First women members to join MCC (16 March 1999)

16 March 1999

First women members to join MCC

By Christopher Martin-Jenkins

THE announcement of the first 10 honorary women members of the Marylebone Cricket Club will be made from Lord's this afternoon.

They will represent, according to the president Tony Lewis, "simply the next and most obvious move in our evolution. We are a cricket club, women play cricket and the time had come to appreciate that we couldn't claim to be an outstanding cricket club if we didn't have a women's team and women members."

At least one of the pioneers who will be welcomed by Lewis today, the first women members in the 212-year history of the most famous of all sporting clubs, is likely to be from overseas, with more to follow.

The MCC have always played a pioneering role and the club's vision for the future - or at least that of their new president - is that they should play a leading role in what the International Cricket Council call the 'globalisation' of the game.

The names announced today - eight of them will be there in person - are unlikely to include any active cricketers, whose chance to represent the club will come soon, because their first match will be in May. Rather they will be heroines of the past like Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, the most famous female player of her generation.

It is surely unthinkable that she will not be one of the selected few, but there will be others who have achieved as much in different ways, including, perhaps, Diana Rait-Kerr, who was the wise and authoritative curator of the museum at Lord's between 1945 and 1968.

Talking to The Daily Telegraph yesterday about the vote six months ago to admit women members after a determined campaign by the MCC committee to persuade the membership (69 per cent eventually voted 'yes'), Lewis paid tribute to his predecessor, Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie.

He said: "It was a special performance by him. He was bold enough to call two special meetings within eight months. It was one thing for the committee to decide; quite another to persuade almost 18,000 members to agree. It was like turning an ocean-going liner through 180 degrees. But Colin is the son of an admiral and he managed it by gathering round him a group of communicators."

The new president sees the change as being symbolic of an altogether more progressive MCC. Captain of Cambridge, Glamorgan and England, and the scorer of 30 first-class hundreds, Lewis was a leader and a batsman of rare character. He has since become one of the great all-rounders and the wearer of a unique collection of hats. He has 18 more months to serve as MCC president; he remains High Sheriff of Mid-Glamorgan for another week; and as chairman of the Welsh Tourist Board he is also a member of the board of the British Tourist Authority.

He still writes for The Sunday Telegraph, but he has already ceased the role for which he is best known, as the urbane presenter of televised Test match cricket. He will be missing for the World Cup, BBC television's cricketing swansong.

A few weeks ago he undertook a mini world tour, during which he presented the glass replica of the Ashes to Australia in Sydney, represented Wales and the organisers of the Rugby World Cup at the Asian qualifying competition in Singapore and then moved, on behalf of the British Tourist Authority, to Bombay where a company was offering 1,000 trips from India to Britain for the World Cup in May and June. All this fitted his view that MCC should be leading the way in spreading cricket to parts of the world where it has little more than a toehold at present. At the request of the England and Wales Board the MCC have put this into practice with loans and equipment to cricketers in Europe. This winter there have already been three MCC tours.

Lewis has given all the MCC committees a five-year plan and one of his first acts was to form a communications department, which rapidly recruited a young woman, Laura Garland, in a publicity role.

"Seven years at the tourist board has taught me the value of an accepted strategy, so that everyone knows what they are trying to achieve," said Lewis, adding: "And I suppose 18 years as a cricket correspondent helped me realise that people want to know what's going on."

The women's issue is dead as far as the president is concerned. "From today," he said, "we have no women members or lady members. We are all members of the same great club."

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

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