"There is no doubt this is a critical moment for cricket."
On November 26, 2021, English cricket announced a wide-ranging action plan to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination.
The plan has been jointly developed by the ECB, MCC, the PCA, NCCA Ltd, the First Class Counties, Women’s Regional Hosts and the Recreational County Cricket network.
This comes as a wide-ranging response to discrimination at all levels of the game.
While taking immediate action through the plan, cricket will continue to listen and learn from anyone who has experienced discrimination in the sport.
Additional work is being done to look at these issues through the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) and ongoing investigations into racism allegations and the handling of complaints made by Azeem Rafiq and others.
Leading cricket figures will also consult with independent third-party organisations with significant expertise in resolving similar issues.
Based on the findings and recommendations that come out of these processes, the game expects to take further action.
The measures include a series of immediate changes as well as the request of a review period that will incorporate the work of the ICEC and other inquiries into discrimination in cricket.
The initial aims include:
Understanding & Educating More
- Adoption within three months of a standardised approach to reporting, investigating, and responding to complaints, allegations, and whistleblowing across the game.
- Full promotion of the aims of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) through proactive engagement with its investigations and recommendations.
- Ongoing EDI training for all those who work in cricket, including all staff, volunteers, recreational club officials, umpires, directors, and coaches.
Addressing Dressing Room Culture
- A full review of dressing room culture in all men’s and women’s professional teams, both domestic and international.
- Delivery of a redesigned programme of player and coach education, addressing any gaps identified through the dressing room review.
Removing Barriers in Talent Pathways
- Action to aid progress into professional teams of people from diverse backgrounds (especially South Asian, Black and less privileged youngsters) through measures to address i) talent identification and scouting, ii) education and diversity of coaches and iii) targeted support programmes for players from diverse or underprivileged backgrounds.
Creating Welcoming Environments for All
- A full-scale review, in advance of the 2022 season, into the detection, enforcement, and sanctions against discriminatory and abusive crowd behaviour at each of our professional cricket grounds.
- Delivery of plans (tailored to local communities) to ensure professional cricket venues are welcoming to all, including provision of accessible seating, food and beverage offering catering to all faiths and cultures, and the availability of facilities such as multi-faith rooms and alcohol-free zones.
- Upgraded education in recreational cricket to ensure players, volunteers and coaches understand and champion inclusion and diversity in the game.
The ECB has also published its 2021-2023 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Action Plan, featuring clear actions and targets.
It will then work with any of its members who do not have an EDI plan in place to create or review their own localised version within six months.
The actions include:
- A commitment to best practice governance with targets for Board diversity (30% female, locally representative ethnicity by April 2022) and plans to increase diversity across the wider organisation. (Compliance will be subject to a “comply or explain” provision to ensure Counties can respect their own governance processes in making the required change).
- The introduction of fairer recruitment processes through measures including the immediate adoption of anonymised recruitment tools for senior roles, open appointment processes for all roles and the use of balanced and diverse panels to assess interviews.
- Every senior executive employed across the game will have personal EDI objectives as part of their annual performance targets, driving leadership accountability.
In order to build trust, the game will provide regular updates on progress against the delivery of the action plan and EDI goals.
To underpin the actions being taken across the cricket network, the ECB has committed to providing additional resources and take several further steps in support of consistent progress across the game.
These have been agreed with the game and will include:
- A review of governance and regulation in cricket to identify any opportunities to strengthen the structures and processes across the game.
- £25 million of strategic funding over five years in support of EDI actions.
- The formation of a new anti-discrimination unit, within six months, to ensure that the ECB has the right resources and capabilities to help tackle discrimination in all its forms and provide guidance to the wider game.
- The inclusion, with immediate effect, of EDI minimum standards for all venues.
- A link between funding and EDI minimum standards, including withholding central distributions where necessary to ensure all stakeholders meet agreed standards.
- Collaboration with Sport England to help the whole game to achieve the increased diversity of Boards.
Barry O’Brien, ECB Interim Chair, said:
“There is no doubt this is a critical moment for cricket.
“After our all-game meeting last week, we said we must rise to the challenge and respond with one voice.
“We have now set out a series of game-wide commitments so that cricket can start to make the transformation that we know is needed.
“Change is required as a matter of urgency, but we also recognise that sustained action is required over months and years to achieve fundamental and long-lasting progress. This must begin today.”
Tom Harrison, ECB Chief Executive Officer, added:
“For cricket truly to ‘connect communities and improve lives’ – our stated aim at the ECB – we must start by accepting that not enough has happened to make our game better, both inside our own walls and across the wider game.
“That is the only possible reaction to the powerful testimony of Azeem Rafiq and others in recent weeks.”
“I am delighted that this plan represents the whole game coming together to commit to tangible action and meaningful change.
“Our role as the ECB will now be to acknowledge the changes that need to be made internally, as well as offer support, resource, and funding to assist the game in making these changes.
“We look forward to working with our partners across the game to create a stronger, more inclusive sport and build back the trust of everyone who loves cricket.”
Mike O’Farrell, Chair of Middlesex Cricket, added:
“This has been a time of deep reflection across the sport. It was critical that we came together and agreed a way forward.
“All those involved in leading the game are aware of how fragile cricket’s future is if we do not address the issues laid bare by Azeem and others.
“More importantly, we realise how many people we have impacted by not acting together.
“We are all determined to act as one and implement these actions but also to keep listening in the coming months and adapt to all that we continue to learn.”