- By Matthew Henry
- BBC Sport at Lord’s
England captain Ben Stokes said he was “saddened” to hear of experiences of discrimination in a report on cricket in England and Wales.
Delivering a statement ahead of Wednesday’s start of the second Men’s Ashes Test at Lord’s, Stokes said cricket “must go further and be more inclusive and diverse”.
“Obviously the game has a lot more to do and as players we really want to be a part of it to make sure it’s a real sport for everyone,” Stokes said.
The damning report, released on Tuesday, looked at recreational and professional cricket, and the evidence gathered came from more than 4,000 respondents.
Among other things, it said that “structural and institutional racism” continues to exist within the game, women are treated as “subordinate” to men at all levels of sport and there is a prevalence of “elitism and class-based discrimination” in cricket.
“As a sport, we have to learn from past mistakes and do everything we can to make people feel safe and be themselves at every level,” Stokes said.
“The game should be enjoyed without fear of discrimination.”
Stokes, England women’s captain Heather Knight and former men’s skipper Joe Root were among those who gave evidence to the commission.
The report’s chair, Cindy Butts, said it had heard of problems “across cricket, including the England dressing room”.
“To those involved in the game who have been made to feel unwelcome, I am deeply sorry to hear of your experiences,” Stokes said in his statement.
“Cricket needs to celebrate diversity on all fronts, because without diversity, it wouldn’t be the game it is today.
“We must continue and be more inclusive and diverse because the game that I love and millions of people around the world love should be enjoyed without fear of discrimination or judgment because of upbringing, race or gender.”
The report says that the influence of private schools in developing cricketers and the lack of cricket in state schools is partly to blame for “elitism and class-based discrimination”.
Some 58% of men who will play for England in 2021 are privately educated, which is higher than the 7% of the general population who attended private schools.
“Everybody has a different story to tell,” Stokes said.
“I’m Ben Stokes, born in New Zealand, a state educated student who left school at 16 with a GCSE in PE.
“I need help with spelling and grammar in this speech and I’m currently sitting here as the England men’s Test captain.”
Lord’s to host Women’s Test in 2026
The report was particularly critical when it highlighted sexism, saying there was a “pervasive culture of sexism and misogyny” in the game.
Alarmed that there is no Women’s Test at Lord’s – the so-called home of cricket.
ECB chairman Richard Thompson said the lack of a Women’s Test at the venue was “unacceptable”, adding that one would be played there in 2026.
Tests are rarely played in the women’s game and are currently not on the schedule before 2027.
Lord’s hosted a women’s one-day international against India last year, but that was the first time England had played at the venue since the 2017 World Cup final.
This year’s Ashes contest at Trent Bridge, which ended on Monday, was the first of one of the main venues to host Men’s Tests.
“We will make sure there will be a women’s Test match to be held [at Lord’s] in 2026,” Thompson said. “That should have happened sooner.
“That has been addressed and will happen in 2026 when we also host the Women’s World Cup and T20 World Cup.
“We need to bring these paths together and from a women’s perspective they need to feel like they are included and welcome to play anywhere.”
‘Diversity is a strength’
While admitting he had not read the ICEC report, Australian captain Pat Cummins said: “I’ve been playing for 12 years now, we’re all a bit better than we were.
“We think more about how we act than we did 12 years ago.
“It’s an ongoing learning process and something we’re trying to really think about.
“I love that we have some real diversity in our team. It’s a real strength of ours – celebrating everyone’s individuality.
“I hope that anyone who walks into our dressing room, or Australian cricket, whether playing or on the ground, feels welcomed, valued and respected.”
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