Richard Thompson, ECB Chair - My vision for cricket

ECB Chair, Richard Thompson, sets out his vision for cricket on his first day in post.

I begin as the ECB’s Chair today with a clear vision to unlock the huge potential to grow cricket at all levels and ensure it becomes the UK’s most inclusive sport.

Cricket has faced the reality of hard truths in recent times and, as we begin to acknowledge and address the issues in front of us, it is obvious we will only be successful if we are a united game.

I have worked in cricket for a long time and it is my conviction that we can be the most inclusive sport in the country - accessible to all regardless of race, gender, class or (dis)ability.

I have seen first-hand the positive impact our game can have through inspiring initiatives such as the ACE Programme and the value of people working together to achieve great things.

I am humbled that now I am in a position to be able lead that change across the whole game, while being under no illusion to the task in hand. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Barry O’Brien and Martin Darlow, who stepped up at a very difficult time for the game and for all they have done during their respective times as Interim Chair over the past year.

This is a reset moment for the ECB and the wider game and our opportunity to leave the divisions of the past behind.

As ECB Chair it will be my role to listen to different perspectives, to set clear direction and to build consensus around changes we need to make.

I will also look to strengthen relationships between ECB and all its stakeholders and to establish a shared vision for how we will work together to grow the sport we all love.

I am also personally committed to leading our work to rebuild trust among communities where it may have been lost, and no longer feel cricket has a home for them.

The painful testimony of Azeem Rafiq and too many others within cricket must act as a motivator for all of us to listen and learn and to understand how we can be better.

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket will play a central part in that process and I expect its findings later this year to be challenging. It is focusing not just on race but also on gender and social background. Its findings must form the basis of constructive proposals that will drive lasting change across the game.

Having played club cricket for 35 years I know the power of the recreational game. It’s cricket’s superpower underpinning so many communities. It is clear to me that the health of grassroots clubs is the bellwether of cricket’s success more generally.

We will only continue to be successful at the elite level, and commercially, if we can get more people playing cricket with a broader socio-economic mix.

The increasing number of opportunities for women and girls to play at local clubs is a reflection of the growth of women’s cricket and provides clear evidence of the value of the game working together for a greater good.

I believe there are huge opportunities to grow participation amongst girls and boys and I will be doing everything I can to support County Cricket Boards and the network of clubs to deliver that aim.

At an elite level, I am looking forward to England Women returning to Lord’s this month while one of the first items in my inbox, and which has been the source of much debate in recent weeks, will be the men’s high performance review.

It is clear that we need a high-performance system that creates successful England teams over a sustained period, as well as a thriving domestic game while looking after our players’ welfare. We need a schedule which works for all our formats - Championship, 50-over, T20 and The Hundred, whose finals I am looking forward to on Saturday.

All of our England teams are the shop window to the game and their success inspires young kids to pick up a bat and ball to be like their heroes.

There is nothing quite like watching England beating the best in the world and there is much to build on from England Women reaching the World Cup Final earlier this year to the England Hearing Impaired and Learning Disability teams both enjoying comfortable series wins in Australia this summer.

The England Men’s team is playing an eye-catching style of Test cricket under the new leadership of Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes and are one of the most feared white-ball teams in the world ahead of two ICC tournaments in the next 15 months.

I look forward to engaging with the recommendations of the review in due course. I have been kept updated on the review throughout and have been impressed by its thoroughness. I am open-minded about how we can make our game better – both for our England teams and domestic cricket - and hopeful that we can build consensus among all stakeholders so that we build a system that works for players, fans and the whole of our sport.