Richard Thompson: This is a reset moment for the ECB and wider game of cricket
Richard Thompson hopes his arrival as England and Wales Cricket Board chair acts as a “reset moment” even if he anticipates more testing times in the sport’s push for greater equality.
Thompson officially started as the ECB’s figurehead on Thursday but has little time to bed into his new position, having inherited a multitude of issues on several fronts which have to be addressed.
Chief among them is the racism scandal that has engulfed cricket in the past couple of years, but while challenges remain, Thompson outlined his vision to make the sport the “most inclusive” in the country.
“Cricket has faced the reality of hard truths in recent times,” the former Surrey chief wrote in an 848-word blog post on the ECB’s website.
“As we begin to acknowledge and address the issues in front of us, it is obvious we will only be successful if we are a united game.
“I am humbled I am in a position to be able lead that change across the whole game. This is a reset moment for the ECB and the wider game and our opportunity to leave the divisions of the past behind.”
While the ECB has activated a 12-point plan to tackle racism, Thompson accepted an upcoming Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket report on discrimination is likely to make for uncomfortable reading.
ICEC chair Cindy Butts said last year that English cricket is “facing a reckoning”, with the commission reviewing thousands of responses of evidence across the elite and grassroots game after being put together following Azeem Rafiq’s claims of institutionalised racism in his two spells at Yorkshire.
Thompson, who supervised the hugely successful African-Caribbean Engagement programme at Surrey, said: “The painful testimony of Azeem Rafiq and too many others within cricket must act as a motivator for all of us to listen and learn and to understand how we can be better.
“The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket will play a central part in that process and I expect its findings later this year to be challenging.
“It is focusing not just on race but also on gender and social background. Its findings must form the basis of constructive proposals that will drive lasting change across the game.
“I have worked in cricket for a long time and it is my conviction that we can be the most inclusive sport in the country – accessible to all regardless of race, gender, class or (dis)ability.”
Another hot topic is the wide-ranging high-performance review into the men’s game led by Sir Andrew Strauss, who last week revealed that a reduced top division in the county championship and a decrease in overall playing days will be among the initial recommendations from a panel of experts.
Thompson added: “It is clear we need a high-performance system that creates successful England teams over a sustained period, as well as a thriving domestic game while looking after our players’ welfare.
“I look forward to engaging with the recommendations of the review in due course. I have been kept updated on the review throughout and have been impressed by its thoroughness.
“I am open-minded about how we can make our game better – both for our England teams and domestic cricket – and hopeful that we can build consensus among all stakeholders so that we build a system that works for players, fans and the whole of our sport.”
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