England player-turned commentator honoured in Queen’s Birthday Honours list
Rainford-Brent was recognised for her work with the African Caribbean Engagement (ACE) Programme. The organisation was founded in January 2020 to engage young people from African and Caribbean heritage in cricket following a decline in the number of Black British professional players.
She also spoke powerfully of her own experiences of racism alongside Michael Holding in a programme aired during Sky Sports’ coverage of the first day of the first Test between England and West Indies last summer.
“You never imagine the day you hit your first ball that you’ll get this sort of recognition,” Rainford-Brent told Sky Sports, with whom she is commentating on the ongoing second Test between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston.
“It’s been an incredible year. Everything from working on the ACE Programme, my broadcasting career and the feature with Michael Holding, which shows the direction of travel. I’m really honoured and hope to continue to use my platform for good.”
Rainford-Brent said she turned off her social media in anticipation of a backlash against the video on racism in cricket and society with Holding. But she described the positive response to the piece as “mind-blowing”.
“It showed me that the world is ready to talk about these sorts of issues,” she told Sky.
In addition to her commentary work for Sky and the BBC, Rainford-Brent is chair of the ACE Programme set up by her club, Surrey. The initiative has been awarded a £540,000 grant from Sport England and has expanded to work with communities in London, Birmingham and Bristol. She is also a trustee of the Chance To Shine charity.
Rainford-Brent, 37, played 22 ODIs and seven T20Is between 2001 and 2010. She was part of the England side that retained the Ashes and won the World Cup and World T20 in 2008-09.
Also recognised was Ian Nairn, former captain of the England Physical Disability team, who was awarded an MBE. Nairn led his team to their first ever global Physical Disability Cricket tournament in Bangladesh in 2015; they reached the final of the Physical Disability World Series in Worcester in 2019 in his last series in charge.
Chris Edwards, England Learning Disability captain, and William Craig both received a British Empire Medal.
ECB chief executive officer, Tom Harrison, said: “Cricket has an incredible power to connect communities and improve lives, and all of those honoured today have embodied that work throughout their careers.
“Ebony is an inspiration who has broken down barriers throughout her career and inspired countless people to get involved in cricket. We’re proud to be supporting the ACE Programme she helped to establish, which is doing such important work in giving opportunities to young Black cricketers.
“Ian and Chris are both outstanding role-models. They have represented their country on the highest stage to great effect and they deserve to be recognised on a national scale for their outstanding service.
“We’re proud of all those involved in cricket who have been honoured today, and on behalf of the whole game I’d like to say a huge thank you – and congratulations.”