In March 2021 the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the national cricket federation in England and Wales, set up an independent commission, the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC), to investigate inequalities and discrimination in the cricket. In the relationship published on Tuesday we read that in England racism, sexism, elitism and class discrimination are “widespread and deeply rooted” in cricket, an ancient sport born in England and then spreading to the countries of the Commonwealth, the intergovernmental organization of independent states which in the past part of the British Empire.
The investigation had begun in November 2021 following complaints made by some Indian and Pakistani players in England. In two years, the commission collected testimonies of different forms of discrimination from more than 4,000 people, including players and coaches at all levels of sport. Among those who testified were England cricket captain Ben Stokes, women’s national team captain Heather Knight, former national team captain and World Cup winner Eoin Morgan and Azeem Rafiq, a former Yorkshire player who was among the first to report having suffered abuse and discrimination in sport when he played.
50% of respondents responded that they had experienced discrimination in cricket in the past five years, especially women and people from the Pakistani, Bengali and Indian ethnic minorities, the most represented in British cricket. One respondent, who introduced himself as a former Pakistani player and a Muslim, said that his teammates threw bacon sandwiches at him, poured alcohol on him, and that all the stories reported by Azeem Rafiq previously had also happened to him ( the pig is an animal considered impure by Muslims).
Also according to the report, women are marginalized and regularly experience episodes of sexism and misogyny at all levels of sport, as well as receiving lower pay than men, as is generally the case in professional sport. Furthermore, the document states that players who have attended private schools are more represented in national teams, and those who come from public schools are more discriminated against: there are stories of children called “peasants” or imitated for their “working class” accent ”.
Many who experience discrimination do not report it due to distrust of the authorities and the fact that arbitrators routinely ignore abuse and dismiss complaints in both professional and recreational settings.
The commission’s report concludes by stating that “structural and institutional racism” continues to exist within sport and indicates at the end of the document a series of recommendations which include measures to address discrimination. Among these are the production every three years of a report assessing the state of equity in cricket, i.e. the progress and achievements achieved towards greater inclusion; an overhaul of pay in women’s cricket; a change in entry criteria for greater meritocracy and to help revive the game within black communities.
Furthermore, the cricket federation is asked to issue a “direct apology for the ECB’s historic failures in relation to women’s cricket and its failure to adequately support ethnic minority cricket in the UK”.
In response to the problems that emerged from the investigation, the president of the federation Richard Thompson has said: «On behalf of the ECB and the whole British movement, I apologize to anyone who has ever been excluded from cricket or marginalized in our community. This report makes clear that historic structures and systems have failed to prevent discrimination and underscores the pain and exclusion this has caused. I am determined to heed this wake-up call for cricket in England and Wales.”