ECB to piggyback Ashes for school funding push

The England & Wales Cricket Board is stepping up its campaign for more grassroots funding of the game, as the Ashes series sees the sport generate levels of interest not witnessed for years.

The governing body has hired AS Biss & Co as its first retained public adviser to intensify pressure on the Government to fund cricket in state schools.

Explaining the timing of the appointment, ECB head of comms Colin Gibson said: 'Success is very marketable. We have to capitalise on the current interest and it matters that the England team is seen to be successful.'

AS Biss will support 'Chance to Shine', the ten-year campaign to boost state school funding launched in May and driven by the ECB's charitable arm the Cricket Foundation. It aims to bring cricket back into the school curriculum by providing coaches, pitches, equipment and opportunities for competitive games.

Although ten of England's starting XI in the Ashes attended state schools (the exception being Andrew Strauss), all honed their talent at local clubs.

Chance to Shine's target is to generate £25m from sponsors over the first three years and hopes the Government will match the figure raised. It wants the sport to be played regularly in at least one third of state schools.

The agency will also lobby to make ticket touting at test matches illegal and bolster interest in the women's game, said AS Biss senior consultant and head of sports advocacy Tim Payton.

It is also informing MPs of 'Building Partnerships', the body's five-year blueprint for the development of the game up to the end of this decade.

AS Biss has provided consultancy for the ECB in the past on a project basis.

Gibson joined the ECB in March. He resigned as FA director of comms last year amid a media firestorm that led to the exit of its CEO over allegations of an affair with secretary Faria Alam.

Leader, p17.

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