The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said that it wants to change the game as it publishes its response to a report detailing racism, sexism, classism and elitism in the sport.
According to the ICEC (Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket) discrimination in cricket in England and Wales is widespread, with them responding by accepting most of the ICEC report's 44 recommendations, which includes the creation of an independent regulator for the game.
ECB chief executive, Richard Gould, said: "The ICEC report was a massive moment for the sport and a responsibility we take extremely seriously, to bring about the changes we all want to see.
"We think we are on a journey to try to change history in terms of what cricket looks like and will look like." One of the recommendations the report made when it was published in June was for the ECB to issue an unreserved public apology for its failings, which chair Richard Thompson did immediately.
He (Thompson) said: "I want to double down on our apology to those we have let down and discriminated against.
"Cricket hasn't got it right in the past, but this is an opportunity to move forwards together. I'd urge everyone to now come together, to put their energy and effort into delivering these actions, and to playing their part in ensuring cricket becomes England and Wales' most inclusive team sport."
With sub-clauses included in the 44 recommendations, the ECB says there are some 137 actions asked of the governing body by the ICEC report. The ECB said that it has a positive direction of travel on 94% of them.
Some, such as increasing the match fees paid to England's women for international matches so that they are equal to those paid to England's men, have already been carried out. However, the ECB stopped short on committing to all of the ICEC's recommendations on equal pay, which include equal average salaries at international level by 2030, equal salaries for The Hundred by 2025 and equal average pay and prize money in other domestic cricket by 2029.
"Growing the demand and audience for women's cricket is crucial to creating the long-term commercial conditions, which will underpin the achievement of our pay parity goal," said the ECB response.
"For all the progress we have seen, the gap between the value of commercial and media rights for the men's and women's games is still vast. By creating a thriving, viable and robust future for women's and girls' cricket at every level of the game, we can make real progress in closing that gap."
Former England cricketer Claire Taylor welcomed the increased investment in women's cricket and agreed with the ECB that developing the game is just not just about money. She said: "The amount of money that the ECB's got to invest in the game as a whole is not infinite.
“The ECB is working within its current knowledge of what its revenues are likely to be from its broadcast deals and so forth over the next few years. I think any investment in the women's and girls' game - and we can apply the same thinking to the other areas that the ICEC has asked the ECB to invest in - needs to be sustainable.
"It's got to be meaningful in terms of the amount of competition that domestic players have, and it's got to be underpinned by similar investments into the bottom of the pyramid." The ICEC was announced by the ECB in March 2021 in the wake of global movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too.
It opened an online call for evidence in November of that year, receiving 4,156 responses. In March 2022, a call for written evidence resulted in more than 150 responses. Among those to give evidence include England men's Test captain Ben Stokes, women's captain Heather Knight, former men's captain Joe Root, World Cup-winning skipper Eoin Morgan, and Azeem Rafiq - the former Yorkshire player and racism whistleblower.
The ICEC delivered its findings from the two-year investigation in June, on the eve of the second men's Ashes Test between England and Australia at Lord's. The 317-report, titled Holding A Mirror Up To Cricket, concluded "structural and institutional racism" exists within the game, women are treated as "subordinate" to men at all levels of the sport, Black cricket has been failed and there is a prevalence of "elitism and class-based discrimination".
The ECB, the subject of most of the recommendations from the report, was given three months in which to publish a response. Former Yorkshire player Rafiq said that the report was a step in the right direction, but it lacks detail and he is not sure that it goes far enough to ensure others do not suffer from racism like he did.
"There's a bit more clarity to commitment around women's cricket and the financial commitment to the charity programmes,” he said.
“So they are two positives, credit where credit's due. But it lacks detail, which is incredibly disappointing and a little bit frustrating. There's a lot of acceptance they need to do x, y and z, but how they are doing to do that is not there.
"Everyone should all be unapologetically impatient of these issues now. We are in 2023 and there's no way anyone trying to fulfil their dream or playing sport should be subjected to any type of abuse."
In accepting most of the ICEC's recommendations, the ECB said: "Many we will be implementing by the letter - or, indeed, have already implemented. Others we will implement in slightly different ways or to a different timescale, and there are only a small number we will not take forward, which we explain in the report."
As part of its response the ECB said it would:
- Invest an extra £25m per year on top above the forecasted revenue of the women's game up to the end of the current broadcast deal with Sky in 2028
- Develop an action plan designed to increase the number of state primary and secondary school students playing cricket - a £2m investment split across five charities was announced earlier this month
- Establish an independent regulator to deal with matters of anti-discrimination, anti-corruption, anti-doping, misconduct and safeguarding
- Work with counties to redefine the talent pathway with the aim of ensuring finance is not a barrier to talent pathway participation
- Assess venues that have been allocated the right to stage major matches with regard to their standards of equality, diversity and inclusion, and adjust the allocations if there is evidence of non-compliance
- Publish an annual progress report and a full State of Equity Report every three years
The ECB estimates that the cost of implementing the recommendations of the ICEC report will run into tens of millions. It rejected the recommendation for the appointment of a dedicated EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) officer and for a dedicated representative for the women's game on the ECB board.
The ICEC report also recommended that annual fixtures between Eton and Harrow schools and Cambridge and Oxford universities are no longer played at Lord's after 2023. In March, prior to the publication of the report, Lord's owners the Marylebone Cricket Club said those fixtures would be retained for a five-year period and reviewed in 2027.
"This is a matter we will need to continue to keep under regular consideration," said the MCC. "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."
The ICEC report also noted that England's women have never played at Test at Lord's, but they have since been scheduled to do so in 2026. ICEC chair Cindy Butts: 'We are carefully considering the ECB's published response to our recommendations, we will share our considered view when we give evidence to the CMS (Culture, Media, and Sport) select committee."
Richard Thompson (ECB chair) said: "There is no doubt that the ICEC highlighted to great effect the impact of discrimination on individuals and the extent of the systemic challenges to be addressed.
“This response represents a set of actions that will accelerate and intensify our work to make cricket a game for everyone, actions that cricket can deliver and fund within an achievable timeframe. It builds on a huge amount of work which is already under way right across the network."
England all-rounder Moeen Ali commented: "The ECB have been trying for a while but probably haven't got it right but now, finally, they've got it right with the projects they are starting to invest in and things like that. It's a great opportunity for more people and more diverse people and it's exactly what we want in this country, that sport and cricket is for everybody."
"We are optimistic that we can continue on our journey to bring about real and lasting change,” said Yorkshire chief executive Stephen Vaughan “and whilst there is still a long way to go and much to be done we are committed on our mission and will work with the ECB to do everything we can to learn from the past and use our hard-earned experience to help support other clubs on the journey to improving standards across the game and making cricket a sport for everyone."
Anti-racism charity Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett said: "We welcome the publication of the ECB's response to the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket which recognises the need for systemic change in the sport.
“Football should take note of what comprehensive and systemic reform can look like, and it's positive to see the ECB commit to setting ethnicity and gender targets at senior leadership level with results published on an annual basis. These are huge drivers of change for any sport to become more representative of the communities it serves."