Warwickshire County Cricket Club has welcomed the publication of a milestone report on cricket inclusivity and vowed to continue playing a lead role in making the game accessible to all and to listen to those affected.

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) has today (27 June) released the report which evaluates equality and inclusion in cricket and draws on the experiences of people who’ve suffered exclusion or discrimination in the game.

The review – which focuses on race, gender, and class – follows a nine-month long evidence gathering process that saw more than 4,000 people contribute their first-hand accounts to the ICEC panel.

No specific clubs or individuals have been identified in the report and evidential accounts have been provided anonymously. However, should any disclosures be made to Warwickshire, the Club will handle them in a timely, sensitive, and thorough manner in collaboration with the ECB.

Chief Executive Stuart Cain, said: “The report does not make for easy reading and nor should it.  The issues raised are not new, but the report gives them the substance and validity to make those who have buried their head in the sand finally take notice.

“The report says there are racism issues in cricket that still need addressing, that women are marginalised in the sport, and work is needed to bring down class barriers that are preventing some children accessing cricket.

“At Edgbaston we began addressing these issues a number of years ago. But we’re still only at the start of our journey and will continue to listen, learn and change so that those who identify with the issues raised in the report feel safe, welcome and respected, with access to the same opportunities as others in cricket.

“The report should act as a re-set button for cricket, especially those that have not already started addressing the issues first raised by Azeem Rafiq more than two years ago. 

“The sport has to accept and apologise for structural issues that have excluded people, and use the momentum created to make cricket the most inclusive sport in the world.”

Warwickshire CCC launched its Edgbaston for Everyone plan almost two years ago with the aim of ensuring the stadium is a safe and welcoming place for all, addressing the three key areas of concern raised in the report.  Examples of this include:

Tackling racism

  • The Club worked with faith groups to devise a Multifaith Charter which defines how we welcome and serve our multi-cultural communities.
  • An Inclusion Advisory Board was set up to help build relationships across diverse communities, improve understanding, and create ambassadors across the region.
  • Making sure that Edgbaston has the facilities and services required for people of all faiths and backgrounds, including a number of Multi-Faith Prayer Rooms, an alcohol-free family stand, more faith-based food and drink offerings.
  • Edgbaston hosted the largest Eid-al-Fitr celebrations, which saw 2,000 people visit the stadium for prayers, and in April the Club staged its first Vaisakhi Cricket Festival that saw around 100 members of the Sikh community attend, including Edgbaston MP Preet Gill.

Addressing class barriers

  • The Club’s approach to talent identification has been revamped making it more accessible for all children across the region. Our Open Trials system means any child can now apply to join our youth system by submitting video footage of them bowling or batting for assessment, with successful applicants invited in for a series of sessions with our coaches. Previously only local clubs, schools and cricket organisations could nominate players so the move throws the Club’s selection processes wide open and makes it accessible to all. 
  • Most costs associated with the Warwickshire pathway have been removed and bursaries are available for those needing support, ensuring that money is not a barrier for a talented child.
  • Our youth pathway is made up predominantly of children in state school education.
  • We work with the Johnners Trust charity which provides scholarships and grants for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to help buy cricket equipment and kit.

Promoting opportunities for women and girls

  • There are more than 100 girls in our pathway structure, of which more than a third are from diverse backgrounds, and we’re involved in some amazing community projects, including an award-winning girl’s cricket scheme in Bordesley Green.
  • During the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Edgbaston hosted the women’s cricket, bringing new profile to the sport and continues to be one of the best-selling venues for the women’s The Hundred competition.
  • The upcoming Women’s Ashes will see the largest crowd (to date) watch a women’s international game in England (excluding ICC competitions) with almost 18,000 tickets sold for the IT20 game on Saturday 1 July. 
  • And that match will also see, for the first time, the wicket prepared by an all-women grounds team, demonstrating the breadth of opportunities open to women in sport.

Other work includes

  • A zero-tolerance stance on any form of discrimination and concerns can quickly be reported via our app or QR codes on seat backs.  This saw allegations of racism at last year’s India Test Match leading to arrests for racially aggravated public order offences.
  • Expansion of the Club’s disability Access Teams featuring players with physical or learning disabilities with four new hubs leading to wider participation across the region.
  • A partnership with LGBTQ+ side the Birmingham Unicorns which has seen the squad join us for coaching sessions. And earlier this month, Warwickshire Cricket Board arranged the country’s first ever LGBTQ+ cricket tournament which was held at Sutton Coldfield CC and featured sides representing five county clubs.
  • Edgbaston has developed two Sensory Rooms in the stadium that are helping make cricket accessible to families with neurodiverse children who might otherwise feel uncomfortable attending matches.

Ultimately, we want to use cricket as a way of uniting people across Birmingham, the West Midlands and Warwickshire.

For more information on our diversity and inclusion work go to our dedicated Edgbaston for Everyone web page.

To read the full report: https://theicec.com/report/.