The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket’s (ICEC) long-awaited report into the structural inequalities across race, gender and class in cricket in England and Wales was finally published on Tuesday. The commission, announced in March 2021, has relied on evidence from over 4000 respondents across the game to produce a 317-page report, “Holding Up a Mirror to Cricket”.
The report ends with 44 recommendations to “transform the game’s culture and, in some cases, to redesign the systems that govern and operate cricket.” ESPNcricinfo picks through 10 of the more significant ones below.
A public apology
The very first recommendation the ICEC makes is for the ECB to issue an “unqualified public apology for its own failings and those of the game it governs.” The apology, it says, must “acknowledge that racism, sexism, elitism and class-based discrimination have existed, and still exist, in the game, and recognise the impact on victims of discrimination.”
In particular, the report says, there needs to be a direct apology for the “ECB’s and the wider game’s historic failures in relation to women’s and girls’ cricket and its failure to adequately support Black cricket in England and Wales.”
Equal pay for the women’s game
It calls for international match fees between the England men’s and women’s teams to be made equal with immediate effect, commercial earnings for promotional appearances to be equal on average to the men’s team by 2028, as well as for the ECB to top up prize money wins at ICC events so they are in line with men’s winnings (until, the report says, the ICC makes these equal).
At domestic level, the report wants women’s regional teams to be fully professionalised by the start of the 2025 season (as well as have rookie contracts in place a season earlier). The reports wants average pay and prize money to be equal to the men’s domestically by 2029, but across a gradated scale (50% by 2025, 75% by 2027 and 100% by 2029). They want women’s salaries in The Hundred to be equal to the men’s by 2025.
Overhauling school cricket and talent pathways
The report devotes considerable attention to a relatively narrow pathway that has, historically, struggled to tap into as broad a base of talent as possible outside of private, fee-paying schools. The report recommends overhauling the entire talent pathway to “make it more meritocratic, inclusive, accountable, transparent and consistent”.
It specifically suggests that the ECB should, within the next year, put in place an action plan for state schools, calling for a re-allocation of ECB money at U14 level “with the aim of ‘levelling the playing field’… to ensure that there exists an equal pathway into professional cricket for the very large majority of the England and Wales population that attend only a state school”.
The subsequent recommendation calls for counties to forego any direct costs they charge for participation in talent pathways for 2024-25, in a bid to reduce barriers to access for children from lower socio- economic and state school backgrounds. It also calls for financial assistance for other costs, such as that of travel and cost of equipment to this demographic.
A national T20 competition for state school teams
By the start of the 2025 season, the report wants the ECB to organise county and national-level T20 competitions for boys’ and girls’ (U14 and U15) teams from state schools. Wins at county level (U14s) would see schools progress to a national competition the following year (for U15s). This, the report says, should replace…
Ditch Eton-Harrow at Lord’s
“These two events should be replaced by national finals’ days for state school U15 competitions for boys and girls,” the report says, “and a national finals’ day for competitions for men’s and women’s university teams.”
A new, independent regulatory body
One of the report’s most radical recommendations is the creation of a separate regulatory body for cricket, completely independent of the ECB, within the next year. “The new regulatory body, not the ECB, should be responsible for investigating alleged regulatory breaches and for making decisions about whether to bring charges,” the report says, adding in a subsequent recommendation that such breaches should include anti-discrimination and safeguarding rules.
Despite some progress, the report found there to be a lack of clarity and independence in the ECB’s “formal regulatory system”. In its dual roles as promoter and regulator of the game, it concluded the ECB’s potential for conflicts of interest was “irreconcilable” between its commercial considerations and reputation-preservation, against the need at times to take effective regulatory action. It was this conflict that stood out through the Azeem Rafiq racism case.
Cricket’s class barriers
“One of our big reflections over the last 18 months or so is that our understanding of lower socio-economic groups is not good enough,” the ECB acknowledges within the report. One of the bigger – but unsurprising – findings in the report is how little attention has been paid by the ECB to this inequity and inaccessibility, based on class, schooling and/or socioeconomic backgrounds. None of the various initiatives the ECB has undertaken over the years, the report concludes, have specifically targeted barriers to participation and progress on pathways based on class.
As such, they recommend that “within the next 12 months, the ECB undertakes an in-depth examination of the class barriers that exist in cricket and develops a game-wide strategy to remove them”.
ECB should appoint a chief EDI officer
The report’s assessment is that greater EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) competence and expertise is needed with the ECB board and executive. It is essential, the report says, that there is an ongoing and mandatory programme of training and development of these competencies for the board and executive.
“We recommend that, within the next six months, the ECB establishes an Executive-level Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer role with a singular focus on EDI and puts in place sufficient resources to support EDI delivery.
“We recommend that the Chief EDI Officer sits on the ECB Board for the short to medium-term and/or until there is improved performance across EDI outcomes.”
Put EDI front and centre of allocation decisions
In November 2021, the ECB suspended Yorkshire from hosting international cricket, as it came to terms with the full impact of Azeem Rafiq’s experiences of racism at the county. Three months later, following a change in leadership and swift internal reform, the suspension was revoked and the county staged two internationals last summer.
That is used by the report as an example in which putting EDI at the forefront of an allocation decision “is a powerful tool to encourage and enforce compliance with EDI”. It thus recommends that the “ECB revises and clarifies its processes and criteria for allocating, suspending, cancelling and reinstating high profile matches to place greater emphasis on EDI. There is clear evidence that being allocated such matches, or having the right to host them withdrawn, is a powerful tool to encourage compliance with EDI”.
An open and transparent complaints policy
The report is unequivocal in its conclusion that the systems and processes cricket has in place for handling allegations of discrimination are unfit for purpose. The report found a difference in perception between those in power who generally believed the systems they operate were effective and complainants, who found those systems to be inadequate.
The ECB, the commission found, did not appreciate the role of complaints within the broader context of the fight against discrimination and that the system is not “sufficiently victim-centred”.
“We recommend that the ECB reports clearly, publicly and annually on complaints in the professional and recreational game, including numbers, overall outcomes and actions taken to address existing and emerging patterns of concern.”
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo