The latest report by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) has revealed some shocking details about the state of diversity and inclusion in the sport. The report, which was published on 27 June 2023, is based on a survey of over 10,000 players, coaches, officials, staff and fans from across England and Wales. It aims to provide a comprehensive and honest assessment of the challenges and opportunities for cricket to become more equitable and representative of the society it serves.
English Cricket is Dominated by White Men
According to the report, cricket is still dominated by white males, both on and off the field. The survey found that only 4% of professional players and 3% of coaches are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, compared to 14% of the general population. The situation is even worse for women, who make up only 1% of professional players and 2% of coaches.
The report also highlighted the lack of diversity in leadership positions, with only 7% of board members and 5% of senior executives being from BAME backgrounds, and only 12% of board members and 9% of senior executives being women.
People Have to Face Discrimination
The report also uncovered some disturbing experiences of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and harassment within cricket. The survey found that 30% of BAME respondents and 24% of female respondents had experienced or witnessed racism or sexism in cricket in the last 12 months.
Moreover, 16% of LGBTQ+ respondents and 15% of disabled respondents had experienced or witnessed homophobia or disability discrimination in cricket in the last 12 months. The report noted that many incidents go unreported or unresolved due to a lack of awareness, confidence or trust in the reporting mechanisms.
Here are some examples of past reports showing how discrimination based on race and gender has affected English cricket.
Behavior With Non-English Teammates
Azeem Rafiq, a former cricketer claimed in 2021 that he faced racial abuse and discrimination from his teammates, coaches and officials during his time at the club. Rafiq was born in Pakistan and moved to England at the age of 10. He described that he was “so close to taking his own life” after facing institutional racism.
He also alleged that he was made to feel like an outsider and was denied opportunities because of his ethnicity. Rafiq’s allegations sparked an independent investigation by Yorkshire, which found that he had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying, and that the club had failed to deal with his complaints properly.
The investigation also revealed several other instances of racism at Yorkshire, involving other players and staff. The findings of the investigation led to the resignation of several Yorkshire officials, including the chairman and the chief executive, Roger Hutton. Rafiq’s admission of facing racism was hailed by many as bravery and prompted an apology from the club to all affected individuals.
Using Offensive Terms as Banter
In 2021, some controversial tweets by prominent England players sparked outrage and criticism from fans, commentators and former players, questioning the culture and values of English cricket. The tweets containing racist and sexist remarks were originally posted between 2009 and 2013. However, a media outlet resurfaced them after England suspended bowler Ollie Robinson for his own set of discriminatory tweets from 2012.
The tweets by Robinson and other players, including James Anderson, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler, used derogatory terms for people of color, women and LGBTQ+ people. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) launched an investigation into the matter, and said that it would take appropriate action against any player who had breached its code of conduct. The ECB also said that it would review its education and training programs to ensure that they promote diversity and inclusion in cricket.
Gender Pay Gap
Sexism in English cricket is also prevalent from the pay gap between male and female players. According to The Telegraph report in 2021, the average annual salary for male England player was 1.1 million GBP, while the average annual salary for women was 50,000 GBP. This means that male players earned 22 times more than female on average.
The report also found that the pay gap was wider than in other sports, such as football, rugby and tennis. The pay gap reflects the disparity in funding, exposure and opportunities for women’s cricket compared to men’s cricket.
Although the ECB has taken some steps to improve the situation, such as introducing professional contracts for female players in 2014 and launching a new domestic competition for women in 2020, there is still a long way to go before women’s cricket is treated equally to men’s cricket.
Recommendations for Improvement
Besides highlighting the grave errors, the report also acknowledged the unique opportunity for cricket become a more inclusive and equitable sport. It said that the game must reflect and celebrate the diversity of its fans and society. It urged all stakeholders to work together in creating a positive change for the future of cricket.
The report presented several recommendations to enhance inclusion within the realm of cricket. Firstly, it suggested the development of a comprehensive and unwavering strategy that encompasses all levels and facets of the sport. This strategy would prioritize inclusion, fostering an environment that welcomes individuals from all backgrounds.
Secondly, the report emphasized the importance of increasing representation and participation from underrepresented groups in various cricket-related roles, including playing, coaching, officiating, staffing, and governing positions. This would require proactive efforts to create opportunities and remove barriers.
Thirdly, the report advised allocating more funding, support, and resources to grassroots cricket in diverse communities, recognizing the significance of nurturing talent from these areas. Additionally, it highlighted the necessity of educating and training stakeholders on issues of diversity and inclusion, fostering awareness and understanding across the cricket community.
Lastly, the report underlined the need to strengthen reporting, monitoring, and accountability systems when addressing cases of discrimination and harassment. By implementing these recommendations, cricket can take significant strides towards achieving greater equality.