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Interim Chair's Blog: Enjoying the Ride

The England and Wales Cricket Board Interim Chair, Martin Darlow, discusses the last five weeks in cricket with successes in the England Men's, Disability and Women's camps as well as extending the ECB's partnership with Sky.

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Interim Chair's Blog: Enjoying the Ride

Martin Darlow

If a week is a long time in politics - and current events have shown that the old mantra still holds true – then a month feels a very long time in Test cricket.

At the end of May, I was walking into Lord’s for the first Men’s Test against New Zealand, wondering just how much impact we could expect Rob Key, Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes to have had in such a short time since a tough winter.

In five short weeks since then we’ve been entertained and enthralled by our Men’s Test team in equal measure. The positivity with which the team has gone about beating World Test Champions, New Zealand, and the second ranked team in the world, India, has been infectious. Credit to the team for lifting the spirits of the whole nation.

When Rob Key arrived as Managing Director of England Men’s Cricket, he told us to strap in and enjoy the ride. Well we are all doing that so far. There will be bumps in the road, and obviously the Men’s white ball results haven’t quite matched the Test start! It’s really important that we find a way to build sustained success across all formats, which is why the high performance review led by Sir Andrew Strauss remains so important.

Congratulations also to our Deaf and Learning Disability teams for their brilliant victory in the International Cricket Inclusion Series in Australia recently. It comes at the start of an important year for disability cricket, with the launch of the Disability Premier League next month which will bring together players with different impairments into a single competition.

And it’s a huge year too for women’s and girls’ cricket. After drawing the one-off Test against South Africa and then a fantastic ODI win on Monday, we wish England Women all the best for the rest of the white ball series before the Commonwealth Games, the second year of The Hundred and then a white ball series against India. It’s a huge opportunity for us to grow women’s cricket even further and there’s a massive amount of work happening to ensure that we capitalise on it.

With so much cricket for our England teams, and the domestic seasons well under way, it's been great to see so many children taking part in Dynamos and All Stars again this year. After the record participation levels last year, it’s been positive to see such a strong start this year. Thank you to all those who volunteer to make these such a success. You are playing an important part in growing our game and inspiring the next generation.

The fact that so many children have the opportunity to pick up a bat and ball is in no small part due to the investment that Sky Sports puts into cricket. I’m delighted that today we’ve announced an extension of our partnership for another four years, enabling us to continue working together to grow this game. The media rights arrangements we put in place in 2017 are delivering, with 3m more people playing, attending or following cricket in 2021 compared to 2019.

There is also a huge amount of work happening across cricket to make our game a more inclusive, welcoming and diverse one. This is a top priority for the ECB Board. There is still much for us all to do as we deliver the 12-point action plan agreed by the whole game, but I am pleased that we have been able to report clear progress.

Sadly, events off the pitch at Edgbaston last week showed there is still much work to be done to drive discrimination out of our game. I was appalled by the reports of racist abuse and was pleased to see how swiftly Edgbaston acted to investigate and introduce additional steps to ensure people can watch cricket safely. We will continue to work with Edgbaston and ensure that any offenders who are prosecuted are banned from cricket grounds across the country.

The ECB Board also met last week and in addition to the areas above, we discussed a range of other topics including Governance. The ECB Board welcomed the agreement reached between the First Class Counties (FCC) and Recreational Game proposing:

  • Two FCC Chairs to join ECB Board meetings “in attendance”, starting in September at the next meeting;
  • A full review into the finances of the game, with the Terms of Reference to be agreed with the game. With the main revenue stream for the game now confirmed for another four years through the extension of our partnership with Sky, but the cost of living crisis likely to have a significant impact on the game, it is a sensible time to conduct this review;
  • Establishing both a new Professional Game Board and a Recreational Game Board;
  • More work on the ECB’s culture of collaboration with the game; and
  • Building on the group that came together to make these proposals, formalising that group into a Steering Group to guide this work.

This was unanimously supported by Directors, alleviating the need for a Special General Meeting as these changes do not require any changes to the ECB’s constitution. A great example of the game working together to find a solution.

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