English cricket is deeply afflicted by racism, sexism and classism, and urgent reforms need to be made to at all levels of the game, according to a landmark report by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket [ICEC].

“Racism, class-based discrimination, elitism and sexism are widespread and deep rooted. The game must face up to the fact that it’s not banter or just a few bad apples,” the landmark report noted.

Consisting of 317 pages, and based on evidence provided by over 4,000 people, the report revealed that half of the respondents admitted to experiencing discrimination, with racism and sexism being routinely experienced, and that class barriers continue to exist in the game. Furthermore, the current complaint systems were found to be confusing, overtly defensive and not fit for purpose. Victims often “suffer in silence”.

The report was commissioned from Cindy Butts in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in 2020, which sparked a global outrage against institutional racism. Further, Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq’s revelations revealed how deeply entrenched discrimination was within the sport.

Racism “entrenched”, women treated as “second-class”

According to ICEC, 87 per cent of respondents from Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage, as well as 82 per cent from Indian heritage and 75 per cent of Black respondents, revealed that they had experienced racism. It was inferred that racism was “entrenched” in the sport, and not merely “confined to ‘pockets'”.

Further, sexism and misogyny remains a routine feature, with women “frequently demeaned, stereotyped and treated as second-class”. As an extension, the report pointed out that the England Women’s team have not yet played a Test at Lord’s, popularly dubbed the ‘Home of Cricket’.

Women are also at risk due to the “drinking and puerile lads’ culture”, which also restricts the Muslim community from inclusion, according to the report.

Cricket also continues to follow an elitist mentality due to its “private school and ‘old boys’ networks”, so much so that children hailing from state schools are often called “peasants”.

Additionally, the report criticised ECB for not recognising the extent of racism until recently, and not taking significant steps to address it.

What are the recommendations?

A total of 44 recommendations have been made, ranging from “modest” to “radical”. Among those, equal pay is one of the highlights, with the commission noting that England’s men’s cricketers in 2021 were paid 13 times the amount for women’s cricketers, and suggesting equal pay by at domestic levels by 2029, and international the following year.

“Culture checks” have been proposed, while a number of counter-measures to tackle racism, sexism and elitism have been provided.

“Cricket must not find itself in the same position in another two years’ time let alone another twenty,” states the report.

To ensure that ECB is not the “promoter” as well as the “regulator”, an independent regulator has been called for by ICEC.

Other recommendations include raising opportunities for state school players. Additionally, it is suggested that the annual Eton versus Harrow match between public school rivals Eton College and Harrow School, as well as the University game between Oxford and Cambridge, be replaced by a state school Under-15s competition, as well as a finals day for University teams.

ECB’s response

The England and Wales Cricket Board has responded with an unreserved apology to the report, acknowledging its failure to tackle discrimination. The board pledged to respond to the recommendations within three months.

“We certainly apologise to anybody that has felt excluded or discriminated against,” ECB chairman Richard Thompson told Sky News. “Reading those lived experiences clearly was very shocking – to read what people have experienced in a way that they should never have had to have done.”