Middlesex Cricket's designated safeguarding lead, Dal Babu, spoke to Ben Kosky of the ECB Reporters Network about the Club's new Young Person's panel.
“If you look at the average boardroom, what you see are older people. The young person’s voice is missing,” observes Dal Babu, Middlesex’s designated safeguarding lead.
That statement may be true of many organisations, including those that oversee English cricket, but Middlesex is looking to set a new agenda.
Babu is spearheading the club's drive towards change by establishing a young person’s panel – the first of its kind in county cricket – to bring a more youthful perspective to their board.
Working closely with clubs across their 17 London boroughs, Middlesex have recruited a wide-ranging group of youngsters aged 14 to 19, two of whom will eventually be invited to join the board as trustees.
“We want to put a seed in the minds of younger people, to show we do take their voice very seriously,” explains Babu, a former chief superintendent at the Metropolitan Police. “We respect the value of what they’re saying and doing.
“The idea of doing this in pairs is that we don’t want to put them in a difficult position or feeling intimidated. We want them to feel confident about working together and ensure they’re able to contribute to board discussions.
“When we had the meetings with clubs, we were really struck by how articulate these young people were and just how committed they are to issues like equality, diversity, inclusion. In some ways that’s a generational thing, but it’s in everything they say and do.
“They were talking about issues like girls’ teams having to wear whites, given issues around menstruation, how to ensure greater diversity in our pathways programme and then how we can have a more diverse team.
“These are all discussions that have been happening in cricket anyway, but now they’re happening directly with young people. The absence of the young person’s voice was really striking and I think there’s probably a lesson for all boards, no matter where you are.”
Diversity is key to the composition of what is initially set to be a 10-member panel, with gender, ethnicity and geographical location all factored in when it came to identifying the candidates.
Originally, the plan was for the teenagers to join the scheme for one year, but that has been extended to two before the process of recruitment begins again in 2025.
“Young people have very busy lives,” says Babu. “There’s a lot of demands made of them – they’re under a lot of pressure with mock exams and then the real thing, so we wanted to leave them alone for a bit before we start getting them together to discuss issues.
“It’s an incredibly diverse group, drawn from across the boroughs and we’ve deliberately done that because we want to reflect our communities and also to ensure they have that connection with Middlesex.
“We have to be brutally honest about where we are in terms of representation in cricket, particularly in the higher echelons of governing the game and we want to bring in young people who are representative of our communities, to have this discussion.”
Towards the end of the summer, the panel will get an opportunity to involve Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, in that conversation as well.
Dame de Souza is taking part in a Q&A session as part of the Safeguarding in Cricket event to be run by Middlesex and hosted at Lord’s during their LV= Insurance County Championship fixture against Warwickshire in September.
The panel have also been commissioned to design and produce a poster promoting good behaviour towards on-field officials, which will be distributed among clubs and Under-18 age groups across the county later that month.
“We received some concerns around the behaviour of some parents and carers at matches involving younger age groups, instances where people have behaved poorly and we wanted to know what we could do to help,” adds Babu.
“Mistakes will be made on the pitch, but we need people to respond in a respectful way when that happens – to stay calm, respect decisions that are made and challenge them in an appropriate way.
“What we’re trying to do is be innovative and see what can be done to make a difference in the game so our young people feel safe and secure.”