Survivors group criticises ECB over ‘lack of transparency’ around Hyam report

The England and Wales Cricket Board has been criticised by an abuse survivors advocacy group over a “lack of transparency” in opting not to publish a report into a former Essex coach who secretly filmed female players in changing rooms.

The ECB commissioned an independent review into Matthew Hyam after he was sentenced to two years and four months’ imprisonment in September 2021.

Hyam admitted to seven charges of taking or making indecent images of children and five charges of voyeurism.

Essex Police confirmed Hyam, who oversaw the women’s and girls’ set-up at the club until his arrest in 2020, secretly made videos of nine women and girls, who the PA news agency understands were players connected to Essex.

The ECB-commissioned review was led by independent expert Jane Wonnacott. The executive summary of the report was delivered to Essex last December, and to those victims of Hyam who had indicated they wished to receive it.

The review made 11 recommendations which the ECB is implementing across the cricket network, the detail of which was shared with PA by the ECB. However, the report itself will not be published because of ECB concerns that it could lead to the identification of Hyam’s victims, who have the right to lifelong anonymity under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Kyniska Advocacy, which supports the rights and welfare of women in sport, has criticised the ECB’s decision not to publish and called for an independent safeguarding ombudsman in UK sport.

“We know there is a troubling lack of trust from sports communities in their national governing bodies due to a legacy of inaction and a lack of transparency,” a Kyniska statement read.

“Not publishing this report looks like yet another example of an NGB protecting their own reputation over and above building trust with their members, and therefore not prioritising athlete well-being and safety.

Essex were handed the executive summary of the report into Hyam last December
Essex were handed the executive summary of the report into Matthew Hyam last December (Steven Paston/PA)

“It is so disappointing that the media has to go to such lengths to hold NGBs accountable, because they seem unable to do so themselves, underlining the urgent need to implement an independent regulator for sport.”

A woman who played for Essex during Hyam’s time at the club and who spoke to PA on condition of anonymity highlighted several safeguarding failings she encountered at the club. Hyam worked for Essex for more than a decade.

The woman, who was not one of Hyam’s victims, said he would regularly give female players unaccompanied lifts and hold one-to-one private meetings without chaperones present.

“There were so many (safeguarding) faults that happened just because he was trusted,” she said.

The Wonnacott review did not speak to the woman, but the ECB has said the safeguarding issues she raised were addressed in the final report.

The 11 recommendations from Wonnacott are understood to include a review of all ECB safeguarding training to ensure it explores the behaviours associated with sex offending and promotes a culture of “it could happen here”.

Wonnacott also stressed the importance of clearly designated changing facilities, the importance of talking about and responding to low-level concerns expressed by staff, players and their parents and recommended there be “highly visible, accessible females” within the network who players or their parents could go to with any issues causing discomfort.

An ECB spokesperson said: “Matthew Hyam was suspended from all involvement in cricket as soon as the ECB were made aware of his arrest and remains so.

“Following his conviction in September 2021, the ECB safeguarding team chose to commission an independent review into the circumstances surrounding his offending. This was conducted by an experienced, independent, safeguarding expert.

“All Hyam’s victims were given the opportunity to participate if they wished, and we are extremely grateful for their input. The review has been thorough, and while this review has not been published to protect the anonymity of victims, its findings have been shared with those victims who wanted to see it as well as relevant bodies including the ECB regulatory committee, the ECB board, and Essex County Cricket.

“All recommendations are being enacted, and already form part of the ECB Safeguarding Strategy and County Partnership Agreement, safeguarding training and advice across the cricket network.

“Unlike reports which have explored systemic issues in other sports, this review looks at one case where there is a risk that publishing could lead to identification of victims.

“We are committed to constantly improving our safeguarding processes and practices across cricket and to learn from any incident which is why we also constantly revise, update and enhance our safeguarding procedures in line with best practice.”

Kyniska said it was “in the public interest” for the Hyam report to be published, pointing out that other sports had done so even where the report focused on a single abuser rather than systemic abuse.

“It is important everyone who plays, coaches and watches cricket is aware that the governing body and cricket clubs are open and transparent when it comes to safeguarding failings and genuinely want to act on and improve things, because without this level of trust we cannot expect abuse survivors to disclose abuse to the cricket authorities.”