“Whilst there has been commendable and significant progress in the women’s game, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens with unequal access, pay and treatment. The England Women’s team are yet to play a Test Match at Lord’s, the home of cricket!”
Cindy Butts, chair of the Independent Commission of Equality in Cricket
We welcome the publication of the Independent Commission of Equality in Cricket report which we believe should be read by all those involved in the game of cricket. We submitted evidence to the inquiry as an organisation and commend all those who gave evidence as individuals. Without the testimony of individuals, the opportunity that now exists to drive change in cricket would not be there.
At Women in Sport, we condemn all prejudice, malice and ill-will based on race and social class but here we focus on the experience of women and girls as this is where our expertise lies.
‘Not a game for everyone’
The following excerpts are taken from the ICEC report:
“Women are marginalised and routinely experience sexism and misogyny. The women’s game is treated as subordinate to the men’s game, and women have little or no power, voice or influence within cricket’s decision-making structures.”
“There should be a fundamental overhaul of the professional women players’ pay structure. The women’s game should have equal representation to the men’s game throughout English and Welsh cricket’s governance structure, including membership of the ECB and representation on its Board and committees.”
“We recommend that the ECB and the wider game increase, at pace, the levels of investment in the core infrastructure and operations of the women’s and girls’ game, reflecting the outcome of gender-based budgeting.”
Why it matters
The exclusion of women and girls from the high-profile team sport of cricket is a historic injustice with far reaching consequences. The value of sport in developing resilience, courage, self-belief and belonging cannot be overstated. Team sport can give girls experience of leadership and joint endeavour and through it girls and women can find a love for and sense of joy in sport. There is little doubt that sport can help to counter the pandemic of anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders that plague teenage girls’ lives as well as other gendered health inequalities.
In cricket, in common with many sports, it was made clear to generations of women that it wasn’t a game for them, and they had the door to the home of cricket slammed in their faces. The report is entirely correct that those responsible for running cricket, at all levels, have been far too slow to recognise the value and importance of the women’s game.
Women and men are not the same
The report is also correct in making specific recommendations about the women’s game that go far beyond simply copying the men’s game. The distinct physicality of female bodies and the uniqueness of the spirit of women’s cricket must both be recognised.
We must also recognise that the challenges some women face are not limited to their sex. The complex intersection of sex, class and race can often leave women facing a double or triple whammy of discrimination. As the report powerfully asks, what message has cricket been giving women from Black, working-class backgrounds – other than that they are not welcome as they are.
Women in leadership
It will be impossible to truly transform the game without tackling the deeply rooted culture and misogyny that keep women from progressing to leadership positions in sport. We know there are some brilliant women working at all levels in cricket, including within the ECB, but currently just 13% of the top jobs are filled by women. Not only do we need 50% of senior leadership roles filled by women, it is essential to ensure that they have a positive experience when they get there. This will not be possible without support from male allies, especially those at the top of the sport who must lead by example.
A move to gender budgeting, as the ICEC recommends (recommendations 13 and 14), would be a way of helping to ensure that glaring inequality is stopped in its tracks in future. As the leading advocates of gender budgeting in sport, Women in Sport stand ready to support the ECB in delivering gender budgeting across cricket. Fair funding for the women’s game would allow for better marketing and facilities, not just player salaries, which would support the women’s game to become more self-sufficient in the longer term. It is a sensible investment, quite apart from the need to correct the fundamental unfairness that exists at the moment, and will help raise extra money to reinvest in the women’s game.
When independence matters
We also welcome the report’s recognition that an NGB like the ECB playing the dual role of promoter and regulator of their sport – both trying to encourage new participants into the game and tackling abuse and harassment at the same time – is unsustainable and wrong. Women in Sport has long called for a fully independent regulator for sport, to remove the task of dealing with harassment and abuse from NGBs completely. This report strengthens the case for this considerably.
Twenty-five thousand people watched England women come thrillingly close to beating Australia in a home Ashes test match this week. We should celebrate that women’s cricket has come this far. But there is so much further to go. The ICEC report must be a catalyst for change. We owe it to the next generation of girls and women to make it truly a game for everyone. The change is long overdue.
Cricket now has an opportunity to transform and become truly appealing and welcoming to women. This is true for all levels of the game. We stand ready to support the ECB to achieve greater gender equality in the game. But to ensure true and long-lasting change is created everyone involved in the sport – clubs, sponsors, media – must all play their part.