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Diversity: National Cricket Teams

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 10 February 2022

7. What steps the Government are taking to ensure diverse representation in (a) women’s and (b) men’s national cricket teams to help tackle racism in that sport. (905560)

We must ensure that cricket, and indeed all sports, are accessible to people from all backgrounds. National team selection is not something the Government have control over—that is for governing bodies to decide—but I am sure we can all agree that the primary basis should be talent. We need that diverse pool of talent. I have had positive conversations with the England and Wales Cricket Board and the county clubs on ensuring that talent pathways are fully open to the diverse range of people who play the game at grassroots level.

The Minister makes some interesting points, but does he agree that actions speak louder than words? The game has been described as institutionally racist. Can a review of dressing room culture, being undertaken by Clare Connor, fix the deeply entrenched under-representation of black women cricketers when Ebony Rainford-Brent, the first black member of the women’s cricket team, said she had never been made to feel different until she entered the cricket world?

I agree with the hon. Lady on those concerns. There is a lot more to do in cricket and across sport as a whole. I have met the county chairmen and Lord Patel, as well as having dialogue with the ECB. I believe progress is being made, but I agree completely with her: I want to see actions, not just words.

I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Does my hon. Friend share my disquiet that Lord Patel, Yorkshire’s new chair, has been forced to publicly call out a group of individuals for seeking to delay and derail vital reforms of the club in order to combat the scourge of racism? Does my hon. Friend agree that, in order to support Lord Patel in his fight, the ECB should state that international cricket can return to Headingley but on the strict proviso that members back Lord Patel’s reforms, we see a dilution of the power of the Graves Trust, and that they ignore the siren calls of those who wish to retain the shameful status quo?

I thank the Chair of the Select Committee for his and the Committee’s work in this area. The decision to bring internationals back to Yorkshire is for the ECB and I have to respect that, but I have met Lord Patel, even just yesterday, and personally I am somewhat comforted and assured about the progress being made in Yorkshire. Indeed, I have seen good progress being made in cricket overall, but I want to see a lot more. I reiterate that the decision is for the ECB, but I am sure that it will have heard my hon. Friend’s comments.