Racism, sexism, classism, and elitism have been revealed as pervasive issues within English and Welsh cricket, according to a comprehensive report conducted by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC). The two-year investigation sheds light on the deep-seated problems plaguing the sport, calling for a radical shift in attitudes and practices.
Highlighting the prevalence of sexism, the report exposes the systemic mistreatment of women at all levels of the game. Women are consistently relegated to subordinate roles compared to their male counterparts, facing unequal representation, limited media exposure, and reduced opportunities to play at premier venues. Shockingly, England’s women’s team has never played a Test match at the prestigious Lord’s cricket ground, while the annual schools’ fixture between Eton and Harrow continues to take precedence. The report reveals the existence of a widespread culture of sexism and misogyny within cricket, with numerous incidents of unwanted advances by men towards women players.
The ICEC’s investigation also exposes the stark reality of elitism and class-based discrimination that permeates the sport. The overrepresentation of privately educated individuals within English cricket stands in stark contrast to the wider population. Astonishingly, 58% of men who played for England in 2021 were privately educated, a figure significantly higher than the mere 7% in the general population. The report highlights the structural barriers in place that perpetuate inequality, such as the costs associated with talent pathways and the biases of coaches. Additionally, the lack of cricket in state schools further entrenches these inequities.
The report echoes the resounding calls to address racism in cricket, stating that “structural and institutional racism” still persists within the game. It emphasizes that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) must develop a comprehensive plan to revive black cricket, acknowledging the failures that have excluded and marginalized black players. The ICEC found that many individuals who experience discrimination refrain from reporting it due to a deep-rooted distrust in the authorities. Moreover, the report sheds light on the alarming dismissiveness displayed by umpires towards complaints of abuse, both in professional and recreational matches.
The ICEC’s 317-page report, titled “Holding Up A Mirror To Cricket,” delivers 44 key recommendations for reform. These include a public apology from the ECB for its failings, equalization of match fees between the men’s and women’s national teams, periodic reporting on equity in cricket, and the removal of annual fixtures between elitist institutions from Lord’s. The report calls for a fundamental overhaul of the professional women players’ pay structure, immediate parity in international match fees, and equal pay in The Hundred by 2025.
In response to the findings, ECB chair Richard Thompson issued an unreserved apology, acknowledging that the game has excluded women and black individuals for far too long. Thompson expressed a commitment to rectify these injustices, emphasizing the need for decisive action to ensure cricket becomes a game for all.
The report serves as a stark wake-up call for English and Welsh cricket, urging swift and resolute leadership in implementing the recommendations. It is imperative that the sport embraces inclusivity, dismantles discriminatory structures, and fosters an environment that values equality. Only through dedicated effort and systemic change can cricket truly become a game that celebrates and supports individuals from all backgrounds.