Ashes 2013: Wasim Khan

The first of this year's back-to-back Ashes series is underway, with England completing a thrilling 14-run win at Trent Bridge on Sunday in the first Test and the second due to start this week at Lord's. Among those hoping to make the most of a summer of heightened interest in the game is Wasim Khan, chief executive of the Cricket Foundation charity's schools project Chance to Shine.

Ashes 2013: Wasim Khan

Australian cricketers David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and Phillip Hughes at a Chance to Shine coaching clinic at Edgbaston in Birmingham during June's ICC Champions Trophy

The first of this year's back-to-back Ashes series is underway, with England completing a thrilling 14-run win at Trent Bridge on Sunday in the first Test and the second due to start this week at Lord's. Among those hoping to make the most of a summer of heightened interest in the game is Wasim Khan, chief executive of the Cricket Foundation charity's schools project Chance to Shine.

What was the thinking behind Chance to Shine and what were your initial goals when you established it?

Back in 2003, I think it was, some research was carried out to see how many state schools were actually playing any forms of meaningful competitive cricket, and in fact well under ten per cent of the 21,000 state schools were playing any cricket at all. And the main reason for that was either teachers weren’t interested or they just didn’t have the facilities or the equipment or the know-how to do it. So the Cricket Foundation then decided they needed to do something about it. We needed to try and get cricket back into state schools. It was something really that Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, pioneered. He was one of the initial instigators to say, ‘We need to do something about this. I love cricket; kids are being denied vital educational opportunities from not taking part in competitive team sport and cricket’s a great vehicle to do that.’

So on the back of that, at the Cricket Foundation we put together quite an ambitious campaign and we were going to call it Chance to Shine. The idea was to reach a third of state schools in this country – 7,000 state schools – by 2015, and during that ten-year period raise UK£50 million and also reach two million children. We set our aims pretty clear and those were pretty much the numbers we were driven by. Nine years on, now, we’ve reached the 7,000 schools already, we’ve raised UK£47 million, and we’ve already hit our target of two million kids. So we’ve reached the targets that we’ve set ourselves two years in advance. The only area we haven’t achieved yet is our UK£50 million target which we’re still trying to work towards in a difficult climate.

What had happened to cricket in state schools at that point? How had it come to be in that position?

I think it had just been years of decline. Cricket, traditionally, had been viewed as quite time-consuming. Teachers have felt that it’s full of rules and regulations and ‘we’ll get shown up because we don’t know them’. 90 per cent of the 17,000 primary schools in this country are female-dominated. So there was a huge stigma around cricket. And normally what you found with cricket is that if you had a teacher who loved cricket, if that teacher left, cricket normally left with that teacher. We’ve all had experiences of that in the past so for us it was about understanding the reasons why. We spent a year really understanding what the challenges were going to be around engaging teachers, the lack of facilities, the lack of equipment, and really put plans around that. What we decided was we were going to link clubs and schools together, so schools could use the club facilities in the summer term on a Monday morning or a Tuesday afternoon and then coaches would work with the teachers in terms of upskilling those teachers. The teachers had to be present because this was about training them as well as providing cricket for the kids.

What portion of funding comes from the ECB and ECB partners and what comes from elsewhere?

We’ve raised about UK£47 million as I mentioned. UK£25 million of that has come through private sources, of which the ECB’s contribution has probably been well over 40 per cent. We get an annual contribution of UK£1.25 million a year from the ECB, so their funding has been huge for us in terms of the percentage of funding that we get on an annual basis. The remaining UK£13 million of the private funding has come through trusts and foundations, private donations from high net worth individuals, smaller donations, corporate partners, the Lord’s Taverners gave us UK£1 million when we launched to get us up and running, we get UK£100,000 a year from the MCC. So everyone’s contributed in some way in terms of supporting us. The other UK£22 million of our UK£47 million has come via Sport England. They’ve continued to invest in us from day one.

"We’ve reached the targets that we’ve set ourselves two years in advance."

How much opportunity is there for you to go out and raise your own funding?

There is a huge amount for us to do that because a big part of what we do is we need to raise private money ourselves. If we get UK£2.5 million a year from Sport England we’ve got to get another UK£2.5 million from private sources. Even with ECB funding we’ve got to raise another 50 per cent on top of what the ECB are giving us for us to operate on an annual basis. So it’s been hugely challenging for us because what happens is a bit of campaign fatigue sets in. People will say, ‘Well, you’re very successful, you’ve raised UK£47 million, you don’t need my money.’ Which is completely wrong. So what we focus on is that we need UK£5 million a year to operate and to deliver what we’re trying to do, and that certainly hasn’t changed. It’s full throttle for us in terms of trying to raise UK£2.5 million a year privately that we need in order for us to continue.

How does that campaign fatigue change your approach? How will it change your approach over the next five or ten years?

Just over the last 18 months what we’ve tried to do is look over the assets that we have within our programme. There’s the girls’ element – 800,000 girls are involved in our programme. What we’d like to do is to develop more mentoring programmes around that to really raise the aspirations amongst a lot of these girls. So we set up an initiative called ‘Girls on the Front Foot’ where we’ve got some prominent women and women from the City on a girls’ cricket board trying to help us fundraise and raise money specifically to target the girls, to develop more coherent programmes and mentoring programmes around that. That’s been one element. We’ve developed something called the ‘Guardianship Programme’ where we’re inviting individuals to support a child. It costs UK£15 a year for a child to be involved in our programme, so for UK£2.50 a month they can support a girl and a boy. We’re looking at various things that we do and a contributor could be a class guardian, they can be a project guardian, they could be a school guardian – we’re looking at various tiers so that we can give something tangible back. So people feel that ‘if I give you my money, it’s actually going towards something and not just a general pot’.

What we’ve been really, really strong on over the years that we’ve been operating is that our overheads are kept down. 87 per cent of what we spend annually, of the UK£5 million, goes directly to the delivery of the programme – coaching, competition, equipment, training. All of those things are key for us as evidence to people that it’s not going to get washed up in admin costs; that the money is going in the right place and that UK£15 per child is great value for money. So we’ve looked at all those different areas to become a lot more segmented. We do a lot of demographics work as to where our donations come from. Do people want to be communicated with in a certain way? We’ve become a lot more scientific with our database, how we communicate with individuals, with corporates, to make sure they’re getting out of it what they want, and also tailoring our programmes to meet their objectives rather than saying, ‘We’ve got a great programme here, we need your support.’ We’re actually going to them and saying, ‘Look, we see that these are some of your key objectives. Through our Street Chance project or our Chance to Shine programme, we can help you deliver those.’ We’ve got an employee-volunteer programme set up, for example, where corporates can adopt local projects and get their employees involved.

The ECB have reached a watershed where they’re changing a number of their commercial partners. Are you involved with discussions with them about what you might be able to get from those relationships? How does that work?

There’s no real commercial tie-up with the ECB in terms of communication, in terms of sponsors that are coming into the ECB. In an ideal world, it would be great for us to be tied into any deals that come in because the last thing that we want within sport, and especially within cricket, is initiatives coming up everywhere. I think we’d all agree right across the game that the important thing is that projects are tied up, resources are pooled together in difficult times, and we’re doing quality programmes – community outreach programmes, schools programmes, whatever they might be. So in an ideal world we’d love to be tied into any deals the ECB goes to commercials for and say, ‘This is part of what you’d get for it.’ But unfortunately it doesn’t happen. We’re always keen to have that conversation and want as close a tie-up as possible with any commercial deals the ECB do.

"We’ve become a lot more scientific with our database, how we communicate with individuals, with corporates."

What happens now with your title sponsor, Brit Insurance, moving away from cricket sponsorship at the end of this year?

Well, the good thing for us is we saw the signs early. When they said they were pulling out of cricket we had those conversations probably six months to a year ago. We kind of knew what was coming, so it’s given us an opportunity. We’re currently out there trying to seek another sponsor to come on board as a headline sponsor for Chance to Shine. We delivered in excess of UK£7 million to Brit Insurance in terms of PR coverage on an annual basis through our four media partners. In terms of the profiling and getting the visibility, the return on investment for them is huge. We felt that we provided that for them. The MCC gives us UK£100,000 a year and on an annual basis we deliver over UK£1 million worth of PR return for them. That’s one of the key drivers in supporting us. We’ve got all the tools to help deliver back marketing return but also corporate responsibility return through project engagement, through employee volunteering. It’s certainly not something that we’re finding easy at the moment, despite the success we’ve had with what we delivered with Brit, despite the visibility and profile of the programme. As everyone knows out there, particularly in the charitable sector, it’s a tough time.

With that in mind, and more generally, what are your targets this summer with the raised profile the game will have?

From a personal point of view, I’m leading on finding us a title sponsor. The hope is that we can secure someone with the continual visibility of Chance to Shine. We’ve been lucky to have been selected as one of the chosen charities for the Champions Trophy. We’re very big on PR for ourselves, getting out there, profiling ourselves – I think it’s massively important – but also adding a direct fundraising message to that as well. And certainly we’ll do everything that we can through our awareness days, through using the England players for appearances, etc, to keep raising the profile and hopefully secure a title sponsor but also keep income coming in from private donations and various other things. We’ve got various events. One’s called ‘Chance to Dine’, which is a celebrity cook-off at Lord’s and was very successful last year – that’s in September. We have an annual corporate sixes event called ‘Six in the City’, which is going to be at the Oval this year. We’ve got the Michael Vaughan Bike Ride where he’s going to ride across the ODI venues in September. There are events that people can get involved with and support us, but also we’re looking for individuals to continue to donate.

Looking past this summer it’s a big couple of years for cricket in this country with the India tour next year and the Ashes again in 2015. How are you mapping out your targets for the next five-year period?

We need to raise UK£2.5 million a year privately up until 2015. We know that’s what we’ve got to raise. That’s our immediate target – fundraising – because if that doesn’t happen everything else stands still. There’s no point in us putting together great campaigns and that sort of thing if the economic engine for us, our fundraising, starts to dry up – then we’d need to look at other areas of the programme that we’d need to cut back on. That’s going to be the immediate focus. We’re about to put a new five-year plan together for beyond 2015, which is important because I think the success of the programme has proven that there’s a real appetite to try and get cricket back into schools. We’ve found that if you take a sustainable programme to schools that they’ll take it, so we’ve killed that myth a little bit that schools aren’t interested. Our aim is going to be to try and raise UK£4 million to UK£5 million a year to service that, of which we hope Sport England will continue to support us and invest in us and the remainder will come from private funding.

We’re hoping that we’ll reinvent ourselves a little bit in terms of what we deliver, but fundamentally we’ve proven that we’ve touched on a whole host of areas around activity levels among young people, the health agenda, the community element, delivering social outcomes through the Street Chance element of our charity work. So for us it’s about where we see society going in years to come. What are the things that will continually be positive in terms of funding? What will government want to continue to fund? What will individuals and corporates want to fund? I think the social outcomes element will be an important part of what we do but we also want to continue to try and get more kids educated through competitive sport, so those elements will remain part of our programme. It’s ensuring that we have a very clear vision of what it’s going to be like beyond 2015 and establishing that over the next 12 months, but then being very clear about how we’re going to go about raising those funds – so we’ve got a product that’s slightly different and more appealing instead of people saying, ‘Oh, that’s more of the same… Is that something we really want to give more money towards?’ That’s the balance for us.

Given the pressure that state funding has come under in the economic conditions of recent years, does the Chance to Shine model have even more of a sustained future than you might have thought in 2003?

I think the real accolade for us was the fact that this new cycle of funding that’s come out for the national governing bodies through the Whole Sport Plans, which Sport England have funded, we’re one of a very small number of charities that have received continued funding from Sport England. The other 40 national governing bodies, some have received their funding, some haven’t. Our funding’s been on a par – UK£7.5 million over three years – with some of the main sports. That’s been a great thing and I think, having spoken to individuals from Sport England, the reason why they continue to support us is that firstly, we’ve got the credibility and we deliver what we say we’re going to deliver and are very professional in what we do, and secondly we monitor and evaluate programmes very well.

So I think that as long as we continue to do that, there’s no reason why Sport England shouldn’t continue to invest in the future and we’ll deliver over the next three years and we’re totally committed to making sure that we do that and do it well, and then hopefully the continual funding will follow after that. And that’s always a great carrot for private donations and corporates, to say that we’re being matched by the government via Sport England or they continue to invest in us in difficult times. We got UK£7.5 million last time and in the new three-year phase our funding hasn’t gone down, which is great testament to how they view the Cricket Foundation.

Wasim Khan was speaking to SportsPro's Eoin Connolly as part of a feature on this year's back-to-back Ashes series, which includes comment from leading figures in English and Australian cricket and appears in the August 2013 edition of SportsPro. To find out how you can get hold of a copy of the issue, click here.