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English cricket needs ‘urgent reform’ after being deemed ‘racist, sexist and elitist’

The report found that racism, class-based discrimination, elitism and sexism were "widespread and deep-rooted" in English cricket (Pexels.com/Patrick Case)

English cricket is in need of “urgent reform” in order to tackle “deep-rooted and widespread institutional, structural and interpersonal discrimination across the game”.

The call comes after a landmark report – published by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) – found that racism is “entrenched” in cricket and that women are marginalised and “routinely experience sexism and misogyny”.

Published today (27 June) the Holding Up A Mirror To Cricket report is based on responses from more than 4,000 people and lays bare the extent of game-wide failings. The responses were supplemented by primary research, literature reviews, written and oral evidence from hundreds of individuals, counties, women’s regional teams and wider organisations linked to cricket.

Among the most damning findings are:

● Racism is entrenched in cricket. The game’s structures lead to racial disparities and discrimination, and the ICEC heard many examples of stereotyping, exclusion and racist behaviour.

● Women are marginalised and routinely experience sexism and misogyny. The women’s game is treated as subordinate to the men’s game, and women have little or no power, voice or influence within cricket’s decision-making structures.

● There is little to no focus on addressing class barriers in cricket. Private schools dominate the talent pathway, there is scarce provision of cricket in state schools and there are substantial cost barriers faced by those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

● The complaints system is confusing, overly defensive and not fit for purpose. There is profound mistrust, victims and those accused of discrimination are not properly supported and people are simply not reporting, for fear of victimisation and concern that no action will be taken. All too often people are suffering in silence.

● The systems in place to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) require significant improvement. There is game-wide confusion about how the regulatory system works, with a lack of rigorous EDI standards. The ECB’s dual role of promoter and regulator creates the potential for conflicts of interest.

Based on the findings, the ICEC sets out 44 recommendations to transform the game’s culture and, in some cases, to redesign the systems that govern and operate cricket.

These include a fundamental overhaul of the professional women players’ pay structure; an action plan to revive Black cricket – through financial support and targeted programmes in local communities; an a complete reworking of the entire talent pathway structure to make it more meritocratic, inclusive, accountable and free of direct costs by 2025.

The report also calls for a new regulatory body, independent of the ECB, to be established in order to increase trust and confidence in the regulatory process and address concerns around conflicts of interest as the ECB is both a promoter and regulator of cricket.

Cindy Butts, chair of the ICEC, said: “We had unprecedented access to cricket which provided us with a unique opportunity to hold a mirror up to the game.

“Our findings are unequivocal. Racism, class-based discrimination, elitism and sexism are widespread and deep rooted.

“The game must face up to the fact that it’s not banter or just a few bad apples. Discrimination is both overt and baked into the structures and processes within cricket.

“The stark reality is cricket is not a game for everyone. Whilst there has been commendable and significant progress in the women’s game, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens with unequal access, pay and treatment. The England Women’s team are yet to play a Test Match at Lord’s, the home of cricket.

“Meanwhile, 87% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi respondents, 82% of Indian respondents and 75% of Black respondents to our survey told us they have experienced discrimination, which is simply unacceptable.

“If you attend a state school, you’re less likely to have access to cricket and have the same opportunity to progress in the game as your private school peers. For those who do ‘make it’ we were saddened to hear they were sometimes subjected to class-based discrimination. Cricket needs to urgently level the playing field.

“We did encounter encouraging examples of good practice and there are many who work tirelessly across the game and who want to see positive change. From the outset, we as a Commission shared a collective desire to see cricket emerge as the most equitable and inclusive sport in the country. To achieve this ambition a report of this kind must necessarily focus on the problems in order to identify the solutions. Our findings will make for difficult reading, but change will not happen if denial and defensiveness persist.

“We want to congratulate the ECB for setting up a truly independent commission to examine equity in cricket; many would not have been brave enough to do so. We have confidence in the ECB’s new leadership and their ability to take our recommendations forward – the proof will be demonstrable change. The game must now lean into the uncomfortable truths and commit to reforming cricket’s culture, structures and processes. This is the only way to make cricket genuinely a sport for all.”

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