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ECB issues ‘unreserved apology’ as ICEC report reveals deep-rooted discrimination within English cricket

ECB issues 'unreserved apology' as ICEC report reveals deep-rooted discrimination within English cricket

Sport’s failings are revealed in the 317-page document, including 44 recommendations to improve fairness

Andrew Miller

Richard Thompson, chairman of the ECB, said this was the moment to “reset cricket” in England and Wales Getty Images

The ECB leadership issued an unconditional apology to “anyone who did not belong in cricket or made them feel like they did not belong”, and pledged to “use this moment to reset cricket”, after a tough that was discovered by the long-awaited report by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC), published on Tuesday.

The 317-page report, titled “Holding Up A Mirror To Cricket”, features evidence from more than 4000 people, including players, coaches, administrators and fans, and drills deep into the historic disparity- equally in the structure of sport – with special emphasis on the post-colonial legacy – to reveal a pattern of deep-rooted discrimination within the game, especially on the basis of race, class and gender.

The commission was established in March 2021, in response to the killing of George Floyd in police custody in the USA and the Black Lives Matter movement, which prompted many claims of institutional racism within English cricket, not least in revelations by Azeem Rafiq about his treatment in Yorkshire , which culminated in his emotional testimony before a select committee of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in November of that year.

“For many involved in sport (including the ECB) the revelations and recommendations of this report will make for uncomfortable reading,” wrote Cindy Butts, the commission’s chairwoman, in her foreword to the report. And while he praised the current ECB management for being “brave enough” to open up the sport to such forensic independent review, he also added that previous initiatives – not least the ECB’s “Clean Bowl Racism” campaign, which launched in 1999 – has done little. to address the “siren of worry”.

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A total of 44 recommendations are outlined in the report, the first of which is the ECB’s public apology for its previous failures – as issued by Richard Thompson, the chairman – which the commissioners described as an “important first step .. . to help to rebuild trust and signal a clear future direction.”

“On behalf of the ECB and the wider leadership of the game, I apologize unreservedly to anyone who was left out of cricket or made to feel like they didn’t belong,” Thompson said in a statement. “Cricket should be a game for everyone, and we know this is not always the case. The powerful conclusions within the report also show that for too long women and Black people have been neglected. It is truly regrettable we have it.

The ICEC commissioners (L-R): Michelle Moore, Sir Brendan Barber, Cindy Butts (chair), Dr Michael Collins and Zafar Ansari ICEC

“This report makes clear that historic structures and systems have failed to stop discrimination, and highlights the pain and exclusion it causes. I am determined that this wake-up call for cricket in England and Wales should not go to waste. We will use this moment to show that this is a game for everyone and we have a duty to put this right for current and future generations.”

In an open letter to Butts, Thompson thanked the commission’s five-person secretariat – which also includes England cricketer-turned-barrister Zafar Ansari – for their “rigor” and for holding an “unfiltered mirror to all cricket in England. and Wales”.

“I am determined that this wake-up call for cricket … should not be wasted,” added Thompson. “We will use this moment to reset cricket. It cannot be quick and it will not be quick – we need to take time to put in place significant structural reforms. As your report rightly points out, cricket is here to stay. In this time our response will be different. Our response must be broad and long-term.”

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The next step of the ECB’s response is a three-month consideration period, with the ICEC’s 44 recommendations – many of which are multi-faceted and contain sub-recommendations – due to be discussed at both professional and entertainment game.

This consultation process will be led by Clare Connor, the ECB’s deputy chief executive, with the support of a sub-group of the ECB board including Baroness Zahida Manzoor, Pete Ackerley, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Sir Ron Kalifa, Richard Thompson and Richard Gould.

The ECB acknowledged in its statement that some reforms could be “quickly implemented”, and others could be achieved under the current cricket framework but would require “time and investment over the coming months and years”.

Others, however – perhaps the most important call for women’s cricket to achieve equal pay at domestic level by 2029 and at international level by 2030 – will require “fundamental, long-term change in cricket in England and Wales, and the its funding model”.

The report also recommends the establishment of a new independent regulatory body, given ongoing criticism of the sport’s current disciplinary processes – such as those raised at select committee hearings, and at the Cricket Discipline Commission’s subsequent hearing into the culture of Yorkshire’s dressing-room, the penalties due to be revealed later on Tuesday.

“The ECB’s dual role of promoter and regulator has the potential to give rise to conflicts of interest,” the report said. “The phrase ‘marking your own homework’ is often used as evidence to us.”

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Separately, the Marylebone Cricket Club – for centuries the most powerful body in world cricket and still regarded, by the grace of God, as the spiritual home of the game – is up for significant criticism.

The report recommends that the venue’s hosting of annual fixtures between Eton and Harrow, and Oxford and Cambridge, should end after 2023, and be replaced by national finals days for under-15 competitions. state school for boys and girls, and a similar event. for men’s and women’s varsity teams. The commission also expressed “alarm” that England’s women have yet to play a Test at Lord’s, adding: “The ‘home of cricket’ is still a home for men.”

Gould, the ECB chief executive, reiterated that work was already underway to make English cricket more inclusive, including increased funding for the African-Caribbean Engagement Program for young Black cricketers and increased cricket provision in schools of the state, and he is grateful for the report’s assessment that “green shoots of progress” are already visible. However, he also acknowledged that the governing body “needs to go further and faster in our efforts”.

“Making cricket more inclusive and reflective of the communities it serves is my number one priority,” Gould said. “This is not and will not be a quick fix. We are committed to taking the time to work with everyone in the sport, and especially the heads of cricket clubs and institutions, to put in place reforms that are broad, long-term . and significant. We should look at this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore faith in the game we love.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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