MCC has today issued the following communication from Club Chair, Bruce Carnegie-Brown, to its Members in relation to the ICEC report, which was published in June this year.
The ECB has also responded to the report today, and their communication can be found here.
At the end of June, the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) published its report into discrimination in the game. I would like to thank those of you who have written to the Club to express your views. I am now in a position to update Members on MCC's response to the ICEC report.
First and foremost, I would like to recognise the importance of the ICEC report for the game of cricket in England and Wales. In the report, which is a comprehensive and thorough piece of work, ICEC made 44 recommendations for ECB and the game as a whole to consider. You can read the report here.
There will inevitably be different perspectives on the ICEC report and on issues of equality and diversity in wider society, but we should all recognise that there have been significant failures across the sport and there is much more work to do to change the experience which many supporters of cricket have with the game. MCC has been working hard in this area and we are committed to making cricket a game for anyone and everyone who has an interest in the sport by providing opportunities to play and/or watch. In pursuing these goals, we are fully aligned with the intent of the ICEC report.
Our Club has made good progress in a number of areas, delivering the objectives laid out in our 2022 Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Plan, which can be found here, with an update shared in early 2023 and a further detailed update expected in January 2024. Our challenge now is to accelerate our plans to make cricket a game for all.
A key part of our strategy is the Club's unequivocal support for the growth of the MCC Foundation (MCCF). The ICEC report recognised MCCF as having "received widespread praise, providing a welcome focus on developing talented state school cricketers".
MCCF currently runs 77 Hubs across the UK, providing cricket coaching to over 3,200 state-educated pupils (girls and boys). The outputs of these Hubs are numerous, but allowing young people to engage with a sport they might not otherwise be able to access, creating a lifelong interest in the game and new friendships, is just the start. We were delighted to welcome over 90 of the Hubs' participants to Lord's in July for the MCC Foundation National Hubs Finals Day -- a cherished experience for all the teams present.
The announcement, on 13 September, that ECB will match MCC's own increased funding commitment to the MCC Foundation Hubs programme, will increase the charity's reach further. The combined incremental investment from MCC and ECB amounts to £1m over two years, in which time MCCF aims to increase the number of Hubs to 150 and the number of active participants to 5,000. This significant growth in the Hub programme will make a tangible difference to the opportunities for state school children to access cricket coaching.
The work carried out by MCCF is hugely impressive and is something that every MCC Member should feel immensely proud to support. The opportunities presented by the Hubs are life-changing, supporting young people to improve their mental and physical well-being, enhancing their life skills and providing a pathway into the club and professional cricket game.
We fully support our own charity's commitment to ensuring "every young cricketer is empowered to reach their full potential in the game, regardless of race, gender or socio-economic circumstance".
Turning to MCC itself, we are focused on taking cricket to new and interested audiences. Since its release in early 2022, MCC's EDI Plan has been a vital part of our broader strategic objectives and we are pleased with the results we have seen. No better place is this shown than the new membership nominations process, launched in October 2022, which has been successful in raising the percentage of female applicants for membership of MCC from 8% to 19%.
We are acutely aware of the unique position Lord's holds in the affections of those who love cricket. Ensuring that a broad range of players and visitors are able to enjoy our historic and wonderful ground is a key objective.
We are continuing with our plans, set out in our Cricket Strategy published last summer, to extend the "Road to Lord's" concept by initiating competitions open to all schools (private and state), and to all universities, to play their finals at Lord's, starting with the 2024 cricket season. Significant investment was also approved by the MCC Committee on 12 July which will see improvements to the Nursery Ground, allowing us to host more U15 games for girls and boys at Lord's.
We announced in March that the annual fixtures between Oxford and Cambridge, and between Eton and Harrow, would be retained for a five-year period, with a review of the fixtures undertaken in 2027. In light of the ICEC report this is a matter we will need to continue to keep under regular consideration. Whilst this approach may not go as far as meeting the ICEC's specific recommendation, we believe that with all the initiatives MCC is supporting, both at Lord's and around the country, we are striking a sensible balance between respecting Members' views, the Club's history, and our commitment to enabling many more cricketers to play at Lord's.
Women's international cricket
Anyone who was at Lord's for the Women's T20 International on 8 July will have borne witness to one of the defining events of the 2023 cricket season. The quality of cricket on display, matching the excitement and skill of the Women's Ashes series as a whole and also the wonderful atmosphere created by the record attendance that evening, made for a remarkable and memorable occasion.
The ICEC report comments that England Women have yet to play a Test match at Lord's. England Women have played a total of 34 international matches at men's Test venues in the UK in the 30 seasons prior to 2023; 16 of those matches were held at Lord's.
Between 2014 and 2021, ECB's venue allocation policy for women's international cricket was focused on filling smaller grounds, but when MCC has been afforded the opportunity to host women's international matches at Lord's we have stepped up. At the Women's World Cup Final at Lord's in 2017, England played in front of a sell-out crowd. More recently we set new spectator records for women's bilateral cricket at the next women's international we staged, in 2022, and exceeded that by 5,000 when we broke the record again with a crowd of 21,610 at the match in July this year.
ECB recently confirmed that Lord's will be awarded a Women's Test match in 2026 and in the meantime, we will host women's international white-ball fixtures in 2024 and 2025.
We have steadily increased the number of women's matches we host below international level too, and will continue to do so as part of our Cricket Strategy. I believe we can be very proud of our commitment to providing female cricketers with playing opportunities at Lord's.
Elsewhere, The Hundred continues to bring interest to new audiences across England and Wales. Independent research conducted during the 2022 and 2023 seasons shows that Lord's has welcomed the most diverse audience of any ground in the competition. We have seen strong crowds, despite inclement weather conditions this summer, and the Final in August was played in front of a sell-out crowd, including another record being set for attendance at a women's domestic game.
We will continue to review what more we can be doing to promote, nurture and encourage the development of the game of cricket, both at home and internationally. That objective is at the heart of the Club's strategy and the work of the MCC Foundation. We know that these values represent the views of the membership, as evidenced by the 2021 Membership Survey, in which Members indicated that the word you most want MCC and Lord's to be associated with in future is "welcoming".
Whether you have read the report or not, I hope this email helps keep you informed of the work MCC is doing and demonstrates the seriousness with which we take our responsibilities to ensure fair access to cricket for all who want it.
We stand with ECB and support their aim of making cricket the most inclusive sport in this country.
Club Chair, MCC