ECB urged to pressurise MCC to replace Varsity and Eton-Harrow matches

The ICEC report recommended both games be moved from Lord's and Richard Gould the ECB chief executive, says the governing body "don't mind upsetting people"


The England and Wales Cricket Board have fired a warning shot at the MCC after coming under scrutiny for the Varsity and Eton College v Harrow School matches remaining part of the Lord's fixture list.

Among the raft of recommendations made by the ICEC report which revealed structural and institutional racism, sexism and class-based discrimination across the sport, was for both fixtures, which have been played at the main ground since the early 1800s, to be replaced.

President Mark Nicholas has supported the directive but both matches remain part of the Lord's schedule.

MCC members rebelled against the club's attempts to replace the matches, which remain part of the fixture list until 2028 when an AGM vote is scheduled to be held on their future.

In the interim, a compromise has been struck which will again see the men's and women's Varsity matches played as T20 fixtures on the main square, while the MCC Foundation National Hub Finals, a state-school-only competition, and an MCC v ECB chair's Disability XI match also make up part of the calendar.


Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq led the questioning over the historic matches (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

As the ECB appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in a session examining the progress made tackling discrimination in cricket, Dr Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, pushed deputy chief executive and managing director Clare Connor on the ICEC recommendation.

She enquired: "You can apply pressure on them, can't you?"

Connor, a former England captain, responded: "I would never say never. I was president of the MCC in 2022 and at that time a decision was taken that probably wasn't handled brilliantly in terms of communication with members. But a decision was taken and announced at the AGM that year that those matches would be replaced. There was a vocal minority of MCC members that challenged that. The MCC's current position is that they will remain in place for another two to three years and then be reviewed.

"MCC are trying to tread a difficult line between being a members' club around the wishes of the members and making sure the games that are played at Lord's are as inclusive as possible."

Huq then asked if the ECB, whose main office is located within the walls of Lord's, were worried about upsetting their landlords. Chief executive Richard Gould intervened, saying: "We don't mind upsetting people if we need to".


From left to right, ECB deputy chief executive Clare Connor, chair Richard Thompson and chief executive Richard Gould (


Cindy Butts, ICEC chair (

An unconvinced Huq insisted the ECB "should be bolder on this one".

Three members of the ICEC panel appeared in the first part of the session. Chair Cindy Butts also rebuked the MCC for continuing to showcase the matches which she feels "don't represent modern Britain".

"It does have an image problem," Butts, a former Kick It Out trustee said. "The historic matches between Eton and Harrow don't help.

"We should (do away with the matches) and that is why we recommended that all those matches cease. Unfortunately, the MCC have rejected that recommendation but we absolutely feel they should no longer exist. 


Oxford and Cambridge first place at Lord's in 1827 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"They don't represent modern Britain, they act as a barrier to people wanting to get involved in cricket so we think it is outdated. we encourage the MCC to think again.

She added: "We're not anti-tradition; we're anti-tradition when that gets in the way of encouraging inclusivity and stands in the way our our ambition and the ECB's ambition which is to make cricket the most inclusive sport in the country. 

"When tradition gets in the way of that I don't think it has any place."

Building on the subject of Lord's fixture list, Damian Green MP raised concerns about the ground having yet to host a women's Test, describing it as "not the MCC's finest hour". ECB chair Richard Thompson said he "wish it had happened sooner" but hoped one would be played against India by 2026.

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