According to the Chair of the Equity in Cricket report, Cindy Butts, cricket suffers from widespread racism, sexism, classism, and elitism. The timing of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket’s (ICEC) revealing report couldn’t be more significant, coinciding with the Lord’s Ashes Test. The report exposes the game’s prevalent discrimination in various forms, with Lord’s and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) playing a significant and influential role.
The report, spanning 317 pages, highlights Lord’s on 56 occasions and the MCC on 125 occasions. In comparison, the other four men’s Ashes venues this summer—The Oval, Edgbaston, Headingley, and Old Trafford—receive minimal or no mention. Out of the 44 recommendations made by the ICEC, three directly involve Lord’s or the MCC. One recommendation, number 18, garners significant attention for advocating the removal of historic fixtures between Eton and Harrow, as well as Oxford and Cambridge.
The report argues, “Those who advocate for the continuation of these historic fixtures fail to comprehend the damage they inflict upon the reputation of MCC and Lord’s in the public eye. This perpetuates the notion, whether justified or not, that MCC members are disconnected, elitist, and unrepresentative of both the wider population and cricket players. Such decisions at the ‘Home of Cricket’ hinder the game’s inclusive aspirations more than some may realize.”
People’s perception of the report’s findings will naturally be influenced by their personal experiences in the game. Our opinions tend to be shaped by the events that have impacted us individually. If one has been fortunate enough to spend time around cricket without experiencing or witnessing discrimination, they are in the minority. Cricket reflects the problems present in society, and discrimination is an unfortunate reality.
To provide some context, I hail from Stoke-on-Trent, received a state education, and have played club cricket since a young age. Now approaching my forties, I have never encountered discrimination based on race, gender, or class, to my knowledge. My father once complained to the Staffordshire Under-12s coach because he believed I wasn’t getting enough playing time, but the truth is my leg-spin skills were lacking—I switched to wicketkeeping shortly after.
I mention this personal experience because it influences my perception of Lord’s and what I believe cricket represents. Undeniably, Lord’s stands apart from other cricket grounds across the country. The Veuve Clicquot stand launches champagne corks onto the outfield, and more shirts and ties are worn here than at the other Ashes Tests combined. I’m unsure if I’m permitted to enter the pavilion (I’ve never attempted on match days, but elsewhere I’ve been welcomed).
None of these observations are inherently “wrong” or exclusive to cricket. People dress up for events like Ascot or Wimbledon, and it can be enjoyable to have a unique experience while watching sports. However, if a place makes you feel different and necessitates modifying your behavior, can it truly be considered welcoming? And if this place claims to be the “Home of Cricket,” should it not strive to make everyone feel included?
Lord’s and the MCC are intrinsically linked, with MCC membership governing the ground and exerting significant influence over the sport. According to the MCC’s website, membership applications are only accepted once a candidate reaches at least 16 years of age. A current full member must propose the candidate, who is then interviewed by two “endorsers.” The waiting list is around 29 years, meaning the youngest new member could be 45, if they’re fortunate. Women were only admitted as members as recently as 1999.
In a survey conducted by the MCC in November 2021, it was found that approximately 95-96% of the membership is white. There were not enough members who identified as black, black British, Caribbean, or African to yield a measurable result. Among the 27% of respondents, 48% felt that the MCC should do more to address equality, diversity, and inclusion.
These statistics provide context to the ongoing controversy within the MCC regarding the historic fixtures, as highlighted by the damning ICEC report, as well as the fact that England’s women have never played a Test match at Lord’s.
However, focusing solely on the Eton-Harrow and Oxford-Cambridge fixtures would disregard other aspects concerning Lord’s and the MCC. England’s women have played more one-day internationals at Lord’s than at any other ground in the country. The MCC Foundation supports over 3,200 state-educated players through 77 hubs across the UK. Lord’s boasts the most diverse audience for matches in The Hundred, compared to the other seven venues.
Perhaps the issue lies in the perception the cricket fans and the broader public hold of Lord’s. Perception often shapes reality. The prevailing perception is that Lord’s caters to a male, old, white, and privileged demographic. In reality, the England men’s team playing at Lord’s on Wednesday consists entirely of white players, with nine of the eleven having attended private schools at some point during their education.
Naturally, most of the necessary changes in the game will need to be driven by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Nevertheless, Lord’s, as the most recognizable symbol of the sport in this country, has a significant role to play.
The ICEC report emphasizes, “Just as some individuals in the game strive to propel it forward, others rely on its history to hold it back.” Lord’s embodies cricket’s rich history and now has the opportunity to shape its future.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about #CricketEquity
What is the Equity in Cricket report about?
The Equity in Cricket report exposes the widespread discrimination present in the sport, highlighting issues such as racism, sexism, classism, and elitism.
How does Lord’s factor into the report?
Lord’s, known as the “Home of Cricket,” holds a powerful and unique role in the game. The report mentions Lord’s and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) extensively, emphasizing the need for change and inclusivity within this iconic venue.
What recommendations are made regarding Lord’s and the MCC?
The report includes 44 recommendations, three of which directly involve Lord’s or the MCC. One notable recommendation calls for the removal of historic fixtures between Eton and Harrow, and Oxford and Cambridge, citing the need to combat the perception of elitism and disconnectedness associated with these events.
How diverse is the membership of the MCC?
According to a survey conducted by the MCC, the membership is predominantly white, with a lack of representation among black, black British, Caribbean, or African members. The report underscores the importance of promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion within the MCC membership.
What is the significance of the ICEC report for the future of cricket?
The report serves as a wake-up call for the sport, highlighting the pressing need for change and inclusivity. Lord’s, as the symbol of cricket in England, has a crucial role to play in driving the necessary reforms and shaping the future of the game.
More about #CricketEquity
- [Equity in Cricket report](insert link here)
- [Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) website](insert link here)
- [England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) website](insert link here)
- [The Hundred](insert link here)