ICEC review into cricket shows sport still rife with racism, sexism and elitism- change is needed to save game

Cricket is a sport which brings together people from all backgrounds into an environment that should make them feel welcome- if this isn’t the case then the game is failing many people
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The findings of the Independent Commission into Equity in Cricket (ICEC) have been published- and they give a damning indictment into the sport. The report has found the game has a deep rooted issue of racism, sexism and elitism. 

The report found widespread examples of racism, and explained how it isn’t just reserved to “a few bad apples”. It references in detail the case of Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq and the racism he suffered whilst playing for the club. 

A male Pakistani man is quoted anonymously in the report giving his experiences and how things which Rafiq talked about also happened to him. He said: “[Teammates] poured alcohol on me. They threw bacon sandwiches at me. I have lived with all that and never spoke to anyone about it.” 

The independent investigation into cricket found that many responses from individuals “included many examples of overt racism and abuse from club officials, team members and supporters directed, in particular, at Black and South Asian players including derogatory and inappropriate language, racist stereotyping and assumptions being made about them.” The lengthy report is filled with examples of overt racism, and goes on to say that black people have been failed by the sport and that the ECB have been slow to respond. 

The report identifies many examples of sexism in the game, with lots of abuse aimed at the women’s game. Women are subordinate to men in the sport and this has been shown to be the case at grassroots and professional level. 

Further findings on this subject include the fact women have less opportunities to play at the premier grounds. The commission have said they were “alarmed” to discover the England Women’s team has never played a Test Match at Lord’s. The ‘home of cricket’ is still, according to the report, a home principally for men. 

The report found evidence of a widespread culture of sexism and misogyny, and unacceptable behaviour towards women in both the recreational and professional game. Women and women’s teams are frequently demeaned, stereotyped and treated as second-class. This included misogynistic and derogatory comments about women and girls, and everyday sexism. On top of this, some described being ostracised and ridiculed either for not participating in, or for objecting to, sexism directed towards female players and umpires or the women’s game more generally. There was evidence of unwanted and uninvited advances from men towards women.

A general view of play on day one of the LV= Insurance County Championship Division 1 match between Middlesex and Nottinghamshire at Lord's Cricket Ground on April 20, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)A general view of play on day one of the LV= Insurance County Championship Division 1 match between Middlesex and Nottinghamshire at Lord's Cricket Ground on April 20, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
A general view of play on day one of the LV= Insurance County Championship Division 1 match between Middlesex and Nottinghamshire at Lord's Cricket Ground on April 20, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Furthermore, the report identified a significant gap between state and private school provision in the talent pathway which ‘shocked’ the committee. Several factors have been identified by the committee into why there remains such a gulf between private and state schools and their role in the talent pathway. 

A section of the executive summary reads: “The scarce provision of cricket in state schools, the widespread links between cricket and private schools, the cost and time associated with playing youth cricket, the lack of a systematic, contextual process for talent identification, and the relative absence of diversity amongst coaches on the talent pathway: these are all important factors which present significant barriers to an equitable system.”

Following publication of the report, the ECB has published a full response to the findings. This can be read through the ECB website. 

Chair of the ECB Richard Thomspon said: “On behalf of the ECB and wider leadership of the game, I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has ever been excluded from cricket or made to feel like they don’t belong. Cricket should be a game for everyone, and we know that this has not always been the case. Powerful conclusions within the report also highlight that for too long women and Black people were neglected. We are truly sorry for this.

“This report makes clear that historic structures and systems have failed to prevent discrimination, and highlights the pain and exclusion this has caused. I am determined that this wake-up call for cricket in England and Wales should not be wasted. We will use this moment to demonstrate that it is a game for all and we have a duty to put this right for current and future generations.”

The damning report into cricket should be an eye-opener to the people who run the sport. Any effort to make the sport inclusive to people of any religion, race, gender or class is being seriously undermined by the findings of the report. 

Working to eradicate this is vital, and making this brilliant sport something which anyone of any ability wants to be a part of is a huge next step for the ECB and other cricketing bodies to take. The full report, titled ‘Holding Up A Mirror To Cricket, can be read through the ICEC website.