English cricket desperately needs reform because of “widespread and deep-rooted” racism, sexism, elitism, and class-based discrimination that exists at all levels of the game.
More than 4,000 players, coaches, administrators, and fans provided testimony for the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (Icec)’s 317-page report, which urges the sport to accept “that it’s not banter or just a few bad apples” to blame for the issues.
The England and Wales Cricket Board responded to the report by issuing an unreserved apology for its failure to adequately tackle discrimination and said the findings were “a seminal moment” for the sport. It pledged to respond to 44 recommendations made by Icec within three months.
Cindy Butts, the Icec chair, stated that we urgently needed fundamental change. “We unequivocally state our findings,” she said. “Discrimination is both overt and baked into the structures and processes within cricket. The stark reality is cricket is not a game for everyone.
“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.”
The report, which amounts to one of the most devastating published critiques of a British sports body, lays bare the extent of the game’s failings, including:
- Racism is “entrenched” in cricket : “It is not confined to ‘pockets’,” the report states, “nor is it limited to individual incidents of misconduct.” The Icec found that 87% of people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage who responded to its survey, along with 82% of Indian and 75% of Black respondents, said they had experienced discrimination.
- Women are marginalised and routinely experience sexism and misogyny : with women’s teams “frequently demeaned, stereotyped and treated as second-class”. As the report also points out, the England women’s team are yet to play a Test at Lord’s, the home of cricket.
- Cricket is “elitist and exclusionary”: with “private school and ‘old boys’ networks’ and cliques permeate the game to the exclusion of many”. The report also mentions instances where individuals in state schools called children “peasants” or mimicked their working-class accents.
The report also criticises the English cricket for failing to recognise the extent of racism in cricket until more recently, when the former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq laid bare the abuse he had endured playing the game.
It questions why the sport’s governing body failed to take any steps to address the drop-off of black players, or the significant underrepresentation in professional cricket of those who attend state school.