In a long-awaited independent report, the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) has exposed the prevalence of racism, sexism, classism, and elitism in English and Welsh cricket. The findings of the two-year investigation shed light on the systemic issues that have plagued the sport.
The ICEC has put forth 44 recommendations, with a significant call for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to issue an unreserved public apology for its failures. Richard Thompson, the chair of the ECB, expressed the board’s commitment to using this moment as an opportunity to reset cricket and address the deep-rooted problems within the sport.
The establishment of the ICEC was announced by the ECB in March 2021, in response to global movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too. The commission collected evidence through online submissions, receiving a total of 4,156 responses, and conducted a call for written evidence, garnering over 150 responses.
Prominent figures who provided evidence include Ben Stokes, the England men’s Test captain, Heather Knight, the women’s captain, Joe Root, the former men’s captain, Eoin Morgan, the World Cup-winning skipper, and Azeem Rafiq, a former Yorkshire player and racism whistleblower.
The damning 317-page report, titled “Holding Up A Mirror To Cricket,” concluded that structural and institutional racism continues to persist in the game. It highlighted instances where umpires overlooked abuse and dismissed complaints in both professional and recreational cricket. The report emphasized the urgent need for cricket to become a game that is inclusive to all individuals.
Cindy Butts, the chair of ICEC, emphasized the necessity for leadership to drive the required changes. The report commended the ECB for its willingness to subject itself to independent scrutiny.
ECB chair Richard Thompson offered an unreserved apology, acknowledging that cricket has not always been a game for everyone. He acknowledged the neglect faced by women and black people in the sport and expressed deep remorse for these shortcomings. Thompson emphasized the need for cricket to address discrimination and the pain it has caused, while ensuring inclusivity for current and future generations.
The recommendations put forward by the ICEC include equalizing match fees between the England women’s and men’s teams immediately, conducting regular reports on equity in cricket every three years, and discontinuing annual fixtures between Eton and Harrow schools and Oxford and Cambridge universities at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
The report also shed light on the allegations made by Azeem Rafiq, revealing the significant response driven by his appearance at a parliamentary hearing in November 2021, where he described English cricket as “institutionally racist.”
The report revealed that 50% of respondents experienced discrimination within the past five years, with even higher percentages among individuals from ethnically diverse communities. Urgent action is required to address the persistence of interpersonal and structural racism within cricket across England and Wales.
The report highlighted a “lost generation” of black cricketers, with black adults participating in cricket at such low numbers that it was statistically irrelevant, as indicated by a 2020 Sport England report. The ICEC recommended that the ECB thoroughly examine the decline of cricket among black communities within the next 12 months.
Azeem Rafiq welcomed the report’s findings and acknowledged the extensive work put into the inquiry. He emphasized the need for reflection and called on the sport’s governing bodies to devise a way forward that ensures cricket is a game for everyone, regardless of their background.
This report serves as a wake-up call for cricket in England and Wales, urging immediate action to address systemic discrimination and foster a more inclusive environment within the sport. The ECB and all stakeholders must take these recommendations seriously to create