I was interviewed for the post of ECB Chair a year ago and during that interview I said that, to me, the game-wide strategy Inspiring Generations means growing the game through widening its appeal, in particular:
- developing the women’s game, recreationally and professionally.
- growing and supporting club facilities and volunteers.
- getting boys and girls cricket played regularly in nearly every school.
- connecting with our South Asian and Black communities.
- expanding disability cricket.
- reaching new people - as supporters and/or participants - through a broadly-based culture of diversity and inclusion.
- a schedule of professional cricket which is exciting, accessible and sustainable.
- using The Hundred as a conduit to support these changes and create an additional channel to welcome new audiences into cricket.
When I started the job six months ago, I noted that our game had recently been challenged by other factors, such as the Black Lives Matters movement, which had shone a very uncomfortable light on some structural and cultural weaknesses, as well as repugnant behaviours from some within the game and society at large. I said that there was so much to be done, we must listen to others and then take action to transform this situation.
So, I am delighted that we are now taking the next step on this journey, by appointing a Chair of cricket’s first Commission for Equity. Cindy Butts has extensive experience in senior roles spanning governance, inclusion and equity across areas relating to justice and policing as well as Government.
She will work closely with Brenda Trenowden, our Senior Independent Director, who will be responsible for looking at how the Commission’s findings can be taken forward into action. But Cindy and her team will be independent of ECB and have the brief to go where the evidence takes them.
Ethnicity and race in cricket will be a priority for the Commission. As Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding said with such raw emotion last summer, the problems in the game are deep-rooted and long term. But they also rightly said the time now is for actions not words. The Commission will take that as its mantra.
In striving for greater equity across the game I recognise that we must also look more broadly than just ethnicity and race. I believe the women’s and girl’s game is poised for significant growth over the next decade, but the underpinnings of this growth are recent and fragile, and we have to work every day to avoid retrenchment, especially in a pandemic.
Homophobia in sport, especially male sport, is also deep-rooted and troubling. Only this week I read a moving piece on Justin Fashanu, the first professional footballer to come out as gay in the 1980’s. Sport and society at large treated him very badly and he took his own life aged 37. It was a cautionary tale to so many gay sportsmen, and few have come out in the intervening period. That is why I am proud of the support cricket has shown for initiatives like Rainbow Laces. I want the game to be at the vanguard of promoting a positive and inclusive agenda.
There are other important areas for equity, diversity and inclusion, such as disability and social mobility, and so the Commission will have a wide-brief, but I stress, charged with identifying meaningful actions that will make a difference in the short, medium and long term.
Only this month President Biden challenged America to become a more equal and less discriminatory society, saying “no one should ever face discrimination or live-in fear because of who they are or whom they love.”
I feel similarly for cricket. Nobody who seeks to embrace our game should ever face discrimination of any sort. Rather the game should be a means for everyone to fulfil their passion and potential, bring communities together, and achieve social good. The Commission for Equity in Cricket is an important step towards that aim, and I am confident Cindy Butts will help ensure it has a significant impact.