshire. A hotbed of interesting cricket, it’s the first facility of its kind anywhere in the world and it’s not very often you can say that.
“To hear bat on ball played as we speak is a nice feeling given the weather today.”
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