Justice in the Cricket Report: ‘Absolutely awful’ stories show ‘the culture is lazy’

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The ICEC was announced by the ECB in March 2021 in the wake of global movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too

WARNING: This article contains descriptions of racism and other offensive and discriminatory language and behavior.

An obscene joke about a Muslim cricketer’s prayer rug and “predatory behavior” towards women were some of the “absolutely horrific” stories heard by a scathing report of discrimination in cricket.

The long-awaited report from the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) was released on Tuesday and speaks of racism, sexism, classism and elitism is ‘widespread’ in English and Welsh play.

Chair Cindy Butts said the stories told to the commission showed the sport’s culture was “rotting”.

“We have heard that women are constantly being stereotyped and demeaned and subjected to predatory behaviour,” Butts told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

“We’ve heard of women walking into points boxes and facing signs saying ‘bras not allowed’. The year is 2023, not 1923.”

Butts described the “routine” use of racial slurs, including a 13-year-old being racially slurred on a talent track and told to “go home.”

“We heard from a former Muslim player who endured the humiliation of his teammates by laughing and joking that one of the players used the prayer mat to clean up after sex,” Butts added.

“The stories were absolutely horrible and show that the culture in cricket has rotted.”

“Women are victims of sexting and harassment”

The report looked at recreational and professional cricket and the evidence gathered came from more than 4,000 respondents.

Witnesses included Ben Stokes, captain of the England men’s Test team, Heather Knight, women’s captain, Joe Root, former men’s captain, and World Champion captain Eoin Morgan.

“We’ve heard that there are issues throughout cricket, including the English dressing room, at a leisure level, at board level, also with young pupils and with people on the talent path throughout cricket,” Butts said.

As well as racism, the report was particularly scathing when it highlighted sexism and said women were treated as “inferior to men” at all levels of sport.

“What we’ve seen is that in a drinking culture, women are vulnerable and subject to sexual harassment and a lot of sexting,” Butts said.

“We’ve heard from a number of women who speak of being vulnerable and exposed, and of men making unwanted advances towards them.”

Improvement is our “top priority” – ECB President

The report made 44 recommendations, including that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) issue an unreserved public apology for its failures.

Speaking to BBC Sport, ECB President Richard Thompson “sincerely” apologized to those who were “discriminated against and excluded”.

He said improvements based on results are the game’s “top priority” and reiterated his desire: declared last Septemberto make cricket the “most inclusive sport” in the country.

“I think this report will now accelerate that process,” said Thompson, who was appointed last year.

“I said at the time it would probably take us five years to get there. And I think now, based on what we’ve read in this report, we probably have a bigger hill to climb to get to that level.”

“But cricket reaches communities like no other sport.”

The report acknowledged that “unfortunately, the problems we have identified are not unique to cricket. In many cases, they point to equally ingrained societal problems.”

What else was in the report?

The report noted that racism in cricket “is not limited to bags or a few bad apples” but is “widespread and a serious problem”.

It states that there is “a culture where blatant discrimination often proceeds without serious challenge” that “includes racist, misogynistic, homophobic and discriminatory speech and actions, as well as a ‘young’ drinking culture that leaves women sometimes vulnerable and at risk of unwantedness.” or unwelcome behavior and alienation of others based on religious and/or cultural beliefs.

Fifty percent of those surveyed had experienced discrimination in the past five years.

It recommended that the historic games Eton v Harrow and Oxford v Cambridge should no longer be played at Lord’s from 2023 to stop the message of elitism and questioned why the England women’s team did not play a test at the venue.

“It’s absolutely shocking that women haven’t had the opportunity to play a test match in the so-called home of cricket,” Butts said.

“I think that’s terrible.

“And to know that Eton and Harrow automatically have the right to play at Lord’s I find that absolutely disgraceful. I think that speaks to the elitism in cricket.”

Criticism of the fixtures was part of what the report called the prevalence of “elitism and class-based discrimination.”

A lack of cricket in state schools and a talent path structurally aligned with private schools are partly responsible for “elitism and class discrimination,” it said.

Butts said, “We have concluded that this is institutional racism, which is not only institutionally racist, it is institutionally and structurally sexist and involves class-based discrimination.”

“We have thought long and hard about using this term, but we believe it is a term that applies when you look at the existing evidence.”

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