ECB to establish independent regulator, increase investment in women’s game


(Reuters): The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will establish an independent regulator and increase investment in the women’s game as part of efforts to make cricket more inclusive after a report found widespread discrimination across the sport.

The ECB published its response on Monday after the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) outlined 44 recommendations in the report, which found evidence of deep-rooted racism, sexism, classism and elitism.

The report recommended the creation of a new regulatory body, independent of the ECB, within the next year. The ECB said the regulator would be operational before the start of the 2024 season and report to the Independent Cricket Regulatory Board.

Within the current broadcast cycle, which runs until 2028, the ECB said it would invest at least 25 million pounds ($30.55 million) per year to further grow the women’s and girls’ game at every level. The investment will be independent of any revenue generated by the women’s game.

“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,” ECB chair Richard Thompson said in a statement.

“Its in-depth analysis also presented an opportunity to put in place a comprehensive plan of action that will deliver meaningful change and rebuild trust among the communities we serve.

“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.”

Last month, the ECB equalised match fees for England’s women’s and men’s teams with immediate effect, implementing a change recommended in the ICEC report.

“In collaboration with the game, we will develop a Women’s Professional Game Strategy for 2025-2029 to plot our path to sustainable domestic player pay parity in the future,” the ECB said.

The ECB will also publish a state of equity report every three years and adopt a more transparent and accountable approach to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Other planned steps in line with ICEC recommendations include overhauling the talent pathway to “make it more meritocratic, inclusive, accountable, transparent and consistent” and adding victimisation as an offence in the Anti-Discrimination Code.

“On the day the ICEC published its report, I apologised without reservation on behalf of cricket’s wider leadership to anyone who has suffered discrimination or felt excluded from our sport,” Thompson added.

“As well as reiterating that apology here, I reaffirm our absolute commitment that cricket will strive to become the most inclusive sport in England and Wales.

“Cricket hasn’t got it right in the past, but this is an opportunity to move forwards together.”

In an interview with Sky Sports on Monday, former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq, whose allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire rocked English cricket, said the ECB’s response was inadequate.

“I expected the three-month response to be detailed, clear with strong commitments and unfortunately from what I’ve read it falls incredibly short and it’s flimsy at best,” Rafiq said.

“How independent is the new regulator? We don’t have any details about it… There are a couple of positives with commitments around women’s cricket and match-fee equalisation, that should be the bare minimum.

“These commitments are important, but is it going to solve the other issues that led us here in the first place? I don’t think it will.”

The ECB declined to comment.

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