MCC's vote hails end of elitism (29 September 1998)

29 September 1998

MCC's vote hails end of elitism

By Charles Randall

THE MCC's decision last night to allow women into their membership diluted the club's maverick image, which was a treasured feature, but this was countered by a far-reaching benefit - political integrity beyond simple 'correctness'.

Despite the insistence of the 'against' lobby that members were entitled, without reference, to decide their own affairs as a club at Lord's, the wide responsibilities of the MCC had been such that they could never really be regarded as a purely private gentlemen's club.

After yesterday's meeting the MCC now have more in common with the average cricketer than ever before. They have an affinity with all aspects of the game, with less intrusion from snobbery and chauvinistic ideals.

In the first year of the rest of their history the MCC intend to arrange their inaugural women's fixtures - eight to 10 matches against a variety of opposition, including Oxford and Cambridge universities, depending on interest. Playing numbers could rise to about 60 in the second year.

The MCC stopped running the game in 1969, when the old Test and County Cricket Board was formed - since superseded as the governing body by the England and Wales Cricket Board - but the MCC retained a vote for decisions on the game.

Their one vote equated to each of the professional counties and the collective presence of the Minor Counties Cricket Association. The trouble was that the MCC, as a sexist organisation numbering about 18,000, were politically tainted, just as if they had been racist. They lacked credibility.

During this month's campaign the committee drew attention to legal dangers in the status quo. Their glossy brochure, which set out most of the arguments for and against women members, mentioned briefly their concern at "potential vulnerability to future legislation in the area of discrimination".

The England Cricket Board, who recently absorbed the Women's Cricket Association, were pleased with the result. Richard Peel, an official, said before the meeting: "We've made it very clear that we're very much in favour of women being allowed into the MCC.

"Women, as far as we're concerned, should play an equal role in the promotion and development of the game. The MCC are a constituent member of the ECB and are a very powerful brand name in the world of cricket."

MCC president Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie said after the vote: "I am absolutely delighted. It is great news for cricket and the club. From a personal point of view it gives my presidency a lift two days before I stand down from office."

The MCC have given increasingly vigorous support to youth development; they back up the International Cricket Council - as do-ers, not talkers - and they maintain and develop the Lord's ground.

They provide opposition in several hundred matches a season at schools and clubs and send out tour parties to seemingly every nook and corner of the globe. Their ECB vote is used independently, and they remain custodians of the laws of cricket.

The endearing maverick quality of the MCC was well illustrated by their special meeting of January 1993, when thousands gathered at Central Hall in Westminster to debate David Gower's omission from England's tour of India.

The proposers of the motion of no confidence in the England selectors were defeated in the vote, but they were proved right by subsequent events, with Graham Gooch's team returning heavily defeated by India and well beaten by Sri Lanka.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

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