June 27th 2023. A day that continues to blight a proud sporting institution. A day where six years of turmoil came to a head. A day that sent shudders through the fabric of English Cricket.
Martyn Dobson pauses and exhales deeply. The mere mention of this date elicits painful memories for the CEO of Lincolnshire Cricket:
“It was a seismic, shameful day for cricket in this country. The findings were saddening but unfortunately not a total surprise.’’
On this day, the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket released a report revealing that racism, sexism and classism is institutionally “entrenched” within English Cricket. More than 4,000 people provided evidence to the commission, which found that half of the respondents had experienced discrimination in some form.
Three years of appraisal into the recreational and professional game had culminated in the judgement that the English Cricket Board had feared:
“The findings show that there is still a lot of work to do to make the game as inclusive as possible on a national and regional level,” Martyn explained.
“We have to accept the realities and be more innovative in our approach to making the game accessible to all.’’
For a passionate advocate of equality and diversity, these findings were a major blow to Martyn and his bid to make Cricket Lincolnshire’s most inclusive sport.
He has instigated partnerships with 87 state schools across the county to deliver Cricket lessons to primary school children. But are initiatives like these translating into more representation amongst communities with a lower socio-economic status?
“Clearly there is a lot of work still to be done. In Lincolnshire we have pockets of rural deprivation where children have not had the chance to play Cricket.
“We are determined to remove these barriers based on class. Participation opportunities shouldn’t be a postcode lottery based on the resources you have or the financial position you are in.”
The ICEC report also found that women are marginalised and routinely experience sexism. Despite the meteoric growth of the women’s game in recent years, it appears that archaic attitudes still prevail in many cricket clubs up and down the country.
One club who have attempted to dispel these attitudes is Lincoln-based Lindum Cricket Club. In 2020, they welcomed the addition of a ladies section and recently invested in a new grass pitch specifically for them.
Julie Cottis is the team manager for the ladies side:
“Participation rates have been fantastic at Lindum Ladies. We started three years ago with five regular players; this has now increased to 26 and keeps growing!”
“To sustain the growth of women’s cricket clubs need to be accepting and inclusive of a ladies and girls section: making sure they have pitch availability, access to coaches and access to equipment.”
Despite the off-field turbulence, it is striking how enthusiastically Martyn Dobson views the future for English Cricket: “In order for something to get better in life you have to endure and persist through difficult moments.”
He added: “I’m optimistic that the findings in the report can be a catalyst for change. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the game.”