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'Home of cricket is still a home principally for men': Lord's castigated for lack of Women's Tests

MCC criticised for hosting annual Eton-Harrow fixture but solitary women's ODI since 2017

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
26-Jun-2023
Lord's pavilion in the sunshine, July 5, 2018

Lord's has come under fire from the ICEC report, principally on grounds of class and gender  •  Getty Images

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) were "alarmed" by the "truly appalling" fact that England Women have never played a Test match at Lord's, making the damning assertion that: "The 'home of cricket' is still a home principally for men."
In a 317-page report published on Tuesday, the ICEC highlighted the "public function" of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the private members' club which owns Lord's and said that recent decisions made by the club's members have sent "a very public signal about the club's values".
Specifically, the ICEC recommended to MCC that the annual Eton-Harrow and Oxford-Cambridge fixtures should no longer be staged at Lord's after 2023, and that they should be replaced by a national Under-15 state school finals' day for boys and girls, and a national university finals' day for men's and women's teams.
"We respect and value many of the traditions of cricket generally, and Lord's in particular, but not all," the commission wrote in its report. "Some no longer have a place in contemporary Britain.
"Guaranteeing a tiny number of schoolboys the right to play at Lord's every year when millions of children are denied that right is completely unacceptable. So too is the fact that the schoolboys of two expensive and elite institutions get to play at Lord's every year when the England Women's national team have yet to play a Test Match there.
"The Oxford and Cambridge match has also had its time and should no longer be played at Lord's. It sends a similar message of elitism, entrenching the position of certain institutions to which only a small minority of school pupils will gain access."
England Women have played at Lord's only once in any format since they won the 2017 World Cup final there six years ago - though are due to return on July 8 for the third T20I of the ongoing Ashes series.
England Men, by contrast, have played two Tests and at least one limited-overs international at Lord's every year since 2000 - except for the pandemic-affected 2020 summer.
Richard Thompson, ECB chair, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "That's unacceptable, and we're going to ensure that there will be a Test match by the England Women in 2026 - and that should have happened sooner. So that has been addressed and will be addressed in 2026 when we also host the Women's T20 World Cup which is a real moment for women's sport in this country. Clearly, we hope that will be a celebration of cricket."
The commission highlighted the successful attempt by MCC members to challenge the decision of the club's committee to move the "historic fixtures" away from Lord's as "an illustration… of the obstacles placed in the way of those seeking to modernise the game".
It added: "MCC may be a private members' club, in which some members may resent 'interference' with their right to make their own decisions, but it is also a club that benefits from substantial amounts of money from the general public through ticket sales for major matches, with all the accompanying publicity and prestige.
"Those who argue for the continuation of the Historic Fixtures do not seem to understand the damage they are doing to the reputation of MCC and Lord's in the public imagination - compounding a view, whether fair or not, that MCC members are out of touch, elitist and unrepresentative of both the wider population and those who play cricket.
"As the game strives to become more inclusive, as it clearly must, decisions such as these at 'the home of cricket' do more harm than some people appear to realise."
Lord's was also singled out as the only major venue in the country that does not permit the use of musical instruments, which the commission gave as an example of "ways in which authorities have sought to sanitise the atmosphere at grounds", saying the ban "had a disproportionate impact on ethnically diverse communities, particularly those from Caribbean communities".
In a statement, the MCC Chief Executive & Secretary, Guy Lavender said: "Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) received the report published by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) earlier today. We recognise that it will make very difficult reading for everyone involved in cricket in this country. This is a vitally important piece of work and all stakeholders in the game must now reflect on the contents of the report.
"MCC is named in the report and we will be analysing the findings in detail. We are committed to playing our part in ensuring cricket is the most inclusive sport in this country and that Lord's is a place where everyone feels welcome."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98